#TBT: Remember When Cleveland Hated LeBron’s Guts?

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Sports fans: notoriously, the single-most fickle collection of individuals on Planet Earth.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers finished their improbable comeback against the Golden State Warriors and won the 2016 NBA Championship, I was met with mixed emotions. In all candor, I’ve never exactly been a fan of LeBron James; in fact, I am known for famously saying “he won’t be that good” back in 2002 while having one of those “this-is-why-the-Thin-Line-Collective-exists” type of conversations in a college group meeting. I just wasn’t sold that an 18-year-old kid whose games were being broadcast on pay-per-view television would live up to the immense amount of hype that was being built around him.

In hindsight, and in addition to being wrong, I think that it was a relatively reasonable position to take given that I was an “adult” and could not get over just how ridiculous the impending LeBronmania was about to become.

[insert jeers, teeth-sucking, and airborne rotten tomatoes here]

Oh, and don’t forget The Decision: an event so egregious and outrageous that it earned its own title that will stand in infamy forever. Needless to say, LeBron was not my favorite athlete ever. He truly was the alpha villain in the NBA’s action universe.

But after 6 straight Finals appearances, and after a series that saw the NBA’s original man-child average 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, shoot 53.3% from the field, and record a triple-double in Game 7 for just the third time in league history…this one felt different. Watching LeBron openly, loudly weep in a heap on the Oracle Arena floor somehow felt vindicating. No, it wasn’t his first ring, and it wasn’t his most impactful or record-breaking season. Yet as the tears fell, you could see that the weight of the City of Cleveland and the State of 0h!0 (sorry, some things I still can’t type – GO BLUE) was suddenly, overwhelmingly lifted from the shoulders of a man who had been his city’s only hope since he was 16.

I mean, how hard must it have been to return, hat in hand, to a city that rather impolitely reminded him not to let the door hit you where the good Lord split him just a few years earlier?

As fans, we have the right to cheer and boo whomever we see fit at any given time. It’s a part of the Code of Fandom, for goodness’ sake. Yet as LeBron lifted the Larry O’Brien for Cleveland’s first NBA championship, I just couldn’t help but remember all of the effigies lit, ripped, and torn throughout Cleveland a mere 6 years ago. Houston Astro’s pitcher Dallas Keuchel couldn’t seem to forget, either.

Cleveland’s son has delivered on a promise he made as a teenager. I hope every Cavs fan gets to enjoy every minute of it.

But, I mean, if those fans in the video somehow get stuck at work and aren’t able to make it to the parade…I’d be cool with that, too.