By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Dear LeBron James:
Cleveland loves you. Ohio loves you. I love you. If I had a dog, I'd train it to love you. Actually, scratch that; it would already know to love you upon sliding out of its mother's slimy birth canal.
Unfortunately for the aforementioned, those big shots in New York love you. And it sounds like Chicago is starting to fall for you as well. Lots of people love you.
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But who has always loved you? Your mother and your friends, for starters. Those you grew up with in Akron, not too far from your office the last seven years. That's nearly 30 percent of your life so far.
You've done so much for northeast Ohio, LeBron. You've done us all a huge favor by giving us something fun and exciting to cheer about. In the seven years that you've been dominating Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland's Indians and Browns have made one postseason appearance each. Your Cavs, however, are playoff staples and even championship contenders.
But we need that trend to continue. There's so little else in our city that gives us a reason to smile. I know there's a big ribs cookoff on the west side every summer, but that's not quite the same thing. I mean, have you been there?
We don't just want you to stay in Cleveland. We need you to stay. Surely there's the promise of a better life in New York, but can you imagine if what you pulled in Tuesday's Game 5 actually went down at Madison Square Garden? If you thought the Cleveland fans got ugly, just wait until you get a taste of Midtown after a night like that. And don't bother reading the papers the next morning.
LeBron, I know it's only basketball, but it's hard to trivialize it like that when you're standing to earn the biggest contract in NBA history this summer. I know you want to be a billionaire businessman down the road, and what better place is there to reach for such a goal than in New York?
But you want to win championships, too, don't you? Isn't the now more important than the later? You said an hour after the Game 6 elimination Thursday that "it's all about winning for me," and it should be. Your gift is basketball, not board rooms. Keep using the basketball to fulfill the near-term goals with the team you grew up watching.
And if you want to keep shooting commercials, shaking hands on seven-figure deals and building your brand, well, that's what summers and private airplanes are for. Sightseeing and fine dining are great and all, but once the basketball season begins, it doesn't matter where you live. Your focus should be on your team, whether it's the Cavs, Bulls, Knicks or the Lithuanian touring squad.
If it really is all about winning for you, you'll definitely be taking at least one step back if you go to Chicago or New York because those teams aren't in position to contend for a championship next year. While your current team has fallen short of expectations the last two years, the Cavaliers are much closer to a ring than most teams. Oh, and by the way, whether it's right or wrong, sports fans are a fickle bunch, and those in Cleveland will hate you forever if you leave.
So if all these things are equal, why not stay in the city and continue to play for the team where you've already built such a strong foundation? After what that city's sports fans went through long before that Game 5 debacle and the 48 crippling hours that followed, imagine what kind of hero you'll be in your own hometown. Everyone I know would kill to have just a sip of that kind of juice. As the King, you'll own the shiniest chalice, and thirsty Clevelanders shall all be witnesses.