LeBronzilla flattens Cleveland

Posted: Sunday, July 11, 2010

The wait is finally over. LeBron James is South Beach bound.

The one-hour special where he made the announcement, titled "The Decision," was essentially a trite college signing ceremony.

The only thing missing was the different ball caps representing the Bulls, Cavaliers, Nets, Knicks, Heat and Clippers, and James almost picking up one before switching direction and putting on the Miami hat.

By nervously uttering the words: "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat," LeBron went all Godzilla and ceremoniously flattened Cleveland in one fell swoop (think "Chappelle's Show").

And later that night, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert appeared as Mothra, dropping verbal bombs and making ridiculous proclamations, blasting his former franchise savior in an unprecedented - and insanely hilarious - manner. After a childish, spurned-lover's rant/temper tantrum like that, who the heck would want to play for that guy?

To say that LeBron's decision decimated the Cavaliers as a franchise would be a gross understatement. It's now a gaping, smoldering crater.

What are they going to do? Who can they sign? There's no one left that can even come close to replacing a back-to-back MVP and arguably the best player in the league.

Carlos Boozer? Gone to Chicago. Amar'e Stoudemire? Running New York. Joe Johnson (scoff)? Still in the ATL. Dwyane Wade? Chris Bosh? Oh, yeah.

"The Decision" special was unbelievably over the top, but I can't blame James for ultimately choosing winning over a bigger paycheck, though there will still be plenty of cash to go around - $107-$110 million for each of the new Big Three, Miami Thrice, Three Kings or whatever they're calling them today. Wade, Bosh and James each left $15 million on the table, also unprecedented in the sports world.

Just reading and seeing people's reactions, the haters are out in full force. Just don't count me among them. The Heat will be must-see TV every night next season and beyond, but my image of James - which was pretty close to pristine - certainly has changed.

Let's make this clear: LeBron James has lived up to every bit of hype - matched only by this two-year buildup to "The Decision" - bestowed upon him since he was a kid, but he has not handled this in a very Kingly manner by any stretch.

On one hand, he's taking a lot less money and forfeiting a measure of personal glory to win. He felt he couldn't do that in Cleveland, and he was right. So he decided to sacrifice every ounce of goodwill in a region he once owned for his ultimate goal, and that's winning championships.

That's admirable. Gilbert said LeBron wanted to go to heaven but he didn't want to die (sounds a little nuts, right?). LeBron is now dead to Cleveland and those who call themselves Cavs fans, and that can't be undervalued.

On the other hand, the show and the announcement was the biggest slap in the face, kick in the groin imaginable to all of Northeast Ohio, a region that worshipped the ground he dunked on. He was one of their own. He was their guy. And he basically took a dump in his own back yard, and every one of his neighbors'.

And that's not cool.

We've never seen a spectacle quite like this. Sure, Brett Favre eventually made his way to Minnesota, but he was pushed out of Green Bay. Quite a bit of venom was directed toward Juneau's own Carlos Boozer when he suddenly up and left Cleveland for Utah.

Bottom line is they all made the best decision for them and their families. Aside from the spurned, who can argue with that?

I've never lost any sleep over the opinions of people who don't even know me, and no one should. No doubt LeBron, no matter how tough this decision was for him - and I'd wager it's the toughest he's ever made - won't lose much sleep in doing something he believed in and what was right for him. It's his future, after all, and he doesn't owe Cleveland anything. He gave them seven of the best years in franchise history.

This will always be a stain on his legacy, but the rings he and his new teammates win will mean more.

Here's to hoping we never have to witness anything like this again.

• Contact Sports Editor Shaun T. Cox at 523-2228 or shaun.cox@juneauempire.com.

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