A Love Letter to LeBron
I’m writing this letter right after the pivotal Game 5 loss to Golden State. I don’t want to add insult to injury, but you were never on my list. You know, that list of celebrities who could “get it” (whether you’d actually want it is irrelevant). Over the years, I’ve crushed on basketball stars Alonzo Mourning, Chris Webber, and most recently, Chris Paul. But not you. You’re handsome, you have an amazing body, you’re at the top of your profession and you’re rich beyond belief! So what the heck is wrong with me that I never saw you as my celebrity crush? Maybe I should explain…
When you stormed into the NBA as an eighteen year-old phenom, I was a fully grown woman. It would have been weird to lust after a teenager. As you’ve become a fully grown man, I’ve found that my feelings for you go well beyond the realm of a celebrity crush.
Not long after you became a basketball superstar, I attended a local premiere of the documentary More Than a Game. As a hoops fan, I was really interested in learning more about King James. I was surprised to learn so much about you and your teammates. Even at such a young age, when kids are expected to be selfish, you were all about the team. I was amazed that someone with such amazing individual talent could keep his ego in check and share his shine so freely. You’ve developed the talent to score at will, yet you seem to get as much joy from a well-timed assist as you do from a powerful, high-flying, one-handed dunk.
Your need to spread the wealth with your early teammates goes well beyond the basketball court. It seems like every day there’s some sensational story about a rapper, movie star or athlete getting caught up in some ratchetness with members of his entourage. Club shootings, rape accusations, bar brawls and the like can cause a shining star to fade fast. This happens partly because the most talented member of the clique wants to bring everybody along for the “come-up” without properly preparing them for it. The struggle is real. Fully understanding the concept of teaching men to fish vs. just giving them fish, you armed your friends with education, internships and mentors, ensuring that they will not only be able to survive, but thrive in this world with or without you.
Still in your twenties, you got married. To your high school sweetheart! In a world where a newly minted millionaire is expected to “upgrade”, you’ve remained committed to Savannah, who has been down for you since the beginning. It’s so impressive that you never got brand new. I’m not naïve enough to think that you didn’t go out and sow a few wild oats, but my heart warms whenever I see pictures of your beautiful family and think of your and Savannah’s enduring love story.
For all the hell you caught over The Decision, I couldn’t blame you for having a Cavalier attitude (pun intended) after the fall-out. Except it wasn’t real. You admitted that your feelings were hurt by some of the shade thrown your way for doing something you had every right to do. You didn’t force your way out of Cleveland. You simply waited until your contract was up and moved to a beautiful city to play with your friends. Wouldn’t we all do that if we had the chance? I won’t defend the execution of The Decision, as almost everyone agrees that was a misstep. It simply proved that you’re human.
My heart swelled when I read the essay you wrote last summer after deciding to return to Cleveland. After all of the vile, hateful things Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said about you, you were able to come back to the city you love, the place that made you. You could have easily soaked up the Miami sun into retirement just out of spite or to prove a point. You are a real man who knows how to rise above hate and you’ve impressively displayed the power of forgiveness.
You returned to Cleveland to give them a taste of what you got in Miami. A Championship. But there’s more to it. True fans know that you never totally left. Your home and various charitable programs remained in Northeast Ohio, even as many residents burned your jerseys. Or worse. You are extremely self-aware. You know what kind of emotional and financial impact your presence has on the area. Ever loyal, you put your #23 jersey back on and became a Cavalier once again.
I’m rooting for the Cavs this year for several reasons. It would be nice to see the city of Cleveland win something after a 50-year drought and I don’t want to see bad behavior like the firing of former Golden State coach Mark Jackson be rewarded with a championship. It would make for a great story if you and your rag-tag group of guys somehow pull it together after losing All-Stars Kevin and Kyrie and win it all. And yes, I rep the state of Ohio. But the biggest reason I want to see Cleveland win is because I love you, LeBron. Whether you hoist that golden trophy up or not, you’re a winner. Go Cavs!