Did LeBron James quit on the Cleveland Cavaliers two nights ago against the Celtics of Boston? On July 1st is he leaving the city that has venerated him as their King, their Savior of Cleveland sports, their emperor who would deliver their first championship parade in five decades?
As a St. Vincent-St. Mary high school and University of Akron alum, and a longtime New Yorker (since 1981), I have suffered through all of the Cleveland sports miscues and misadventures since our beloved Cleveland Browns won a championship in 1964 when I was 7 years old! Since then, many Northeast Ohio sports fans feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick that proverbial football through the championship uprights only to have Lucy yank it away at the last second, time and time again.However, I couldn't agree more with an article that was posted yesterday on Yahoo Sports by sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski.
His piece nailed it: "Across the regular season, James can play hard, let his talent take over and embark on all the side gigs that gobble his time.
This isn't a part-time thing. Winning everything takes a single-minded, obsessive devotion. Michael Jordan had it. Kobe Bryant does, too. They didn't want to win championships, they had to win them. They needed them for validation and identity and, later, they became moguls. LeBron James is running around recruiting college kids to his marketing company. He picks up the phone, tells them, 'This is the King,' and makes his pitch to be represented in his stable. Think Kobe would ever bother with this? Or Michael? Not a chance when they were on the climb, not when they still had a fist free of rings."
Sure, some Cleveland sports journalists and radio folks have hinted at LeBron's attitude and celebrity entitlement jag, but none of them put it all together in one brilliant article. I have shared his piece with many of my ailing Cleveland sports-obsessed brothers and sisters. And they all agree.
The sense of entitlement that our society affords celebs, athletes, politicians, etc., without delivering on anything is staggering. Huge financial windfalls, marketing campaigns, witty slogans, et al. Remember Nike's Kobe/LeBron puppet campaign last year? Looks even sillier this year. How about all the number 1 draft picks in football signed to staggering deals that flame out in a few short years while many of the NFL retirees can't afford health care to treat their battle wounds?
Andy Warhol was right about the "15 minutes of fame" jag. Problem is, everyone wants their 15 minutes. Everyone. The internet and social media sites have created a culture of "Look At Me!" that is staggering.
As I've told my two young children, the real celebrities/heroes are their teachers, grandparents, and friends. Those folks that nurture, teach, and influence them every single day. Not spoiled, over-exposed celebs who create inessential drama to be consumed and regurgitated by newspapers and websites ad nauseam.
As Public Enemy pronounced so many years ago... "Don't believe the hype."
'Bron, as a fellow St. V-St. M alumni, last time I checked, team sports meant playing for each other, for the team, even for a much-beleagured city. Inspiring each other, lifting up each other. Leaving it all on the floor. Sure delivering championships on the promises afforded your god-like athletic prowess may be totally unrealistic. And two consecutive MVP trophies are fantastic testaments to your greatness, but your enduring sports legacy will be measured by winning championships. Just ask Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Bill Russell (he won 11 rings!!!). I doubt they worried about marketing their image/brand before (or after) they won anything.
But even with all of that, regardless of the outcome tonight against the Celtics of Boston, and whether LeBron stays or leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers for greener pastures, I know I'll be able to sleep because, I've been able to deal with all of the Cleveland sports heartache over the years by remembering one timeless mantra:
"It's only a game!"
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs, and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.