I love the NBA. So many off court things are going right for the league it’s turning into it’s own dynasy. Events such as what happened today are why. LeBron James informed the world very eloquently that he wanted to return to his home state to try to win a championship for Cleveland, rather than stay in the sexy spot of Miami. LeBron admitted making a mistake in July 2010 with how he left, and is ready to make it right.
I think I’m allowed to say I’m a huge Charlotte fan since I write for a Charlotte fan site. I’ve always pulled for the little guy. The underdog. The small market.
It’s easy for me to relate to Cleveland and what their fans felt in 2010. If that had happened in Charlotte? And so soon after we quite literally lost having an entire NBA franchise for a time? Devastating. I bought a shirt not long after James leaving that was just a crown, underneath saying “Wade’s Pippin.” It could not have been more wrong.
I wore that shirt to Las Vegas a few weeks later, and ended up at a club where LeBron was making an appearance. The ladies that introduced him tried to do his hand-clap chalk move, and he got covered in chalk. He immediately gets his entourage to come over to literally help him wipe the chalk off his shoulders. Image was #1 back then.
His letter on SI.com alludes to how much he’s grown up since then, and you could see it happen. He NEEDED that venom after The Decision and the loss to Dallas in 2011 to learn to tune everyone out. He started playing the way he felt was right. He won two rings after that, but only AFTER that.
Going back to Cleveland is unfinished business, and as a fan of the small market teams I felt like I’d won something when he announced he’s going home. Finally a huge star is not electing to head to New York, to L.A. Stars aren’t supposed to want to go home, but it happened.
This letter comes just 1 month after a great passing team in San Antonio beat the team with the Big Three. Tim Duncan has seen better days, Tony Parker wasn’t 100%, and Manu Ginobili almost played his way into retirement last year. It was the team concept that won. That’s not supposed to happen in today’s NBA. But it happened.
The NBA’s next biggest star, Kevin Durant, won the MVP this past season (over LeBron), and is generally known as a nice guy. So much so that Nike tried to base a commercial around Durant trying to claim “I’m not a nice guy.”
Did you see his MVP speech? He calls his mother the real MVP, and if you have family you care about, you probably cried. I did. This is the guy that, while LeBron was on ESPN announcing where is talents were going, was sending a simple tweet that he signed an extension with Oklahoma City. Small markets can’t usually keep their stars, but in this case it happened.
I cried reading LeBron’s letter too. Just for a second. The NBA has reached fairy tale status and Adam Silver could not be in a better position. Silver started his legacy with the swift and fair punishment of Donald Sterling, and in the next few years will see Kevin Durant continue to improve, LeBron try to win for Cleveland, as well as the latest stars in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Noah Vonleh (Hornets!). The league could not be in better shape.
Charles Barkley used to say he was not a role model, and the league has come a long way since those days. To see the love KD has for his mother and his teammates is inspiring. To see how much LeBron has matured in four years is uplifting. I have a 20-month old son, Lucas, that loves basketball as much as you can at 20-months. Most of me wants him to grow up as slow as possible so my wife and I can take our time enjoying it.
But today I realized I hope he grows up in time to appreciate LeBron James and Kevin Durant. They clearly are great men and great role models. They are why I love the NBA.