I have been enjoying the development of this summer’s feature, Good Guys in Sport. It has given me an opportunity to more carefully investigate the local sports scene in search of those individuals who are truly “good.” What I have found is that what started out as an eight-week filler may indeed become a permanent summer feature. Though the headlines may suggest otherwise, there is indeed plenty of goodness to go around. Last week, one of those good guys took a fall.
Free agency is the fact of life that brought devastation to the city of Cleveland and its rabid sports fans last week. Lebron James had been the hometown hero whose good-guy image was as important to his title-deprived city as his ample basketball skills. Twice James led the Cavaliers to the NBA’s best regular season record, and this past season was supposed to be the year that would end the decades-long drought on the shores of Lake Erie. An unsuspected collapse against the Celtics ended the dream and began the discussion of James’ free agency and his desire to wear a ring.
James had always talked about his love of and loyalty to his hometown (He was actually born and raised in nearby Akron.) and his desire to bring a championship to northeast Ohio. The Cavs were fabulous throughout 2009-2010, but then James disappeared down the stretch. Interestingly, the finest player of our time seemed to have lost his desire to take the key shot in crunch time.
I have no qualms with James’ desire to win an NBA title. James has a boat load of money that can never be spent. A ring is all that he lacks toward the fulfillment of an incredible career. NBA life spans are fleeting at best, and the next opportunity to win it all could be the last. Precious few walk away wearing the symbol of ultimate success. It’s how it all happened that leaves a bad taste and has soiled the reputation of the superstar so dearly loved by his fans.
James was extremely well paid in Cleveland. The ownership put together a team that could have and probably should have won this season. The adoring fans responded by selling out every ball game. They deserved more than what they got with the orchestrated announcement during the hour-long ESPN special. Certainly the pomp and circumstance could only have accompanied his decision to stay. The beloved hero with the good guy image would never thumb his nose at the adoring Cleveland fans. But, of course, this is indeed what transpired in prime time. The man who had shown so much unselfishness had now performed the ultimate crossover dribble.
There are now three stars and one ball on the court in Miami. I can’t wish them well.