I have a question for everyone who stays in the 49 states not named Ohio; who really gave a crap about the Cleveland Cavaliers before Lebron James got there?
I mean really, before James was drafted as the number one overall pick back in 2003 no one outside of the state of Ohio really cared about the Cavaliers. The people in Ohio barely cared.
And sure the Cavaliers had some playoff success in the past when players like Brad Daugherty, Kevin Johnson, Mark Price, Ron Harper, Dan Majerle and the like played there but Cleveland was six years removed from the playoffs by the time James was drafted in 2003.
But when James was going through his period of indecision about staying or leaving Cleveland, all of a sudden everybody cared. James had taken the Cavs to the playoffs five years straight and even took them to an NBA Finals appearance back in 2007.
The Cavaliers would have the best record in the league in James last two seasons with the team so nobody wanted to see how bad Cleveland would be when James left. Strange when you consider that James is the only reason people started to pay attention to the Cavs in the first place.
It’s also sad because all James did was exercise a right that NBA players in general had fought so hard for; the ability to determine their own destiny and decide where they want to play.
Now sure his exit from Cleveland could have been handled better and even James admits that. The ESPN broadcast of his “Decision,” the party like introduction in Miami, the multiple championship declaration and even the fact that he probably could have let Cleveland’s management in on his decision a little earlier are all things that James could have done better.
But no one is dogging his teammate Chris Bosh about the party intro or how he left his team. Why not? Because the Toronto Raptors really weren’t relevant. Even when Bosh was there they weren’t a championship contender. Neither was the Miami Heat before James got there.
Nobody has anything ill to say about the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Neither one of those guys were free agents when they left their teams, they forced their way to new destinations. Williams even forced a Hall of Fame coach and probably one of the best to ever coach the game to retire before he left Utah.
And even though the thought of what happened to James probably factored in his decision to stay, Dwight Howard wouldn’t have suffered nearly as much criticism if he would have decided to leave Orlando as James did when he left Cleveland. Howard is a major star and the best big man in the business but he isn’t in the same stratosphere that James is.
But James is a rare talent in the same air as Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and yes even His Airness Michael Jordan. He’s that rare once-in-a-lifetime talent that is expected to will his way to at least one ring.
You see James had the unfortunate problem of being too good. He is an unbelievable athlete with an incredibly high basketball I.Q. Although he has yet to win a ring he is so good that people expect him to win a championship before he retires just like those names I mentioned above.
Which is part of the reason why people were so disappointed to see him leave Cleveland the way he did. It wouldn’t have mattered if he had been playing for the Raptors or the Charlotte Bobcats those first seven years of his career it would have been just as disappointing to see him leave.
Of course the flashy exit didn’t help either. James wasn’t the first free agent to leave his team for greener pastures just like Anthony and Paul weren’t the first to force their way to another team.
No, people’s hatred for James stems more from who he is in terms of basketball greatness and the circus like atmosphere that he created when he left Cleveland. There were great expectations placed upon James’s shoulders because of how great of a player he is and those won’t go away unless he wins multiple titles.
And those enormous expectations put James in a league of his very own. That’s not to say that Anthony, Howard and Paul aren’t great players in their own right; they’re just not in the same stratosphere as James is in and they probably never will be.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.