I told myself I wasn’t going to write this article. I told myself I wasn’t going to let an awful game by the Cavaliers throw me into the mix of bloggers that are jumping to conclusions and speculating what the Cavaliers and LeBron’s next move will be. That lasted approximately 38 hours.
LeBron James is Cleveland’s most prized possession since the late 80’s Browns Quarterback/Wunderkind Bernie Kosar. Not since has a player grabbed hold of a city so tightly. Bernie was a hometown boy, growing up in Boardman, Ohio about an hour and a half south of Cleveland. People in Ohio felt the connection to Kosar like they were watching someone they knew out there on the field. Everywhere, people had stories about Bernie before the Browns and before Miami. Much is the same for LeBron. He is playing in a town where people will take pictures of the ground he just walked on. Parents bring their kids to see him play so they can tell their kids that they got to see “The King” play when they were young. LeBron, as everyone knows, grew up in Akron, Ohio and almost everyone in Northeast Ohio will be able to tell you something about him before the Cavaliers. I remember the first time I saw LeBron lace ‘em up.
It was February 17, 2002 and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School was playing George Junior Republic School. It was on the campus on Youngstown State University at Beeghly Center because LeBron’s crowds couldn’t be held in a high school gymnasium. LeBron is a skinny junior at the time, about half the size that he is now. He is playing with the “Fab 5” and at the time, I had no clue what that term meant. Warm ups started and everyone’s eyes were stuck on #23. During warm ups in Ohio you are not allowed to dunk the basketball but this didn’t stop James from putting on a show. The kid with the white stickers on his arms to cover his then few tattoos showed off some Ally Oops and 360’s. When going up he would simply place the ball in the cylinder and not touch the rim. Remember, no dunking. After warm ups the game started and it was clear that this SVSM team hadn’t played anyone like this team before. They were rough and they played hard. They were a reform school. Never was their court viciousness more apparent than when 17 year old LeBron went up for a dunk only to have his legs cut out from underneath him. He landed on his back with a big thud as if someone had knocked over a bookcase on the floor. He laid there stunned for maybe 2 or 3 seconds but had to get up quickly to hold back Gloria. That was the first time I saw Gloria and obviously not the last. She came storming on the court with one finger up in the air like so many Mothers do when they are reprimanding the youth. LeBron, clearly embarrassed, stepped in front of her and pointed her back to her seat under the hoop. We joked at the time that Gloria had dollar signs in her eyes when she stormed the court. To the shock of everyone, after regulation the game was tied and SVSM ended up losing by 1 point, 58-57. LeBron recorded a double-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 blocks. Zero assists. Give him a break though, he was 17 and hadn’t perfected his passing game yet.
About a month later I got to see LeBron again. This time the venue was Value City Arena on the campus of The Ohio State University for the Ohio High School State Semifinal. He was playing my high school, Poland Seminary. This game turned out to be a little easier on SVSM and LeBron than the reform school had been. Our team played hard but were no match for the Fighting Irish. St. Vincent – St. Mary’s won 76-36 and if that wasn’t bad enough James shot 67% and scored just 4 fewer points than our whole team. They moved on to the final where they were beat by Roger Bacon High School by a score of 71-63. LeBron had the same stat line for FG percentage and points in that game as well.
On June 26, 2003 everyone’s dream came true when the Cavaliers selected hometown boy LeBron James with the number 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. After a season that saw only 17 wins the Cavaliers had a 22.5% chance of landing the number 1 lottery pick in May and by the grace of God they got it. The 2003-2004 season saw the Cavs roll out new uniform logos and colors and all was right in Cleveland. They even doubled up their win total to 35 games this season but unfortunately failed to make the playoffs. The next year they won 42 games and missed out on the playoffs again after losing to the Nets in a playoff. This had the people of Northeast Ohio buzzing because they knew the heights that LeBron would take them to would be great. The Cavaliers have not looked back and have not finished a season worse than second place in the division since then.
We are now in our final hour. This could be the last game we see LeBron in the Wine and Gold and subsequently could be the last time, for a while at least, we are in this playoff position. I have seen a lot in the 8 years since that first game watching LeBron. I have seen him succeed and I have seen him fail and it all reminds me that he is human and if I’m not mistaken to err is human. People need to step out of the realm that they are in where LeBron is a robot programmed to dominate everything he touches. He had a horrible game yes and he knows he did. The way the media has blown this up is their reaction to realizing he is human after all. I would literally, and I’m a big guy, jump for joy if LeBron inks another contract with Cleveland but if he chooses to leave Cleveland at the end of this season will I be mad? No. I will be upset and trust me there is a difference. Being mad gives the idea that I would have disdain for LeBron while being upset means I am disheartened at the state of my team, the Cavaliers. I would not hate LeBron but rather would hate the team he is on, much like I do not hate Cliff Lee or C.C. Sabathia but despise the Mariners and Yankees. He has given the city so much in the last 7 years. He has given the city hope, a chance and that is something that you can’t say about anyone since good old Bernie Kosar.
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