on June 22, 2012 by admin in Cleveland, Comments (0)

LeBron James’ title unburdens him … and Cleveland Cavaliers fans …

lebron-nbatitle-2012-finger-ap.jpgView full sizeIt's the most common gesture in sports. But it's never been more appropriate for LeBron James. Tom Reed writes that perhaps this long-awaited title will allow his spurned fans in Cleveland to embrace the future instead of dreading it.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James unburdened himself on Thursday night and, in a strange way, so did Cleveland fans who have spent the past two years rooting for the former Cavaliers star to fail.

Lugging around that excess schadenfreude is not a good look, and frankly it's bad for the spine. It was released into the ether after the Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to capture the NBA title, culminating a remarkable playoff run for James, who atoned for previous post-season flameouts while embracing moments that once overwhelmed him.

Scorned fans don't need to be happy for James or forgive the fact he went on national television to announce his breakup with a city that adored him. They also don't have to waste energy cheering against the inevitability of a LeBron title or debating whether he can be considered one of the greats without a ring.

Not long after Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went Yosemite Sam on James in his famous Comic Sans rant, the franchise began moving on from the disappointment of July 8, 2010. General Manager Chris Grant gutted the roster and started to rebuild with the intent of never again being reliant on one superstar.

"Eight guys" has become a mantra for an organization trying to model itself after the Thunder. Selecting Kyrie Irving, who won NBA Rookie of the Year honors, was a bright start. If the Cavs can add a piece or two at next Thursday's draft with the Nos. 4 and 24 picks, their return to relevance will be accelerated.

But make no mistake, these have been two difficult years for Cleveland fans who are conditioned to free-agent defections and trades of necessity.

James' departure doesn't rise to the level of Art Modell's betrayal with the Browns. Nothing does. Unlike Modell, James is a Northeast Ohio native who continues to support the Akron community that raised him. He comes home frequently, sometimes during the season when the Heat have a few days off.

It leaves some conflicted in their feelings, ones tugged again in February after James hinted of a possible Cavaliers return in two years. Others were done with him the night of Game 5 against Boston in 2010 when he sat bewildered at the bench like Sonny Liston refusing to get off the stool and fight another round against Muhammad Ali.

James has since voiced his regret with the way his time in Cleveland ended. You can doubt the sincerity, but there's little question James has matured and his game has evolved. Would that process have occurred had he remained with the Cavaliers? Perhaps. Or, maybe he needed to go somewhere that wasn't going to placate him. In Miami, Heat president Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade have not catered to his every wish.

He reached the finals in his first season, but performed miserably in crunch time in a six-game series loss to the Dallas Mavericks. His detractors delighted even as James said they would "have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today."

Perhaps no player benefited from the extended lockout more than James. He escaped from the public eye and worked to improve his game. With two All-Stars for teammates, he couldn't blame a lack of high-end talent for his failure. He committed to playing more on the blocks, learning post moves from Hakeem Olajuwon, and becoming the Heat's defensive stopper as he guarded everyone from centers to point guards. He addressed his late-game struggles with self-help exercises.

Away from the court, he put a ring on the finger of his longtime girlfriend and spoke out against the perceived injustice he witnessed in the Trayvon Martin case. As the postseason neared, he read books more than he wrote Tweets. He narrowed his focus and harnessed his emotions.

James' playoff performances have been routinely spectacular in becoming just the third NBA player to score at least 25 points in 20 games in the same season. Michael Jordan (1992) and Olajuwon (1995) are the others. He has rallied the Heat from series deficits against Indiana, Boston and Oklahoma City, altering the image of the star who defers at winning time by knocking down huge jumpers in the Finals.

Quite a change from the player who didn't even want to take the last shot in an All-Star Game.

For some Cleveland fans it's all been too much. There are those who did not watch the title clincher. In a few days, however, all the hype will subside. ESPN will turn its attention to Tim Tebow or Tiger Woods or the New York Yankees, other polarizing figures who drive ratings and half the nation crazy.

James has his title and a grudging respect from skeptics who thought he'd only win one as a second option to Wade. The Heat are champions. Let them have their parade down South Beach. We've got more pressing concerns.

Who is going to catch passes from strong-armed rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden?

Article source: http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2012/06/lebron_james_title_unburdens_h.html

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