We had a little war in our house on Sunday. LeBron James started it. (The estimation of LeBron is such in South Florida, we might as well go ahead and blame him for starting a war, too).
He made that buzzer-beating shot to defeat Chicago and rescue Cleveland’s championship hopes, and my eldest son groaned as if gut-punched as he emitted a string of words particularly unsuitable for Mother’s Day.
I found myself smiling as the Cavaliers celebrated. I’d made a little fist-pump and said “Awright!” Didn’t think about it. Didn’t plan it. Just happened.
(A sports columnist, when not on the company clock as a neutral observer, is free to lapse into fan tendencies just like a regular human being, in case you didn’t know. It can be fun. Cathartic, even).
My son looked at me as if I’d just traded the family dog for crack cocaine.
It was a lot to bear – the sight of the “traitor” LeBron preening heroically, compounded by stunned incredulity as a young man watched his father commit treason.
It did me no good to explain that I was rooting against the Bulls and surly, punky Joakim Noah as much as I was rooting for LeBron. Evidently no opponent including one whose starters included Kim Jong-un, Fidel Castro and Satan would justify wishing LeBron success.
(I loved my wife’s weak attempt at brokering peace between her husband and son. As we both looked to her to endorse our side of the argument, she said, “I guess I don’t mind if he wins another championship … just not this year.”)
I’m not sure if rooting for LeBron is technically against the law in and around Miami these days, but it’s close enough to anti-social behavior that doing so at the very least casts one as flagrantly anti-Heat. It’d be like publicly ripping up a photo of Dwyane Wade, or yelling “Pat Riley sucks!” in a crowded theater.
I don’t get the animus. Check that. I get it, just not the depth of it, or the lasting vitriol attached.
Yeah, LeBron botched the way he left Miami. He did the franchise no favors and left it scrambling. He put Riley on a plane for a dog-and-pony show even though he’d already decided to go home to Cleveland.
Shabby. Maybe in an autobiography in 10 years LeBron will finally admit he was classless in that.
But was the manner of James’ departure enough to turn Miami’s No. 6 into Miami’s public enemy No. 1? Enough to overshadow the four franchise-defining seasons, including his two MVP awards? Enough to outweigh the four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships he led?
For my son and for most, yes, apparently.
For me, no.
I have forgiven James the gracelessness and immaturity of his departure and can wish him well.
The journalist I am and the fan that never left me are in agreement: We root for excellence, and we root for a great story.
Steph Curry made it two straight seasons without an MVP award for LeBron, but there is no doubt who remains the league’s premier player – and he showed it late in Sunday’s game to tie that playoff series 2-2. I enjoy watching James perform, no matter the uniform he wears.
Likewise, James returning to his hometown Cavaliers and delivering to Cleveland the city’s first major sports championship since 1964 – that is a great story waiting to happen, even if it’s happening a few years sooner than Miami might have hoped.
Matter of fact I am announcing right here and now the formation of a “Miamians For LeBron James” bandwagon.
Good seats still available.