A letter to the (former) King

Dear LeBron,


Dude, pardon for me skipping the pleasantries I afforded you in my last letter to you. Now’s not the time for that, now’s the time to sit down and talk. I don’t want to talk basketball for a little bit, and I never like to talk about money. I want to talk about character. What builds character, and how do we evaluate a persons character by their actions? It’s simple really – you live and die by your words in life, Mr. James. You’ve said all along throughout this “saga” that you’ve wanted to keep your options open, or in your words, “it’s a business.” True that, it is a business and an important one. Speaking in business terms right now, you took a hit last night. You showed the world something that had been claimed – but defended by us – for years, that being, you lack the backbone and character to be great.

We’ve heard the haters, most notably Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who are now fully vindicated in their past and current opinions.


“It was a tough decision, because I know how loyal I am” were the exact words spoken form your mouth on live TV, you know, right after you tore the state of Ohio apart. How can you speak of loyalty, when you just turned your back on the place you said, “Will always be home”? You know, when push came to shove there were always doubts regarding your classiness, like the Orlando series where you didn’t shake hands, like the Jordan Crawford dunk on you that you had deleted, and as recently as last night, with the public annihilation of your “home.”  I’ve never bought into the idea of you being an egomaniac, I’ve always defended you Mr. James, but now sitting back and evaluating it, how could you be anything else?


It started when you got tattooed with the label “Chosen One,” it followed onto the string of public stunts that had the media in a frenzy.  LeBron wears a Yankees hat, LeBron visits and says he “loves” Chicago – you had them (us) all dancing along to your tune the entire time. You said jump – we didn’t even ask how high, we just did it. The witness t-shirts, the chalk clap before games, the “special hand shake” with every one of your former teammates you “had to do” before each game – mere food to the ego of you. You knew that when doing those things, we’d all be watching and admiring as if we were a proud father.  That’s what it had developed into Mr. James, we felt like you were one of us and that we were one of you, but it wasn’t to be.  For a city that gave you nothing (and absolutely everything) but love and 100% commitment for seven years, how could you do this to us?  But being honest, how did we miss it?


We suspected something was up when you only took the three-year deal those years back, especially considering your two new running buddies did the same. We didn’t imagine – genuinely – all three of you would unite, no matter how fun it was to speculate.  You strung us along with every media sit down, or post game interview.  You always chose your words very well, always left us pondering if there was a hidden meaning to the nonsense you spoke.  When you speak of loyalty being high on your list of “Things important to LeBron James”, where was it in those intervening three years?  The years where you did nothing but complain about your supporting cast – so we gave up everything to get you what you wanted.  Traded away future picks, took on tax for guys like Wally Szczerbiak just to show you we had your back.  You never really did have ours.


You could have came out back then and done the right thing by saying you were intending to sign a new contract in 2010, instead of enhancing the media love affair with you.  If you had done that, do you realize what may have gone down?  Had any decent kind of free agent during those years knew you were committing to the Cavs for the foreseeable future, he may have thought his best interest was to come down and play with you in your prime.  But no, you played things the LeBron way.  Playing things the LeBron way means that no matter what happens, however it happens or when it happens, LeBron gets the media attention. Case in point being the Orlando series.  The media should have celebrated the arrival of the Magic as a legitimate contender, but you knew they would, so played the role of seven-year-old-that-loses-in-the-playground and didn’t shake hands.  Mr. James, I’ve been enchanted with you for the past eight years, ever since my Dad showed me clips of you when I was 12.  I couldn’t believe that there was a non-professional out there that could do the things you did.  I couldn’t wait for you to turn pro, it was hard to watch games of you in high school.  I always defended you on the court, but always found it hard to so off of it.  I don’t even think I can defend you on the court anymore.


How can you be defended when you’ve clearly taken the easy option?  Maybe easy isn’t the right choice of words there, but you know what I mean.  It was a task to stay in Cleveland and continue to build what you have been doing the last seven years, but a task that could have brought rewards like no other.  Had you stayed the course, delivered a Championship or two and made us a premier franchise in the league, Jordan status awaited you.  Jordan won – a lot – with a supporting cast that never really included a guy who at the time would have been in the top 10 players in the league, he thrived on it.  He knew what he had to do when he was drafted, that being to turn the laughing stock Bulls into the laughing Bulls.  And he did, collecting a lot of jewellery, personal accolades and respect along the way.  He was the epicentre of the basketball world, for all the right reasons.  You have now taken a major step back in your quest to be the greatest of all time.  Even if you win five titles down in South Beach, you’ll never come close to Jordan.  You see, you are now demoted to what you made the other Cavaliers these past years – supporting cast.  You are in Dwyane Wade territory now, and will never ever eclipse Wade in Miami.  You think Jordan would have done that?  Think he would have gone to the Pacers to play with Reggie?  Or the Knicks to team up with Ewing?  Never in your wildest dreams.  He didn’t want to play with them, he wanted to outplay them.  He loved nothing more than beating up on those guys, it was his character.  It defined his legacy.  Yours will now be remembered as the guy who ran to Miami for help, that’s what you’re doing and you can’t even deny it.


You have left us cold and dry in Ohio, grasping for the air you so mercifully sucked out of us last night.  You know what you are LeBron to us?  You’re the hot girl we’ve dated.  You know what I mean, the girl who you hook up with for a few months, maybe even a year, knowing that you have no long-term future with but can’t resist the temptation of having it now, because she’s the hot girl.  The hottest around.  You put up with her demands because she’s the hot girl, you have to.  When it ended, we knew it was coming but we weren’t expecting her to do so by pulling up in her new boyfriends car and dumping all our belongings onto the drive in front of our house.  That’s what you did to us.  Hopped into Wade’s passenger seat – because you’ll never drive that bus – and dumped all over our drive with seven years of memories erased in one painful hour.


Forget Jordan, Magic and Bird.  You’ll never reach that level.  LeBron, I’d even say forget reaching Kobe.  You may be better than him now, but when you retire and we look back at it, I don’t think you can catch him.  Sure Kobe wanted and pushed to be traded, but he never actually did leave did he?  He stuck it out – just about – and now look.  He’s one more title away from his second three-peat, and one more ring away from Mike.  You are empty handed in rings, but overflowing in delusion.  Delusion is the thing making sense to you of this whole process.  I hope that someday you will realize that the way you announced you were leaving, national TV, was the dumbest thing you could have done.  It lacked class, respect and maturity.


It reeked of ego, self-adoration and narcissism.  You have dealt Cleveland a sucker punch that will take us some time to recover from.  But makes no qualms about it, we will recover.  We’re not going to sit down; we’re going to fight.  You’ll see the real sprit of Cleveland in the face of adversity – adversity you never really thrived in.  I feel sorry for everyone associated with the process, everyone at the Cavaliers organization, the kids who admired you, the grown ups who loved you, Brian Windhorst, Cavs the Blog, Stepien Rules – I feel for them all.  But we will go on.  Sure, the beginning is going to be difficult, but you just wait.


LeBron thank you for the memories, the highlight reels and the effort.  You will never be forgotten in Cleveland, but your memory will forever be of the hometown kid who fled when it mattered.  I fear that by doing so you have not only damaged your long-term reputation in Cleveland, but your spot in the all time greats when it’s all said and done also.  So be it. You’re a grown man; you and you alone will have to deal with the consequences of your decision.


For the last time LeBron – and I mean last time, you will never read a piece dedicated to you again from me – thank you, and goodbye.  You broke our hearts.




David O’Leary

Stepien Rules


Contact me at any time on Twitter @DOL17, or email me at dol-17@hotmail.com, all questions will be addressed and considered for use in the mailbag.

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.