LEBRON JAMES AND I have had a colorful history together. I first met him when he was a skinny, polite freshman at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School while playing pick-up basketball with my star college roommate. I remember telling Lebron to his face after he played amazing against college guys, “Keep at it kid, you’re gonna be good one day” and I remembering him responding, “Thanks sir.” Skip ahead to five later when he was a rookie for the Cavs, I ran into him coming out of practice and I said to him, “Hey LeBron, you remember me? I played pick-up basketball with you in Akron with my roommate Trevor Huffman when you were a freshman. I told you you were gonna be good one day?” LeBron responded without a beat, “Yeah, you were right.” It was a cocky but accurate response from the rookie phenom.
DURING HIS SEVEN YEARS with the Cavs, I experienced amazing moments, sold out crowds, national televised games, MVPs, last-minute shots, countless play-off games, and the Cavaliers’ first-ever NBA Finals appearance. Little did I realize I started taking it for granted, because with LeBron, we knew we would always be good. I started forgetting about the days of the old “Gund Arena” where I could sneak down courtside because it was so poorly attended, just so I could watch an over- weight Shawn Kemp get rejected by the rim leading the Cavs to another loss. Not only did I start taking everything for granted, I think LeBron also started taking it for granted as well on his end. We were spoiled, he was spoiled.
THE DECISION came and that was what led me and some of my friends to burn his number 23 jersey and countless other LeBron t-shirts. We torched his jersey and local news was there to film the whole thing! Next thing you know it was a national feed and pumped right into “The Decision” special itself on a split screen for LeBron to see. He watched my rage right in front of him, while billions of people watched on. Afterwards I took my anger and went to my car so I could cry like a schoolgirl. How could a 25-year-old millionaire basketball player bring a grown man to tears? It was the kind of pain I felt when my girlfriend of 3 years broke up with me. She was gone and I knew the reality of what was ahead. It was the pain of knowing what my Cavaliers were going back to and the pain of knowing our best opportunity for a championship in the city was gone.
THE ANGER would not stop on my end. I was relentless hating on LeBron. I would trash him in viral videos I made, I trashed him on my old radio show every day on WMMS, I trashed him on national shows, I trashed him when he came back to town with the Heat. I rooted against him at all costs! I became a Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs fan every time they played Miami in the Finals, I said awful things about his Mom in my stand-up comedy and on twitter. It got to the point that I was building an identity on hating LeBron and it wasn’t healthy. The same guy I had cheered for consistently since I met him when he was a freshmen in high school became my worst enemy.
WHEN I BROKE THE NEWS this week that Lebron was coming home on twitter, I got hundreds of retweets in comments that were good and bad. A lot of local media discredited me publicly but privately they praised me for what I was doing. I understood why I wasn’t getting the credit for the story because these media people do this for a living and as of right now, I am not affiliated with any company or organization. I was just a former radio personality/comedian who happened to be known for hating LeBron James. This time around, I was working for myself because I knew something was happening. I was using the connections I’ve had from friends in the Cavaliers organization, people I met over the years, and a person who has tipped me off to countess stories in the past. I was texting and DMing former teammates of LeBron’s that I had become friends with over the years. I was making phone calls to friends from when I covered the Cavaliers for WTAM 1100am the year I was tipped off we were drafting Dion Waiters. My number one source told me there was a plan in motion to bring LeBron home. He told me about Gilbert’s body language all week, things he saw, things he heard. He told me Lebron’s agent Rich Paul had some demands after hearing the Cavaliers’ pitch. This was all being told to me and I felt a responsibility to tell the world. I didn’t have a microphone so my twitter account became my voice and the next thing I knew I was being watched by everyone in Cleveland and people all around the world. I knew the historic significance it would mean to not just Cleveland, but the entire world. I was getting emotional all over again hearing the tips he was “Coming Home.”
HE CAME HOME and I was in front of the computer listening to my friend Aaron Goldhammer on ESPN 850 when it happened. I literally ran outside and screamed with raw emotion and then went straight to my twitter because everyone that was following me on the story started tweeting me “You called it” over and over. I immediately read LeBron’s words in Lee Jenkins’ piece on SI.com and cried. This son of a bitch made me cry again but this time it was tears of joy. I cried because I realized that I really didn’t hate LeBron, I just hated what he did and wouldn’t let it go. I felt joy and happiness to welcome him home again after I spent four years trashing him.
WHEN THE MOST FAMOUS ATHLETE IN THE WORLD tells the world he wants to come home and play in Cleveland, Ohio during his prime, that’s something very special that you can’t really put into words. LeBron James somehow managed to put it into words and he said everything we’ve always wanted him to say. The most famous athlete in the world showed me that he means so much more on so many levels besides just sports. LeBron James coming home showed the world you can forgive and love again. LeBron showed us there is always a way to repair that bridge, even when you think it’s completely burned. LeBron showed people can grow and get better, and learn from their mistakes. LeBron showed what loyalty means but most importantly, LeBron showed nothing can replace home. Home pushes you, home is what you work for, home is your comfort, home is everything. I am currently not living at home because of job opportunities and a new fresh start elsewhere but LeBron James made every person in the world realize Northeast Ohio is the best place in the world and I can’t wait to move home again.
I HAVE HEARD from a lot of people that LeBron James knows who I am and knows about all the bad things I’ve said about him. He even addressed the jerseys being burned in his statement on S.I. and he addressed how much that hurt his family. So I think I need to take this opportunity with hope that it get backs to him, and say, “I’m sorry LeBron, welcome home.” I also want to ask you, if you remember when I said, ‘you’re gonna be pretty good one day?’ when you were a freshman? Well, you just got even better!