After yesterday’s “Decision,” Clevelanders took to downtown much like they did after the last “Decision,” but this time, the vibe was totally different.
There were random chants of “LBJ!”, high-fives to strangers clearly united through the struggles of being a Cleveland sports fan.
In 2010, I was as hurt as anyone was, when I read that LeBron was determined to bring a championship to Cleveland, when I saw the way the city received him wherever he was, our love for him was rooted in something deeper than basketball. For as long as I can remember, it was always difficult bringing sports talent to Cleveland. Sure, we had a few big names pass through, but they were either in the twilight of their career (Rison, Hershiser, Kemp, etc.), or we groomed them in to superstars and then they soon departed. That hard truth suggested that the only way we were going to retain any talent here, was if we cultivated it ourselves. And so we did.
In 2003, our prayers were answered. The drafting of LeBron translated to hope. Not just for our struggling basketball team but, for the city, the region as a whole to rally around. Having grown up in the area, we rested easy on the fact that he knew what it meant to be a Cleveland sports fan, he knew how important his presence was, he was our hero.
For seven years, the city experienced a kind of excitement I had never seen before. We were perennial contenders and for once, even those dreaded self-loathing Clevelanders couldn’t deny our potential.
So when he left, well… You saw it on tv.
There was a reaction like no other, people felt betrayed, abandoned.. Being the product of a blue-collar region, we knew that he respected hard-work, resilience, being hard nosed, etc.. When he took the “easier way” to a ring, people denounced him.
Fast forward to yesterday, our reaction to the decision 2.0 wasn’t us getting back on the bandwagon, it was us celebrating the fact that “‘Bron gets it.”
Reading that letter, it’s clear, he understands what he means to this region.. Anywhere else, he’s just the best basketball player in the league. Here?! His value here is immeasurable.
As a city/region, our biggest import is people. Believe it or not, LeBron’s return is as much a part of our “brain gain,” as anyone elses’ arrival here.
Long story short, this is bigger than basketball. It’s about Cleveland and our region. Just look.
Welcome home LeBron.