Death Row Pardon: Forgiving LeBron

I am about to do something that very few people have had the gall to do as of late.

I am going to defend LeBron James.

And yes, I realize more than half the people that begin to read this article will now stop because I am going to do so.

I don’t care.

This is a transcendent sports start that has never committed an “actual” crime while so many other of today’s “role models” have been in trouble with the law or have seen the inside of a courtroom at one point or another.

First, we need to if not agree on at least get a couple things out of the way.

One: the “Decision” was a mistake.

His ESPN Special with Jim Gray was a spectacle for all the wrong reasons. And LeBron did himself an even greater injustice when he accepted last season’s MVP award and did nothing but show love for Cleveland, his teammates, fans and his hometown of Akron.

Had he even hinted that he was unhappy and was ready for a change, which was completely apparent after Game 6 in Boston when he didn’t even make it to the tunnel before ripping off his jersey; this whole ordeal may have been minimized.

Two: For once it is not about the money.

For so many years stars have left their teams to chase a bigger contract. It happens all the time. But, James didn’t chase the biggest contract. He actually took less money.

Three: If it’s not about the $, it has to be about rings.

The reason that LeBron left for South Beach was to chase a ring. He realized that in Cleveland, his chance to win the Finals would be significantly less than going to team up with Wade and Bosh in Miami. It meant leaving his adoring fans (which would become his biggest detractors), family and home for the first time in his life, but he did it to win a Championship.

Try and remove yourself from hating this man for just a moment and think abut what he has done.

You have a genetic marvel that plays the game in a way no one else has. He has been told since he was 16 years old that he was “The Next Jordan.” He was the number one pick and the savior of a franchise that had just two Eastern Conference Finals appearances since its inception in 1970.

For seven years, “The Chosen One” showed why he had draw such comparisons to possibly the greatest player ever and in 2007 he helped the Cavs shock the Detroit Pistons and took Cleveland to their first NBA Finals ever. Granted, they ran into a much better Spurs team, but the world appeared to be at LeBron’s fingertips.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, they ran into Boston in 2008 but in 2009 they appeared primed to coronate the King.

They finished with a record of 66–16, the winningest season in the franchise’s history. The year marked other notable franchise records including a 13-game winning streak, and road and home winning records. The Cavs entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NBA with home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They finished the season 39–2 at home, one win short of the best all-time home record. Head Coach Mike Brown won NBA Coach of the Year honors and LeBron finished second in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and won the NBA MVP. (And he did all of this without Wade and Bosh.)

LeBron was on the top of the sports world.

Just two years later he is the most vilified athletic figure on the planet. (Even the healing process with Tiger has begun.)

Tonight he returns to where it all began and will face 20,562 people at Quicken Loans Arena that want LeBron to know exactly how they feel.

I can’t say I blame them, but at the same time I can understand why LeBron left.

LeBron James may be the most talented player this league has seen since Jordan left the league and there is very fine line between “leaving home” to chase your dream and scorning your hometown fans to go live in South Beach with your friends.

To truly be in the conversation of best ever, you have to win championships. This is why Kobe Bryant will be discussed and players like Charles Barkley and Karl Malone will not.

There is no way to predict how tonight will go down, but I am fairly certain I will be one of the few rooting for a mutual breakup.

The Cleveland fans will boo every time LeBron touches the ball, but if he can feed off of the negative energy and play well while leading his team new team to victory, is it possible that some of this pain and anguish could be washed away?

Far-fetched I know. But crazy things have happened. Just ask Michael Vick.

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