[Opinion] LeBron James Stay Yo Butt in Cleveland
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My name is Greg. Who am I? I’m a grizzled Gen X writer who wants you to stay in Cleveland, and play with the Cavaliers for at least another two seasons. Why?
Because, first, I grew up in East Cleveland until I was 16 years old. Second, I went to Cavs games with my dad (he was a sports reporter for The Plain Dealer) in the early 80’s, and third, your professional legacy will be ruined if you leave the city again.
Now, I have to be honest. I was spurred to write this piece because, according to numerous sports television shows and blogs, you may looking to leave C-Town soon. I don’t know if these rumblings are true, but if there is some truth to these items, please reconsider.
You’re 31 years old now. If you leave in your late 30’s, cool. I don’t think even the most staunch Cavs fans would hold it against you. But, if you roll out in the next two years, while there’s still tread on your tires (your athletic prime), you’ll firebomb your NBA and civic legend.
I’ll briefly go back to me for a second. As I mentioned earlier, I was tagging along as a kid with my dad to Cavs games back when they were played at the Richfield Coliseum. You were born in 1984, so you can only imagine the dark years that Cavaliers fans had to go through back then. LeBron, if you think Dan Gilbert is irritating, you should have been around for the Ted Stepien years. If you’ve never heard of him, you may have heard of the “ Stepien Rule” that the NBA created because of him. That’s the rule that the league created that prevents teams from trading two straight number one pics. Because, Stepien did that. I remember going to games during his era. To say the team was dreadful back then is an understatement. Imagine going to or watching games as a fan, knowing your team had no chance of winning.
Well, LeBron, many Cavs fans went from suffering in the Stepien Dark Ages to your fantastic run in your first edition with the team. From 2003 until 2010, you gave them unbelievable joy. Then, you joined the Miami Heat in 2010, and you inadvertently ripped their hearts out. Two years ago, in one of the biggest surprises in sports and pop culture history (kind of), you returned to Cleveland once again giving Clevelanders a reason to cheer.
Big homie, you can’t leave again. You can’t shun The Land twice. If you do in the next two years, not only will you maim the souls of a ton of people in Northern Ohio, the region will turn on you and never embrace you again. If you think the city of Cleveland was angry at you before, nothing will compare to the venom spewed at you if you leave a second time. And, even though I’m playing up the Cleveland angle to you in this letter, if you run out on the Cavs again, your national and NBA legacy will be ruined. Completely. You’ll never be named in the company of greats like Jordan, Magic, Bird, Kareem, Kobe, or Shaq.
I’ll end my letter/plea to you with this, LeBron. You wanted this. You wanted to come back to Cleveland. This is what you said in that legendary essay in Sports Illustrated in 2014:
“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”
You didn’t have to come back to Ohio. I know it. We know it. But, you did. And we are grateful. But, don’t forget. You came back to Cleveland, back to Northeast Ohio, back to Ohio, and we welcomed you with open arms. If you abruptly leave again, before the mission of winning a title can be accomplished, the door that Ohio shuts may never be open to you again. That’s not a threat. It’s the promise of a region, and the sports gods.
You know what promises are, ‘Bron. Please, don’t break any more of them.
Sincerely, from a fan, and a son of Cleveland.
Greg Simms, Jr.