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: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:35 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Please make it clear that LeBron is only a "villian" to the morons who live in the sewer city of Cleveland. Everyone with half a brain has let it go and understand the business side of sports.

Since: Sep 22, 2009
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:24 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Doesn't LeBron know that the city of Cleveland owns him? What nerve taking another job!!!!

Since: Mar 28, 2008
Posted on: December 2, 2010 3:38 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

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.

Pot meet keetle.  you attack the NBA for promoting this game by writing a lengthy article that CBS makes their frontline story on their NBA section.   It's almost amusing you can criticize this.

and secondly, why did your mom name you after a terrible carolina panthers QB?

Since: Mar 10, 2009
Posted on: December 2, 2010 2:58 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

This is the most appropriate response to this situation that I have read. Thanks for posting it. I agree completely. Thanks for putting it into perspective. You have to hope that, in retrospect, LeBron will realize that he only has himself to blame. SAD.

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: December 2, 2010 2:40 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

While I hope nothing violent happens, I hope LeBron gets what's coming to him.

There's no loyalty in sports because of egomaniacs like this guy.

Since: Dec 2, 2010
Posted on: December 2, 2010 2:22 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

As a clevelander and a Cavs fan I find this whole situation sad.  I don't share the anger of the city but rather sadness for the city and for Lebron who I believe will one day regret the whole thing.  I understand the frustration of Cleveland fans as it has been since 1964 for a title. With that in mind however I hope that cooler heads prevail tonight.  In the grand scheme of life it is only sports and Lebron is only an athlete.  In a fair world the heat will never win a world championship but in a fair world there would be no one ever hungry.  I hope the Cavs win that would be the best thing for a down and out city.

Since: Jan 21, 2007
Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:41 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

One precaution they should take tonight: NO SALES OF ALCOHOL

A drastic measure yes, but in this day and age, who knows what some clown will do after 14 beers.

Since: Apr 16, 2007
Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:39 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

Bringing the Blue Jays up really doesn't apply here.  Yes, Toronto has had people leave, but the Blue Jays actually won 2 world series titles back to back, not that long ago.  Cleveland hasn't won squat since what, the 50s?  Most people we know weren't even alive then.  There's a whole generation of rabid Cleveland sports fans that have never sniffed a championship from any of their teams.

Frankly, I thought Cleveland (with LBJ) would win at least 2 or 3 championships.  They got to the finals very early on with him, before they were even supposed to.  Then it just flopped.  LeBron couldn't close the deal.  With a continually improving league with more and more talented stars every year, there are no guarantees.  Wade is breaking down.  LeBron, while not old, is no longer a kid.  Look at how awesome Blake Griffin already is, and Derrick Rose, etc.  So many teams are getting better.  It should be a fun fight.

Regarding the game tonight, I expect a lot of boos, and even more security.  I think a certain level of disdain is appropriate, but I sure hope it doesn't get violent.  That Pistons/Pacers game was disgusting. 

LeBron should lay very low - don't acknowledge the crowd, don't wave your arms and ask for noise.  Nothing.  He should be humble and just play ball and try to survive the game.  If he incites the crowd in any way - the fans might just storm the court and somebody could get killed.

Since: Dec 13, 2008
Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:25 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

It should be interesting to see what happens tonight, that's for sure...but as Big Z says "a liitle perspective" would be nice.  Now I'm a huge sports fan and have lived through many hardships for my teams, Leafs havent won since 67, Jays havent won since 93 and had to watch the league go on strike when the Jays and Expos were both in first place, only to come back in 94 with the New Yankee empire, effectively destroying baseball today, and yes, even though its not in the same breath as LeBron, we have watched Carter,McGrady, and now Bosh bail on our City, I always imagine how good they could have been if Mcgrady decide to stay with Carter, would have been awesome.  Now with Free Agency, LeBron was entitled to go whereever he wanted, no one can take that away from him....but he and Bosh seemed to check out mentally halfway through the season, and since the Cavs had chapionship aspirations that hurt Cleveland fans, LeBrons delay in making his decision made it look like he was going to return to the Cavs, and by doing a primetime show it looked like he was going to indeed stay in Cleveland, what a show of respect to Clevleland that would have been, something they needed.  But to then shove it in there face on national tV and so arrogantly pronounce that he was taking "his talents to South Beach", now that was inexcusible.  I do hope Cleveland fans do the right thing and be civil, but Lebron also needs to see the way he chose his decsion, not neccesarily the decsion itself, was wrong and how much it hurt the fans in Clevelend.  So hold your heads up high fans in Cleveland, and remember, it's only a game.

Since: Sep 12, 2008
Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:15 pm

LeBron James and his Kingdom of Ruin

I can not wait for this game. All I want to see is LeBron James have the worst game of his career. Mo Williams will make 3's rain and I can already predict he is going to have the game of his career. As for J.J. Hickson He is in this situation the new LeBron James but no where near the hype LeBron had. If James were to have a unfortunate injury the Cleveland fans would Explode in cheer which in theory is not acceptable but in this situation seeing as the person LeBron James is and how he presents himself I would not mind. There will be so many ejections from The Q tonight it's going to be classic.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or