Friday, May 14, 2010

LeBron Needs to LeGo if He Wants to Win a Ring

When Jim Brown, pound-for-pound the best running back in the history of the world, retired at age 29 from the NFL's Browns, just one year removed from a league championship, the city of Cleveland should have known it was in for it.

Forty-five years later, it's not getting any better in Cleveland.

Ahh, Cleveland. The Mistake by the Lake. A city that exists so that we in Detroit have something to make fun of.

Cleveland, where none of the pro sports teams have won a championship since Brown's Browns in 1964.

Cleveland, where the teams are either God awful or very good---until the playoffs roll around. Then they turn God awful again.

Cleveland, where it's always cloudy. A city with the charm of Freddie Krueger and the culture of yogurt.

Save the e-mails and nasty comments. I've been to Cleveland. It's a great city, if you need to spend a weekend but only have a couple of hours.

It wouldn't be such a bad place to hang your hat if the teams won every now and again. Kind of like having a chaser to go with your NyQuil.

Since '64, Cleveland has seen the Indians blow the 1997 World Series and the 2007 ALCS; the Browns gag away playoff games in consecutive years to the Broncos in 1987 and '88; and the Barons NHL franchise flee once they realized they were playing in Cleveland.

Oh, and now LeBron James and the Cavaliers are adding to the torment.

I don't think this is what LeBron had in mind when he exhorted his followers to "Witness."

We "marvel" at championships. We "ogle" the money players. We "gaze" at the stars.

The only things you "witness" are crimes. And car crashes.

James and his Merry Band of Basketballers have, once again, careened out of control.

LeBron and his Crash Test Dummies.

For two years in a row, the Cavs have owned the NBA's best regular season record. Better than Kobe and the Lakers. Better than Garnett and the Celtics. Better than everyone.

And, for two years in a row, the Cavs will be watching the NBA Finals from their living rooms, if they have the stomach to watch it at all.

Heck, this year they'll be watching the Eastern Conference Finals from afar, thanks to the 4-2 series loss to the Celtics in Round Two.


Or maybe it's witless.

The first sacrificial lamb has been tossed to the masses. The Cavs have fired their coach, Mike Brown. That's what 127 regular season wins in the last two seasons get you in Cleveland: a size 12 in the seat of your pants.

Brown is out because the Cavs haven't been able to parlay all those wins and perennial MVP candidate (sometimes he wins it) James into a world's title.

The Cavaliers did make the Finals in 2007 after upsetting the Pistons in the Eastern Finals, but were swept away by the San Antonio Spurs before everyone was seated.

Now James might do what so many others before him have done with various degrees of success: make himself a former Cleveland athlete.

No world titles in Cleveland since 1964. It was already a helluva streak the day LeBron was born.

You can pin this loss to the Celtics in six games on James all you want. He had a miserable Game Five in Cleveland. He had a triple-double in Game 6 but also committed nine turnovers.

Blame LeBron to your heart's content. But if he's not the one to end the championship drought in Cleveland, then it just can't be done.

Brady Quinn, Grady Sizemore, be duly warned: you can't win it all in Cleveland. If LeBron James can't do it with teams that went 66-16 and 61-21 the past two seasons, then forget it.

James has the option of cutting ties with the Cavaliers this summer. When it's 12:01 a.m. on July 1, and James hasn't re-signed with them, the Cavaliers return to the days of 33-49. Or worse.

If James wants to win a ring, he best hightail it out of Cleveland, which is always good advice but never more so than now.

Whether it's coach Brown, or the supporting cast, or the dreariness of the city in which he plays, James can't overcome it. Clearly.

It's not like he hasn't tried. Not like he hasn't won MVPs or scoring titles or anything.

Michael Jordan transformed the Bulls from also-rans to champions with less to work with than what James has now in Cleveland, Scottie Pippen be damned.

But MJ had Phil Jackson. And a real city.

James needs to take his act elsewhere. Either that, or he's cursed for more of the same: regular season success and playoff meltdowns. Team management clearly has not been able to figure out how to build a champion around arguably the pro game's greatest player.

In fact, they're regressing.

What's on tap for next year? A first round knockout?

What can management possibly say to LeBron to convince him to establish permanent roots in Cleveland?

We fired Mike Brown?

We'll kill Mo Williams and no one will ever find the body?

Cleveland needs LeBron James a whole lot more than he needs Cleveland. Then again, Cleveland even needed Buddy Bell more than Buddy Bell needed Cleveland, so I guess that's not really saying much.

If I'm James, I take a good look at New York and take my chances with the Knicks.

It's not going to happen in Cleveland. Clearly.

Then again, what does?

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