December 2nd will be one of the most emotional days that I’ve had as a sports fan. That much I’m certain of.
I’d be lying if I said I had not thought about the events of July 8th EVERY SINGLE DAY. What could have been? What is going to be? What does the future hold for the other players who I’ve grown attached to? Should they try to compete or break it down for a high draft pick? If we start to make a playoff push, do I root for that or are we just shooting ourselves in the foot? How will I react when that moment comes, the lights in the Q go up, and LeBron James (and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, for that matter) is introduced as a member of the visiting Miami Heat in the house that he (they) helped completely remake?
I know I’ve shared this thought before on my own personal site, but it’s worth repeating. The best way that I can avoid animosity toward the past and continue to keep going is to divide the book into two chapters: the pre and post-Summer 2010 LeBron. The pre-Summer 2010 LeBron James will always have a special place in my memory for the moments he undeniably helped lead and create. There’s too many to mention, but the most memorable for me is undoubtedly the run to the Finals in ’07. The expectations didn’t crush them like in 2009 and 2010, it was just a hard-nosed team with a superstar that defended their tails off and found a way to win tight games. That embrace with him and Z after the clincher against Detroit was my all-time favorite sports photo. The 60-win seasons, the two MVPs, the dozens of playoff games, the golden years of Cavaliers basketball, those memories are still ours, and 23 leaving town doesn’t change that. THAT LeBron James seemed to know what he meant to that team, that organization, that city, that state, that fan base.
Then, somewhere along the line, THAT LeBron James became THE OTHER LeBron James. The one that is a member of the Heat. The one that is plastered all over our TV sets on a nightly basis, seemingly pouring salt into our wounds. The one that won’t shut his mouth and be “humble” to use one of his old favorite words. The one that everyone hates. It didn’t happen on July 9th, there was some other point of no return for James. Maybe it was just a few days before “The Decision”. Maybe it was at the end of the Boston series when God only knows what actually happened. Maybe it was after the Beijing Olympics when Wade, Bosh, and James all realized how successful they were and entertaining it was playing together. Or maybe it was always in the back of the Akron product’s mind. Maybe we were all just fools.
I could probably write a book on the emotional obstacle course I’ve endured in the past several months, but to save you the time I’ll stick with this. I was a Cavalier fan before LeBron James, I was a Cavalier fan during the LeBron James era in Cleveland, and I’ll remain a Cavalier fan long after the dust has settled and the scars have healed from you-know-who’s selfish decision. I’m going to probably shout myself hoarse on Thursday night, and while I’ll be throwing in plenty of LeBron-themed insults and jabs, I’ll probably exert just as much or more effort cheering my Cavaliers on. They’re what we’ve got, and I plan on fully supporting them that night as well as many more nights into the future. All for one, one for all. That’s the team’s slogan, and it’s not lip service. No matter who mocks it with their magazine covers, it’s a fact. Most of us still need this team, and this team definitely still needs us.
Before, during, and after December 2nd, that remains the same.
In all honesty, I hope that one day I can forgive LeBron James for what he did to us Clevelanders and Cavalier fans everywhere. It’s truly not in my nature to be hostile and hurtful. I like to think that everyone deserves a second chance. Sometimes, though, time and perspective are needed to make that emotional jump. I’m not ready for it now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be until Cleveland wins a championship. Then, the healing can truly begin. I’ve said it before that if James had won a ring here then bolted town that no one, absolutely no one, would have had a right to criticize him. But, his promise was just words, and here we are as a city and team, still trying to pick up the pieces and truly move on.
My hope is that Cleveland avoids a giant black eye on this night with all of the nation watching. But, let’s not be unrealistic. The Q crowd will boo, and they should boo. There will be loud and unruly behavior, but my hope is that it doesn’t cross the line. That means no idiots throwing stuff on the court, no physical harm to come to LeBron (other than a flagrant from Graham or Hollins, perhaps), and nothing substantial that will give the people all-too-ready to continue putting Cleveland down any more kindling.
Most importantly, the game itself, is one the Cavaliers must win for not just that night and this city but for momentum the rest of the season. Their key to victory in my mind will be keeping Miami in the halfcourt and exploiting mismatches at the point guard and center positions on the offensive end. On the defensive end, it needs to be a team effort as always. If LeBron goes for 40, so be it, but he needs to do it with jumpshots and on a high volume of shots.
My prediction: Cavaliers 96, Heat 94. LeBron’s 38 point effort is not enough, and Mo Williams gets his revenge with the go-ahead bucket.
All for one. One for all.