Like everyone else with a sentient brain and a functioning heart, we were blown away by Wright Thompson’s breathtaking ESPN.com piece on how the city of Cleveland has dealt with LeBron James’s leaving the Cavaliers. It makes you want to boo along with everyone else in Cleveland tonight, when LeBron returns as a member of the Miami Heat, but it also shows how James’s exit was a perfect fit with the city’s character. It’s Cleveland, the city of slumped shoulders.
We can’t help but think, as we see the Miami Heat as the ultimate villains in this tale, of what might have happened if LeBron &$8212; as many believed possible, even up to the very end — had actually announced he was signing with the Knicks during that eventful night of “The Decision.” It is easy to hate the Miami Heat, with their Pat Riley and South Beach and early struggles. But this is what would have happened to the Knicks, had he chosen them: Knicks fans would have looked like the jerks that Heat fans are seen as. We would be those bad guys who took away Cleveland’s heart and soul. We would be the team that’s booed on every road trip. December 18 would be the day that everyone tunes in to see LeBron hammered and jeered.
That didn’t happen obviously, and now the Knicks are a likable, on-the-rise team that’s fun to watch and easy to cheer for. Of course, if LeBron were here, working the pick-and-roll with Amar’e, that team would have been awfully fun to watch, too. That would have come with its own pressures and its own scrutiny: We would have felt like the assholes in Wright Thompson’s story. And we can all pile on LeBron as the bad guy now, but man, if he had picked the Knicks … well, being a sports fan does not always stand up under close consideration.
LeBron has to just hope to survive the evening; the same goes for the Cavs fans. There will be nothing but bile tonight. That’s not always great for humanity, but boy, does it make for fantastic television. That could have been the Knicks out there, being hissed at, ripping out a city’s intestines for the world to see. Would you take it? Would it be worth it? We’re guessing it probably would be. But the nice thing about being a sports fan is that we’ll never know.