Blog Entry

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Posted on: December 1, 2010 8:08 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2010 8:46 pm
As the Heat get set to visit Cleveland Thursday night, and the NBA world turns its eyes on a hurt and angry fanbase, we look at the very real dangers and complicated emotions at work as LeBron James returns to the place he once called home.  Posted by Matt Moore

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done..."

And lo, what a Kingdom LeBron hath made.

Thursday night, as you may have heard from a few hundred thousand places , LeBron James returns to a very different Cleveland than he left five months ago. Awaiting him tomorrow night will likely be the most hostile crowd in modern NBA history, and that includes the crowd that engaged in a fist fight with Ron Artest amid the stands in Detroit. The Malice in the Palace was a spur of the moment debacle from a heated rivalry. This is an explosive situation that's been under pressure for an entire calendar season with everything from recession stress to the very personal nature of sports fandom, and how it relates to the city of Cleveland slowly raising the temperature higher. The situation James faces tomorrow night is all together more intense and deeply rooted, and considerably more dangerous than any we've seen since free agency began.

There may have been more disgusting outbursts at games in the league's infancy, given the racist overtones that have marked our country and with basketball having been so closely tied with the African American community since its own inception into our culture. But what LeBron meant to Cleveland, and what he means now, has helped to create a powder keg which is complicated by the current economic climate, a half-century old legacy of sports failure for a town whose culture is drenched in sports revelry, and moral values inherent in the middle of our nation. "You just don't do what LeBron did, and you certainly don't do it how he did it," is the prevailing wisdom in Cleveland.

Whether you agree with what James did, or how he did it, or not, the situation remains. Cleveland fans need to vent, to express their disappointment, hurt, and feeling of betrayal. They need closure, but don't feel like they can have it while the party goes on in South Beach, even if it's turned kind of lame and no one knows why Jamiroquai showed up and is DJ'ing. They really feel like they need this. And maybe they do. The real problem here has been the NBA's compliance with making what is already a looming debacle into something altogether worse.

The league could have done their best to maintain damage control on this. They could have scheduled it for a run-of-the-mill Tuesday night early game in January, or even February. Let things go for a while longer, to defuse, and certainly not put it on TNT. As it stands, the NBA has given the world front row seats and put Cleveland on stage, leaning back and saying "So, Cleveland? What have you got?" This situation was going to be volatile no matter where or when it occurred. But it did not have to be promoted, adding more fuel to the fire.

Why is this important? Because for every plea for reasonable behavior from Ohioans, for every demand of some level of decency from a proud and decent fanbase , there is still that concern. Clevelanders aren't denying the possibility of the unspeakable occurring, because they know it is a very real possibility . It's possible that nothing unfortunate will occur, likely even, given the security measures being deployed by the Cavs and the NBA. But there are any number of other scenarios that could occur. LeBron getting pelted with beer is one of the less scary threats. From people rushing the floor to flipping the bus as it tries to leave the arena, to objects which are not soft plastic and liquid being thrown, there is a distinct possibility of something happening Thursday night which could do significant damage on the scale of The Punch or the Malice at the Palace.

Think I'm overreacting? Read the message boards, the comment threads, the Twitter pages. Realize that large groups of people are planning chants which insinuate some of the downright most disgusting rumors this side of a daytime talk show. But really, just get a sense of how much even reasonable Cleveland fans want to see James suffer. They resist their impulses because they are, after all, reasonable people. But many people in attendance will not be. Man of those people will be drinking.

For James, you have to wonder if he's really going to get anything out of this game. He can't feel good about himself in this context. He may not feel bad about himself because of his massive ego, but he almost certainly isn't happy with so many people openly hating him. James has never fed off the boos like Jordan did, like Reggie Miller did, like Kobe Bryant does. He isn't naturally dispositioned towards anger. He's drawn to laughter and clowning. Part of him may want to punish Dan Gilbert, but on the other, he's walking into a former home as the most hated man in the state.

All of this gets past the fact that at some level, LeBron James is probably a little scared to go to work tomorrow. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. No one should have to be scared for their safety to go to work, but there's also no heroism in what James is doing. He created this mess and now he has to live with it. Playing under those circumstances may prove to be more than he can handle, and the Heat aren't playing well to begin with.

As for the game itself? Miami should roll. Mo Williams is better than Carlos Arroyo, but it's not leagues. J.J. Hickson is better than Bosh in muscle but not skill. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are obviously superior to their counterparts and neither team has a legitimate center. That said, that hasn't stopped the Heat from playing terribly at times, nor from Cleveland playing better than expected. And if ever there was an opportunity for an emotional lift, the Cavs may have it. A win would endear this team to the city like no playoff appearance or All-Star birth could. This is all they want, to see the once and never King broken on their home floor, with their venom raining down upon him.

This is Dan Gilbert, fanning the flames and playing the victim while he himself is partially responsible and continues to get rich off the misery.

This is a Heat team wholly unprepared for the vitriol they have inspired the world over, and especially in a quiet Midwestern city.

This is a group of professionals for the Cavaliers who just happen to be caught in the crossfire.

This is a superstar who could have been the next great nexus of talent, fame, and popularity.

This is a fanbase torn and driven to extremes, rising up not as one, but as a stadium full of individuals venting their very personal rage to their former idol.

This is LeBron's Kingdom of Ruin. Long it may reign.

For more coverage of Thursday night's Cavaliers versus Heat game: 

Ken Berger is on the scene describing the mood as the stage is set. 

Gregg Doyel doesn't want Cleveland to give the world the satisfaction by acting out of character. 

Berger also breaks down the tampering charges being pursued by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and we try to put them into context

Zydrunas Ilguaskas is pleading for the fans to keep perspective

YouReact with tomorrow's headlines for the game. 

More links in today's Shootaround
Video of LeBron James being booed as he takes the court.
Video of LeBron James being booed during introductions.
Video of LeBron James tossing the chalk.

Since: Jul 7, 2010
Posted on: December 2, 2010 5:33 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

felter it's not about himm leaving, it's about him dangling that carrot in front of the fans and snatching it away with the "decision". It's hard to be;iev he didnt already know what he wanted to do. If he was up front with the fans it might be a whole different story

Since: May 29, 2010
Posted on: December 2, 2010 5:27 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

So cute... someone from Pittsburgh criticizing someone else's city.

Since: Mar 8, 2007
Posted on: December 2, 2010 5:13 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Here's my two cents:

If Cavs fans want to really make an impression, not just on LeBron but on the teams, coaches, media & viewers, then here's what you do:

When James is introduced do NOT boo.  Don't cheer, don't hiss, don't clap... just close your mouths and put your hands in your pockets, so the only reaction in the arena is DEAD. EFFING. SILENCE.

Afterward, after the game starts, feel free to express yourselves as loudly as you like, however you like.  But that moment of dead-quiet, where everyone holds their breath and Quicken Loans Arena falls silent will say more than any volume of boos could possibly accomplish.

Never happen, but if you want to make a real impact, that would sure as h3ll do it.

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: December 2, 2010 5:11 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

I wouldn't grovel for anything. It was fixed that a blind man won the NBA lottery to make sure we got LeBron because our economy and the NBA couldn't afford him to go anywhere else. My team on paper looks terrible to all of you, but this is a fact that still remains, he didn't win anything for us. I'm not saying anything other than I'm tired of the country around me along with the idiots everywhere else claiming I'm pissed about LeBron. He left in a bitch-like manner and he'll get his. I'm not racist nor is anyone that I know and that little bit from his camp cracks me up! Just my 2 cents considering I've lived in NE Ohio my whole life, PEACE!

Since: Jul 12, 2010
Posted on: December 2, 2010 5:03 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Lot of hypocrites here and in the media.

Almost all of us would pursue a career opportunity that paid more money and brought us to a more desireable place to live.  Many of us probably have already done that when presented with the opportunity.  But because Lebron did just that, he is criticized. 

I hope he lights it up tongiht and has the best game of his life.  I also hope that the fans in Cleveland show class, and cheer for him for all that he did for that city and state. 

Since: Jul 9, 2010
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:54 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

I have a theory about what will happen tonight. I say mid second quarter LeFraud gets "hurt", lies on the gorund for a few minutes, the crowd erupts in cheers, James hobbles to the locker room, comes back to play in the second half. All of a sudden the national talk switches from anti-LeFraud to "did you see those idiots in Cleveland cheering an injury?"

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:52 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

cleveland offered more money. He could have got way more money elsewhere too. He decied to stick with the superfreinds in Miami to chase a ring.

Since: Aug 14, 2006
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:42 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

thats why all the legends still hold their grudges against james, and why michael jordan just made a commercial mocking him, and why his popularity level has gone done on the scale all over america, not only ohio. But your right, why would anyone call a man a villain who is a ring chaser, "business  man" - if thats what your call it- because there was not more money in miami-, sports star who teams up with two other top players in the league to bring home a ring to the great, rich, retired, fans of miami. Sounds like a great guy, no villain.

Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:39 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Short of someone doing something really crazy, Queen James deserves what the Cleveland fans give him. He created this mess, therefore he deserves whatever he gets.

Since: Feb 7, 2007
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:37 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

More high-school drama from Cleveland and Lebron. Love these stories of Cleveland planning to laugh at him or saying they don't really need "lequitter". HA. They would grovel on their knees to have him back. $150 on stubhub for tonights game, 2$ for next weeks game against Chicago. Yeah, I don't think they're over it.

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