By Michael Reghi
This we've come to know about LeBron James: His quest to be universally-loved and regarded as an iconic global figure who transcends mere 'sport' remains deeply entrenched. It’s so deeply entrenched that when criticized loudly -- not just in Cleveland, but the world over -- following his July 2010 departure from the Cavaliers, James reaction was complete disbelief! How could those that so applauded his every move now vilify him for his 'decision' to abruptly leave his home region and play for a stronger team?
Ring true, LeBron? Of course, it does. To that end, what better way to foster 'damage control', in the ultimate effort to win back those who have deserted him -- unjustly, in his mind – than to utter the words that Clevelanders will gravitate toward: “I had a lot of fun in my seven years here. You can't predict the future, and if I decide to to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.” I visualize your heart strings being tugged as I write!
You, Cleveland fan, are far too astute to allow James to manipulate you this way. I ask you to not just reflect on your feelings of betrayal in July of 2010, but to also remember that he had every opportunity to leave the Cavaliers franchise in a manner that could have potentially avoided the disaster that resulted in the 65-loss bottom out in 2010-2011.
Yes, he had the right to leave via free agency. Yet, after being so empowered, so enabled and so damn emboldened by Dan Gilbert, the entire Cavaliers organization and the region that adored him, LeBron didn't even have the decency to let the owner and organization know that he wouldn't be returning. That would have allowed the Cavaliers’ deep thinkers to make some 'decisions' of their own. Did he 'owe' them that? No. Would it have been the 'right' thing to do? Damn right it would have!
Look, I've stated many times on the ESPN Cleveland airwaves, and on other platforms, that James is the most brilliantly-gifted basketball talent I've ever been around on a daily basis. He has impeccable skills, complete understanding of what it takes to succeed and a powerful thirst to do so. I bought in completely from 2003-2006. I had the distinct pleasure of calling every game he played, and seeing virtually every practice, and shoot-around he participated in with the Cavaliers during his first four seasons in the NBA.
I wish I had a nickel for each time James would proclaim, "Reghi, I'm going to show everyone I'm the ultimate winner, the ultimate champion." I believed him implicitly. I never doubted him for a moment. But as marvelous as James is talent wise, he’s not what he advertised himself to be. He wants you, and the world to believe he is, but he isn't.
He's simply a tremendously-gifted athlete, who hasn't figured out that with the world wide adulation as the best comes the necessity to be the linchpin. Looking for ways to join your perceived equals, and form an alliance that 'allows you' to become a champion isn't the same, young fella. The perception is, and always will be, that James hooked up with guys he doubted he could beat, so he went and joined them instead. Sure, he can try to sell it as subjugating his ego. But it’s actually an admission that James’ constitution isn't as solid as he so desperately tried to sell it for those seven seasons in Cleveland.
Do I want LeBron James back as a Cavalier, today, tomorrow, or thereafter? Just as I've told you repeatedly, I wish no ill will or malice on the young man. But as a competitor, I would relish the opportunity to defeat him every chance I received.
I say to LeBron, “You left this city, telling all of us, by your actions, that you didn't want to be 'teammates' with any of us any longer. The weight, evidently, was too burdensome to bear. All good, young fella. That's your call. Now here's my call: I don't want to line up and compete with you for something substantial ever again. I can't trust your accountability ever again. And I cannot accept the fact that you told me I'm not good enough to win, so you had to bolt.”
Life 'decisions' sometimes have hard consequences attached to them. Championships for LeBron James? Guarantees of such, by returning to Cleveland? Come talk to me this June, and each and every June thereafter. Please, don't fall prey to James’ words of endearment on a trip back to the city where he's trying desperately to get you back on board again.
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