by Brett Rose
I’ve been a Miami Heat fan my whole conscious life, but up until four years ago, nobody gave a shit. And why should they have? To be a fan of a given franchise is no more notable than any other fanhood… that is until the greatest, most polarizing player in the global cult they call professional sports decides to take his talents to your city. That decision- THE Decision- changed everything for me, Miami Heat fans, the NBA and of course, SportsCenter.
Since that glorious day, LeBron has brought us two NBA Championships, two Most Valuable Player awards, four straight trips to the NBA Finals, and countless awe-inspiring moments that filled us with a swelling pride. But along with these great things has come something rather grotesque: a sense of entitlement. Sure, that sentiment is anything but rare in the ostentatiously glittered streets of South Florida. We feel entitled to beautiful weather, beautiful people, beautiful homes and cars. But it’s supposed to be different when it comes to sports.
Sports are supposed to create the ultimate sphere of equality. In fanhood, people who otherwise lead the most disparate of lives can actually share something equally: passion, loyalty, a sense of victory and defeat. But too many of us on this peninsula have forgotten that. Forgotten that we aren’t entitled to anything. When LeBron decided to come to Miami four years ago, we Heat fans won the lottery. What’s better, we barely even had to buy a ticket to play. Our beaches, restaurants, clubs, teammates (lookin’ at you, D-Wade), and Godfather (lookin’ at you Mr. Riley) rigged the whole charade on our behalf. That LeBron called American Airlines Arena “home” for the past four years should be considered a miraculous run of achievement made possible only by the grace of the King.
When LeBron made that decision four years ago, Cleveland reacted with an emotional firebomb of unprecedented vitriol. At the time, I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s ridiculous. They’re lucky he even decided to spend seven of his greatest, or at least most exciting, playing years in Cleveland... I don’t even know if you could pay me LeBron’s salary to live in Cleveland for seven years (just kidding Cleveland).”
But now, in light of LeBron’s latest [in]decision, I can see how wrong I was. Cleveland’s response was genuine and powerful, if a bit frightening. While most think the intensity of that jersey-burning backlash worked against the prospect of his return to Cleveland (not to mention Dan Gilbert's ignorant rant he called a letter), the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it was exactly that organic fervor that paved his road home to Akron.
It all makes sense when considering Cleveland’s role in this lottery. Cleveland’s stake in the LeBrottery was incomparably greater than Miami’s. They invested in their ticket for years, raising, indeed cultivating, the phenom that became LeBron James. Of course, it was impossible for a then-25 year old LeBron, eyes wide with the possibility of sandy-footed glory next to his best buddy, to recognize the profound investment Ohio had made in him. Nor could he possibly have truly comprehended the emotional connection he, himself, had to his home state. But now, by his own admission, he has come to recognize that connection.
And instead of being a bitter, resentful, entitled South Floridian, I opt instead to congratulate Mr. James on recognizing such a rarely experienced association--that between athlete and hometown, icon and city. Sure I’m disappointed, but we were lucky enough to experience a golden run in a golden age of basketball. Thank you, LeBron James, for choosing, over your home of all places, to provide us with such an unforgettable opportunity. I wish you only the best of luck - except when you play my Heat of course.