Well, it’s over…the hype, the questions, the drama…four weeks of waiting for “The Decision” to be made by The Chosen One. And up until yesterday, I was pretty sure Lebron would stay here in Akron…I was hoping he would, anyway. And judging by the reaction of so many people around here, his decision to play for Miami is not a popular one in Northeast Ohio! Some folks sound downright bitter about it, some are claiming that it’s no big deal because he’s just another spoiled athlete who has achieved hero status but who hasn’t contributed anything worthwhile to his hometown. I disagree. No, I STRONGLY disagree.
Lebron James has brought more to Cleveland and NE Ohio than any sports figure in recent history. He brought a LOT of money to the businesses in Cleveland; he brought a sense of pride and excitement and yes, HOPE, for at least one sports team here; and he’s given a lot of money to a lot of people and organizations. He’s also been influential in inspiring inner city kids to get fit, read, do their schoolwork, and to strive for better things. This area will surely feel the impact of his departure very quickly.
He has become a hero to many youngsters for good reason: he has been an outspoken and loyal advocate for Akron; he ALWAYS has put kids first when throngs of autograph and picture seekers surround him; and he’s been the epitome of what a best friend, and son, should be to those closest to him. However, Lebron has also always advocated pursuing your dreams, doing your very best to achieve your goals, respecting your god-given talents and using them as they should be used. He has somehow managed to do all of this by the time he turned 25…good god! If those are not heroic qualities, I don’t know what they are.
Do I wish he would stay? Most definitely! But that’s for purely selfish reasons…just like everyone else who has come to know, respect, and care for this young man, I like sort of “claiming” him as “one of us”. It’s fun to feel like we are a part of something special, something extraordinary. With all due respect for Drew Carey and Jim Brown, Lebron James has become synonymous with Cleveland, and in an “A-list” kind of way. He is a genuine talent who could change the game of basketball…and in so doing, change the course of history…and that is very exiting. But of course, I don’t really have a claim on him just because he’s from my hometown and I like the pride I feel when I boast about him to pals in other cities, right? No, he’s paid his dues, he’s done his part for this city and the one to the north, and now he needs to step out of this NE Ohio shadow and do what he needs to do to grow; he needs to do what he has to do for himself. And right now that means he has to step out into the Miami sunshine, learn from other great players, learn from his new coach and the genius of Pat Riley, and take the step up to the next level. Because you can only give as much as you’ve got…and Lebron has given a lot…if you try to do more than that, you burn yourself out and you are no good to yourself or anyone else, no matter how hard you try.
So far, Lebron has managed to avoid the ever-enticing pitfalls of many in the NBA…he still seems fairly grounded, doesn’t appear to be chasing skirts or doing drugs, and has made his decision based on finding a team he can work with to win the Championship ring he seeks. So, although I agree with many that the WAY he made his announcement was pretty narcissistic, over the top, and just a little bit silly, still, I like the guy and I hope he finds what he’s looking for.
I wonder if he’ll still shop at Target in Miami?