Where soap opera and sport collide. If you thought that the LeBron James-Cleveland chatter would dissipate following an awful season marred with losing streaks, injuries and executives losing their jobs, think again. All of the variables that were a part of Saturday evening’s jersey retirement ceremony, when placed into a vacuum, seem to mean very little. But as Jason Lloyd spells out, there is palpable belief in Independence that has James once again wearing wine and gold. There’s so much to take away from this column, including, but not limited to, Rich Paul’s role as the emotional liaison. Recall, on the day that Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson were introduced to the city of Cleveland, it was Paul who was the subject of this very piece.
Forget for a minute that Paul himself told WFNY that he called Gilbert (and not Chris Grant) on the night of The Decision, but the fact that the team has kept the long-time friend of James and arms length through this entire roller coaster is no accident. That Ilgauskas may not be in Cleveland beyond this season (A source tell WFNY that the Big Man’s heart is no longer in his role; the fatigue from travel and not seeing his family has finally caught up.) may not be as big of an issue as it’s being portrayed. James had a front-row seat for what was an incredible display of admiration and appreciation for a player who meant so very much to the city of Cleveland. Ilgauskas was from Lithuania and adopted Cleveland as home; James is from Akron, Ohio, allowing him to skip all of the mental paperwork. To think that a similar display—the former teammates, coaches and emotional highlight reels—would not be in his future if he chose to return home would be asinine. By all accounts, on Saturday night, James displayed professional and personable character traits that were completely absent during his tenure with the team. Whether a 3-D on-floor video and immense fan fare would be enough to tug on a changed man’s heartstrings…well, we’ll find out this July.
Grady’s new normal. Assuming his legs stay attached, Cleveland fans should gear up for a slew of Grady Sizemore 2.0 pieces hitting their timelines and RSS feeds over the next several weeks. Sizemore, as you may have heard, has caught on with the Boston Red Sox after years of injuries caught up with him. Certainly, many of the stories that will be penned will inflate the smallest of accomplishments. After all, Major League Baseball’s Spring Training is the place where players showing up in shape get rewarded with praise-laced columns. But when it comes to Sizemore, one of the game’s best players as recent as 2008, it’s a story worth the attention. Grady will never be the same. His explosiveness may be dampened. He’s had to re-learn his swing. The Ladies are long gone. But for a game that is littered with stories of deceit, Sizemore making an impact at the MLB level after years of disappointment would be a welcomed change.
Retiring at 26. Cleveland fans will always have a bizarre relationship with Rashard Mendenhall. After watching him drag Buckeye defenders around the field, the Illini product landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now after spending time in Arizona, the bruising running back has decided to hang up his cleats—and he isn’t going down quietly. “I decided not to hold a press conference because I didn’t want to have to say things that were cliché. I’ve done enough of that since I’ve been playing football,” said Mendenhall in one of the better athlete-penned columns you’ll ever read. A guy who has an appreciation for dance, art and literature speaks out about the misinterpretation and judgement that surrounds a professional athlete in today’s society. I can tell you that he gained at least one fan over the last 24 hours.
And just because: Andrea Bargnani. Happy Monday, kids.