(This morning we have a guest column from distinguished Esquire magazine scribe Scott Raab, author of the book “The Whore Of Akron” chronicling LeBron James’ transformation from King of Ohio to the sellout who took his talents to South Beach. Feel free to post comments, or you can message Scott directly on Twitter.-CS)By Scott Raab Special to SheridanHoops.com
CLEVELAND – How can I be sure that LeBron James was lying through his teeth last Thursday when he talked about how much fun it would be to come back and play for the Cavs?
Easy: His lips were moving.
Same with James’s claim on Friday that Miami Heat fans — all eight of them — have no cause to fret over his departure ‘at this point,’ and his denial of the report that he tried to get word to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that he hopes to return to Cleveland.
It’s simple, really: If LeBron James tells you it’s sunny out, grab an umbrella.
This is the yutz who told Cleveland that he understood the fans’ hope and hunger, and then wore a Yankees cap to the opener of a playoff series between the Indians and the Yankees. If the young Larry Bird had pulled that crap at Fenway, Boston fans would’ve run his butt out of town. Cleveland fans are so desperate for a winner, and so convinced that LeBron cared about loyalty, his dishonest douchebaggery got a pass.
Nothing has changed. I was courtside Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena, and when the Cavs laid down like lambs to be slaughtered, plenty of fans were yelling stuff like, “Come home, LeBron.” It’s nice to think that this might demonstrate forgiveness and maturity, but all it truly means is that a half-century of bitter defeat has stripped Cleveland fans of all semblance of pride.
James is a great basketball player, the best I’ve ever seen. At the halfway mark of the current season, he’s absolutely killing it. On Friday night, he was the embodiment of hoops poetry — 28 points in 30 minutes, five rebounds, five assists, three 3-pointers, intense defense, the whole shebang.
By the most advanced metrics I’m aware of, LeBron’s enjoying the single greatest season in NBA history. And after routing the Magic on Sunday, the Heat have the league’s best record — Jeff Van Gundy said Sunday that they were the “prohibitive favorite” to win it all.
I’m not sure Coach Jeff knows what “prohibitive” means, but I’ll take the field for a thousand bucks if he’s willing to put his money where his microphone is.
It isn’t about hating James; it’s about his team and his own lack of heart. Miami has holes at center and point guard the size of Eddy Curry’s ass; Dwyane Wade has grown brittle with age and wear; and despite ESPN’s relentless PR campaign on his behalf, LeBron has firmly established himself as a choke artist sans peer.
You don’t have to be a hater — or to minimize the job the Mavericks did in last year’s Finals, or the Celtics in 2010 — to acknowledge that James has folded under pressure the past two seasons. It wasn’t that he shot poorly or lacked a good enough supporting cast, in Cleveland or Miami; LeBron simply disappeared — in game after game after game after game. He didn’t want the ball, didn’t want to shoot when it found him, didn’t appear at times to even recognize that an NBA season was slipping away while he was sleepwalking.
Ball, as the Most Reverend Rasheed Wallace said, don’t lie.
As I drove to the Miami airport last June, after the Mavs put the title away, Dan Le Batard was on the radio talking about Pat Riley maybe trading James for Dwight Howard. No doubt Riley heard LeBron babble about rejoining the Cavs loud and clear last week, and no doubt that if the Heat don’t win it all this season, LeBron James won’t have to wait until 2014 to bid farewell to South Beach.
No doubt, either, that Cleveland would welcome him back. Hell, the Indians plan to put up a statue of Jim Thome, who vowed he’d never leave not long before signing a free agent deal with the Phillies in 2002, after 12 years with the Tribe.
If LeBron returns, maybe Dan Gilbert will rename the Q in his honor — something apt, I hope. Throne of Lies sounds good, although not quite as fitting as The Whoredome.
Scott Raab is the author of The Whore of Akron; On Man’s search for the soul of LeBron James, which can be purchased here through amazon.com. As he notes on his Twitter profile, his opinions are his and his alone, but should be shared by any right-minded human.