The circus is over! Yes!!! I believe I speak for millions when I say that I am glad the LeBron James saga is over. ESPN may not believe this, but there are other topics going on in the sports world (though I’m not sure they believe that because as I am typing this it’s more LeBron talk on three of the ESPN channels on my satellite system). I expected there to be some backlash from Cleveland fans. Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek had warned me of that. But I have to admit that LeBron James handled this entire situation poorly, and it’s amazing how far he appears to have fallen in the court of public opinion.
I posted on my Facebook page last night that I’m glad I was not on duty as a Cleveland police officer last night. It had to be really rough last night in the Cleveland-Akron area. The city had extra security set up around town and security was even heightened at LeBron’s house. LeBron’s #23 Jerseys were burned. The words “LeBron James” are being lumped together with profanity-laced tirades. Heck, “LeBron James” is now considered profanity. Have you seen owner Dan Gilbert’s open letter to fans? Have you heard his comments in which he throws LeBron under the bus? After reading this letter, and reading his comments, I’ve got to believe that as unpopular as James as in Cleveland today, Gilbert is that popular.
LeBron James was arguably the most popular NBA player P.D. – Pre-Decision. Now, he’s got many fan bases outside of Cleveland upset at him. This was the recruiting process he never went through in high school, and last night was his Signing Day. People used to drool when watching him play. Many were amazed at the trick shots he would often try in practice. I actually have a couple of them Tivoed on my satellite system for my little cousins to watch when they come visit me. Now, at least for the immediate future, he’s coming across as an egotistical jerk through much of the country.
My problem with this whole situation – and I really have no dog in this fight – is how James and his representatives manipulated this entire process. I have no problem whatsoever with him going to Miami. Lord knows the Heat are overwhelming favorite to win the NBA championship next year. But the handling of the whole situation was classless. I remember the beat down Tiger Woods took in some circles for the way he set up his first press conference. He set it up where only certain media members were allowed to be in the room. LeBron has definitely topped his Nike counterpart. The whole “The Decision” infomercial on ESPN last night was a joke. He put this whole ball in motion by going to ESPN with his proposal for “The Decision.” He tried to soften the blow to his image by having the announcement done at a Boys and Girls club. That didn’t work at all. Jim Gray, of all people, performed his initial interview (Editor’s Note: And was PAID by LeBron’s team independently of ESPN.). I knew I heard him as recently as three weeks ago at the U.S. Open for The Golf Channel. Yet, for some reason, he was in Greenwich, Connecticut last night.
At the end of the regular season you could have polled all NBA fans and asked them who their favorite NBA player is. I feel pretty certain that LeBron James would have been the overwhelming winner. If you polled those same fans this morning, I feel even more certain that LeBron James would not be the choice. He may yet win multiple NBA championships and achieve all the fortune and glory he wants. But he has stepped on a lot of toes in the process, and has forever scarred his image.