LeBron James has done it all on a basketball court. He’s a great scorer, rugged defender, proven big-play leader and champion. But that might not be enough in Cleveland, where he’ll also need the powers of Merlin the Magician.
In returning to his hometown, James will face the Curse that has haunted the city known for generations as “The Mistake on the Lake.” Whether by spell or bad luck, Cleveland might rock but it doesn’t win championships.
When GQ Magazine compiled a list of the 20 worst sports franchises of all time, Cleveland topped the list. Not the Browns, not the Cavaliers, not the Indians. All of them.
The city’s major sports franchises have gone an amazing 156 seasons without a championship. The last time a Cleveland team claimed a title was in 1964 when the Browns became NFL champions. Of course, that was two years before the Super Bowl was first played.
In returning to Cleveland, James assumes the burden of trying to end a long, sad story and writing a new narrative that leads to brighter days, not only athletically but also economically and socially for the sprawling community along Lake Erie. James knows the fan base has high hopes and even bigger dreams. In his announcement on Sports Illustrated’s website that he was returning home to northeast Ohio from Miami, James addressed the challenge: “Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time.”
That assessment is both accurate and noble.
Playing for the Heat had advantages. During his reign, Miami reached the NBA finals four times, winning twice. Plus, South Beach is not a bad spot to be, especially during the winter, when Cleveland features lake-effect snowstorms.
James said his decision transcended sports: “I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously.”