‘We’ll Be Burned Again’
Cleveland knows what its got now that it’s gone.
by BJ Reyes / @bjr808
This isn’t about bitterness. Really.
Considering it was the mere bounce of a ping-pong ball that landed him in Cleveland in the first place, let’s just say I’d take the 18-win instant improvement, a trip to the NBA Finals, back-to-back 60-win seasons and a seven-year span of relevance to the alternative: A highlight reel – if that’s what you would call it – featuring Ricky Davis, DaJuan Wagner, Darius Miles and possibly Darko with a Zydrunas appreciation vid thrown in for good measure.
Let’s just say, thanks, for that.
We Cleveland fans are a resilient bunch. We’ve been burned before, we’ll be burned again.
But we’re not going to say good luck, either, which is too bad, because LeBron is going to need more luck than Art Modell in a dark alley off E. 9th Street to overcome one of the fundamental laws of Cleveland Sports.
That being: Only those who are banished are allowed to find success.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Dan Gilbert will be proven correct when he says (in Comic Sans font): “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”
Don’t believe me?
Let’s look at those who have worn Cleveland togs and left during LeBron’s lifetime.
First, those who were sent packing:
– Ron Harper, drafted by the Cavs in 1986, he gets shipped off to the Clippers for one Danny Ferry. Sure, he blew out his knee, but he ultimately found Zen and the art of winning championships with Phil Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles.
– Bernie Kosar, prior to LeBron being tapped as Northeast Ohio’s favorite son (or “our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted,” if you’re the founder of Quicken Loans), the Boardman native is supplementally drafted by the Browns in 1985. He twice leads them to the AFC Championship – cue John Elway/Jeremiah Castille clips – before being unceremoniously cut in 1991 by new Browns coach Bill Belichick, citing “diminishing skills.” He inks a one-year deal with the Cowboys, fills in for an injured Troy Aikman for four games, and he winds up with a Super Bowl XXVIII ring. (Which may or may not, still be his.)
– CC Sabathia, drafted by the Indians in 1998, gets them to the ALCS in his Cy Young season of 2007. He starts slow in 2008, the contract year, and gets traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and pitches them in to the Playoffs. A year later, he’s in the Yankees’ parade down the Canyon of Heroes celebrating their 27th World Series title.
Now consider those who left of their own accord:
– Albert Belle, drafted by the Indians, leads them to the American League Pennant in 1995 before signing as a free agent with the White Sox in 1996 and briefly holding the title of Highest Paid Player in Baseball. After two seasons in Chicago, he signed with the Orioles, and though he homered in his final major league at-bat, he retired in 2000 with a degenerative hip.
– Jim Thome, drafted by the Indians, was instrumental in both AL Pennant teams of 1995 and 1997, before deciding to bolt as a free agent to sign with Philadelphia for the 1998 season. He hit his 400th career home run but has since been slowed by injuries and was dealt to the White Sox before the Phillies’ current run of success. Had a short stint with the Dodgers and is now playing out his days for the Minnesota Twins.
– Carlos Boozer, drafted by the Cavaliers in 2002, enjoyed the resurgence of the Cavs with the arrival of LeBron in ‘03-04, and played out the year under what was thought to be a handshake agreement that his contract would expire and the Cavs would make him an offer. He instead signs with the Utah Jazz, where success proves to be futile, and he joins the ballyhooed free agent Class of 2010 to sign with the Bulls.
If you’re keeping score: Belle, Thome and Boozer have won as many titles as LeBron (AKA the one who committed the act of “cowardly betrayal,” if you’re the majority owner of the Cavs).
So sorry BronBron, you can leave Cleveland, but Cleveland never leaves you. It has to be kicked out of you! (If you come back, I’m sure there are plenty of people around the Q ready and willing to do just that.)
But don’t mock Dan Gilbert.
He knows what he speaks of when he says: “the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called ‘curse’ on Cleveland, OH.
“The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”
I kinda just wish he had chosen a more menacing font!
BJ Reyes is a journalist in Hawaii and an occasional contributor to SLAM who blogged about the 2007 NBA Eastern Conference Finals (Cleveland-Detroit) for SLAMonline. Follow him on twitter at @bjr808.