Some weeks ago immediately following the NBA Finals we said, “If you believe LeBron James is a physical freak of nature in terms of size, speed, agility and ability, then break on down, give him props and acknowledge that he’s also an intellectual freak of nature with maturity, savvy, leadership and communication skills that greatly transcend his age, background and educational attainment.”
Did we hit the nail on the head or not?
We were not at all wrong. Now, LeBron decides to go home to Cleveland. He heads back to the place where they burned his jerseys. He’s heading back to the place where they burned him (in effigy). Back to the place where they booed him every chance they got, every time he came back. Back to the team whose owner so publicly used his name in vain.
So, now the question is: Does LeBron James’ very rational return to Cleveland make him some kind of social deviant (freak) of his environment (nature)? We think maybe not so much…but then again, maybe so.
Just as there’s a law of nature, there’s also a law of survival in the streets. LeBron James is from the streets of Akron, Ohio. The law of the streets says: If somebody makes a threat, you better do them before they do you. The law of the streets says: If somebody hurts you, you hurt them back…worse. The law of the streets says: There’s a very high, very serious price to be paid for disrespecting a man period, but especially in public.
But sizing up your adversary is also a law of the streets and LeBron already knew that (Cleveland Cavaliers owner) Dan Gilbert was a wuss. This fact was totally confirmed with Dan’s open letter to the fans of Cleveland. What a punk move, especially by a guy from Detroit.
Gilbert said, “And until he does right by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.” That‘s straight out of “The Color Purple,” but Celie made a much more accurate prophesy of Mister’s misfortunes and ultimate doom. Dan’s predictions were more pathetic than prophetic. Apparently he didn’t have that same look in the eyes or do the hand thing that Whoopi (or Celie) did in the movie.
In 2010, during his first visit back to Cleveland as a player for the Miami Heat, amidst the loud choruses of boos and the dense fog of animus hanging over the entire city, LeBron casually torched the Cavs for 38 points. As a matter of fact, between 2010 and 2014 in (lucky?) 13 games against the Heat, Cleveland was 1-12.
Then there were Miami’s back-to-back NBA Championships in 2012 and 2013. “The self described former King” was cursed with an Olympic Gold Medal in 2012, the NBA Finals MVP titles in 2012 and 2013 and also crowned NBA MVP in 2012 & 2013.
Meanwhile back in Cleveland, it’s like Dan Gilbert stabbed himself with his own poison pen because it’s essentially been four years of hell for the Cavs. They’ve had four sub .500 seasons of 19, 21, 24 and 33 wins, with Kyrie Irving being their bright star and hope for the future…until now.
That Ohio-grown physical and intellectual freak of nature has come home, not like the prodigal son but as an absolute victor. True to the laws of the streets, he’s handled his business over the last four years and nobody knows that better than Dan Gilbert. He’s absolutely right, why should he hold a grudge…he won. Their beef was with each other and LeBron was not without fault. Dumping your significant other during an advertiser-sponsored, global press announcement is just not right. But, all is forgiven. They’ve (kissed?) made up, both got what they wanted and everybody’s ecstatic in Cleveland.
LeBron James can do whatever he wants to do in the game of basketball and in the game of life. This time he did it with a sense of purpose, loyalty and commitment to his hometown. What a freak!
(“A Little R&R on Sports” is a nationally syndicated radio show available on hundreds of radio stations and digital platforms. Stream R&R live Saturdays at 11 a.m. EDT/10 a.m. CDT on sportsbyline.com or log onto ranronsports.com anytime. In Memphis, tune in Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. on AM 790 ESPN Radio.)