The King We Want, But Don’t Need: Why an NBA Title and LeBron’s Return to Cleveland Shouldn’t Matter to Clevelanders

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/ Written by: Neil Brown (@downtowneil)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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Maybe it’s because I currently live 2,009 miles away from Quicken Loans Arena (thanks Google Maps!), but I’m about to lay out for you why I feel that Cleveland is better off without LeBron and without any number of NBA titles that he may win.

I may now live in the lush desert paradise that is Phoenix, Arizona, but I grew up an hour and a half away from downtown Cleveland. I spent 24 years of my life pouring time and money into Cleveland sports, just to continue seeing the same thing time and time again, failure.

Do I regret being a Cleveland fan? Do I wish I hadn’t been born into a diehard Cleveland sports family? Absolutely not, because being a Cleveland sports fan is not about chasing trophies and ESPN’s primetime attention. It’s about putting in a hard day’s work, going home and turning on Tom Hamilton’s call of what is likely to be another Indians loss while drinking a beer and eating dinner. It’s about getting to the parking lot at 7 a.m. to start tailgating for a hopeless Browns team that’s playing meaningless football in December against an equally bad Jacksonville team. Sure the wind is whipping in off the lake and snow is falling, but that’s nothing a few beers, some grilled red meat, and a few layers of clothing won’t fix! It’s about Brown, Newsome, Price, Daugherty, Feller, Boudreau.

By no means am I saying LeBron shouldn’t be forgiven, because I never got mad when he left. Welcome him back with open arms and help pack The Q. I am really excited to see how rowdy that place is on October 30 when the Cavs open the season against the Knicks. What I’m trying to argue is that as Cleveland sports fans, a World Series or Super Bowl would mean so much more to the city than any number of NBA titles.


What if I told you that Cleveland isn’t even an NBA city?

Try and argue this with me, I welcome it. Sure the Cavs drew pretty well attendance-wise the last four years, despite having below-average players playing below-average basketball. But if LeBron had chosen football over basketball, would anyone care about the Cavs? Would they still be in Cleveland or would they have been relocated?

Imagine this for a second, LeBron lining up at receiver for the Super Bowl Champion Cleveland Browns and Johnny Football is slinging rifle shots in his direction. Now THAT is something I can get behind. But I will never fully believe Cleveland cares about the NBA and instead is more concerned about using the Cavs to end its championship drought.

But what about the 120 year history of the Indians and nearly 70 year history of the Browns? A World Series or Super Bowl would mean 1,000 times more to Cleveland sports fans than an NBA title won by a team that haven’t even been around for half a century. For a city that loves its history and working-class mentality, lets respect that and earn a championship, not buy it by convincing the hometown kid that he owes us anything.


What if I told you he’ll bring along more baggage than Hopkins International can handle?

Obviously with BronBron comes everyone’s buddy, ole Brian ‘Windy’ Windhorst. Do we really want the faint scent of KFC gravy fermenting from his mouth in The Q’s press row? What about Mike Miller, James Jones, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood? Just because they’re all over 30 and approaching the end of their mediocre careers, we give them a free pass to chase a ring? No one gave that to LeBron when he moved to Miami to do the exact same thing.

Not to mention all the media attention that there will be. You think it’s bad now? We’re still over 60 days away from the start of the NBA season! Give it a little more time and it’ll be overwhelming. Everything LeBron and the city of Cleveland does will now be under the national and international microscope on a scale this city has never seen before.


What if I told you that even LeBron can’t break the Cleveland sports curse?

People just assume that by The King coming home, Cleveland is destined for countless NBA titles. And now that our lord and savior Johnny Football is in town, you better throw a few Super Bowls in there too! The Johnny Football rant is for another post on another day though.

Really though, what if? What if LeBron can’t get the deal done? Kyrie has yet to play a full NBA season without getting hurt and I’m not sold yet. In three of his six NBA seasons, Kevin Love has failed to play more than 60 games because of injuries. Hell, he could strain his wrist signing his new contract or throw out his back trying to carry around that fat wallet he’s bound to collect by going to Cleveland. So now we’re left with LeBron and a cast of average-at-best NBA players. Sounds like the Cavs from 2003-10 to me. And how many titles did they win? Oh yeah, that’s right!

Look, injuries are always a hypothetical and you can never expect or plan on someone getting hurt, but I’m just being realistic. The Cavs have a better chance of not winning an NBA title than they do of winning it. There are 29 other teams that could win the title.

Maybe it’s just personal preference, but I’d rather see Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis hoisting Cody Allen on their shoulders as the corner of Carnegie and Ontario literally burns to the ground in celebration of a World Series and breaking the Cleveland sports curse than to see it done by LeBron and his hand-picked supporting cast.


What if I told you that returning to Cleveland was the only thing LeBron James could do?

LeBron doesn’t owe anything to anyone, especially Cleveland sports fans. “Oh but Neil, he’s one of us and he left us high and dry four years ago just to chase a championship!” News flash, LeBron is NOT one of us. He’s a once-in-a-generation talent that we’re just so lucky to have been born in the same state as us. I’m sorry, but you’ll never have anything in common with LeBron. We all get our heart broken at least once during our lives, so if the most heartbreak you ever feel was from The Decision, you need to reevaluate some things.

Years from now you’ll be telling your kid stories of watching The King play with the same intensity and happiness my dad gets when he tells me stories of watching Ozzie Smith and Nolan Ryan dominate baseball. That’s because of their greatness, not because of the team they played for or the people they wronged along the way.

Most of us know someone that’s moved out of state for one reason or another. Hell, I just left behind all my friends and family to move to Arizona for work. Not once did someone tell me that I was deserting Ohio or them. No one ever said I couldn’t go because I owed it to them to stay. I never got anything but positive praise and support. So because LeBron is LeBron he owes Northeast Ohio something? No, that’s selfish and pathetic.

So why was returning to Cleveland the only logical thing for LeBron to do? His legacy. Sure, he probably meant everything he said in that Sports Illustrated letter, but this is all a major PR ploy by The King to ensure that when he retires he’ll be doing so as a hero, not a villain. He’ll be doing so by answering every question and not leaving any to doubt.


What if I told you that Cleveland is just that desperate guy at the bar trying to score anything he can at closing time?

I’m sure most of us have been there more than we’d like to admit, but this is much bigger than even that girl you’re hitting on! LeBron is singlehandedly rewriting Cleveland sports history. Think about that. One man who three years ago was still honeymooning his first NBA Title around South Beach, not the toxic banks of Lake Erie.

Let’s not forget our sports history and what has made Cleveland sports what they are today. Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, 1995, 1997, 2007. We’ve all see the video footage. We’ve all heard the stories. We’ve been THAT close so many times and now we’re willing to give it up for something as artificial as this Cavs team may be if they land Kevin Love. They’ll resemble a Yankees’ roster more than the band of warriors that beat them in the 2007 American League Divisional Series. For the record, I’ll take Fausto Carmona in game two over Andy Pettitte any day, but maybe I’m just crazy.

I understand I’m in the absolute minority with the opinions I expressed above, so please comment below and let’s get into an argument on the internet like real grown men! And lastly, I am and will always be a Cleveland sports fan whether I like it or not, so don’t think this article is me saying otherwise.

You can have your South Beach, I’ll take my North Coast any day of the week.

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Indians Enter Final Week of the Wild Card Race

Photo is courtesy of the Associated Press/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Well ladies and gentlemen, we are entering the final week of the 2013 MLB regular season and somehow the Cleveland Indians are still in playoff contention.  Usually when the end of the season arrives, we Tribe fans utter the same words year after year, “there is always next year,” but that is not the case this season.  There is no question that this new band of Cleveland misfits has had their ups and downs this season, but with a record of 86-70 and winning 9 of their last 11 games, these Cardiac Kids of the Cuyahoga look to be posed for the playoffs coming down the home stretch.


When the season started, everybody anticipated that the Indians under the leadership of Terry Francona would be better than last year (68-94), but not many thought that the Tribe would be in the hunt for the playoffs, that includes me.  Of course I was optimistic and thought that the additions of Scott Kazmir, Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn would help the cause, but I never thought that they would change the game in Cleveland like they did. Grouping those guys together with the likes of Carlos Santana, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley has turned the Tribe from a team that looked young and lost to one that looks excited and driven.


The Indians couldn’t be playing better baseball at a better time. Holding onto a 1 ½ game lead over the Texas Rangers in the AL Wild Card, the Tribe will finish off the regular season with two games at home against the Chicago White Sox and then head to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Twins to end the regular season.  In years past, Cleveland has struggled with these opponents, especially Chicago, but not this season. In 2013, the Indians are 15-2 against the White Sox and 8-6 versus the Twins.  Even though the Rangers have just as favorable of a schedule against the Astros and Angels, Cleveland is still the team to beat.  Of the final six games remaining, I would have to set the magical number at four. If the Indians can win four of their last six games, I don’t see Texas doing any better than that which will ultimately give the final Wild Card spot to the Fightin’ Tribe.


As much trust as I have in Cleveland’s new-found offense for this final stretch, the real confidence lies in a man that will be pitching two of the final six games for the Indians. Earlier this month, the Indian’s ace, Justin Masterson, left the rotation with an oblique injury and with that, looked to be the end of any playoff hopes in Cleveland. But like we have been all season long as Tribe fans, the Indians have proved us wrong, or should I say Ubaldo Jimenez has.  Once the main cog of a disappointing trade in 2010, Jimenez has turned into the ace of old that we once saw in Colorado. Since the All-Star Break, Jimenez has fanned 80 batters and is sporting a cool 1.83 ERA.  The Tribe and Francona needed somebody to step up in a big way when Masterson went down, and what a step Jimenez took for the Indians, the playoffs and most of all, his once bleak future.


As Indians fans, we were teased in 2011 and disappointed in 2012, but 2013 has seen a different story.  You always wonder how new faces will mesh with the old, but due to the success of Tito, The Goon Squad and Bro-hio, it looks to be a Red, White and Blue October!