Friday, November 16, 2018 Elyria 36°
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Jim Ingraham

Commentary: No choice but to cheer for what’s left after LeBron James left again

  • NBA-Finals-Warriors-Cavaliers-Basketball-14

    LeBron James (23) is defended by Golden State's Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry (30) during the NBA Finals last month.

    AP

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Jerry Seinfeld was right:

“Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify with the way the players move from team to team,” he monologued. “You’re actually rooting for the clothes. You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.”

That’s what professional sports has become in the era of free agent player movement. A battle of laundry.

The players leave, but the fans stay. So do the clothes. So the fans cheer for the clothes. They have no choice. The fans are the consumers. The players are the product. As a fan, all you can do is buy the product, cheer for the clothes and hope for the best.

Sometimes you get a good batch of players wearing those clothes, and sometimes you get the Miami Marlins.

Hey, it’s only sports. Your health and your family are much more important than who wins the next game.

Now is a good time for Cleveland consumers to wax philosophic about such things, because, as you might have heard, LeBron James has decided to wear the clothes from another city.

And in a few more years, so will Francisco Lindor.

Nothing personal, Cleveland. This is just the way it works. Nothing is forever. Players are independent contractors. Athletic vagabonds. Hamstrings for hire. Their allegiance is not to their city or to their team, but to themselves. That’s why Kyrie “I pledge allegiance to myself” Irving demanded that the Cavs put him in a new set of clothes.

That most players are destined to eventually leave their teams is a given. The dignity of the exit is all that’s up for discussion. LeBron’s was as straightforward and businesslike as possible, and Cleveland fandom responded admirably, with grudging understanding.

It was, on both sides, a refreshing improvement from the trashy TV abdication followed by the raging streets of fire reaction the first time LeBron went in search of new clothes.

So congratulations to both sides for that.

LeBron’s LeLovely parting gift to the city was the Larry O’Brien Trophy he carried off the plane two years ago.

You do that, you can leave a second time and we’ll still call it even.

But now that LeBron has left, the sobering reality for the Cavs of his decision to move three time zones away from J.R. Smith is starting to sink in. Two years ago, the Cavs won a world championship with a Big Three of LeBron, Irving and Kevin Love. They will start next season with a Big Three of Love, Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman.

Or something like that.

Enjoy the clothes. And the 25 wins.

LeBron’s Cleveland Exodus II is nobody’s fault, except maybe Los Angeles’, for existing. LeBron clearly has an insatiable basketball wanderlust, a ring fixation and a ghost of Jordan obsession — none of which should make him a villain in this drama.

If any player in history has earned the right to go where he wants to go, and do what he wants to do, it’s the greatest basketball player in the world.

Apparently, he feels if he’s going to have his season ended by the Warriors he might as well be just an hour flight from his home when it happens. Meanwhile, the Cavs revert to their post-LeBron Exodus I/pre-Irving arrival default mode. In other words, there are pingpong balls in the Cavs’ future. Lots of them.

Sounds like Duke has three more one-and-done freshmen coming in this fall, so you might want to catch the Blue Devils games on TV whenever you can, to decide which of the three would fit best with Collin and the Question Marks a year from now.

The only drama in the coming Cavs season will be when they decide to trade Love, who turns 30 in two months, can opt out of his contract next summer and might bring back a first-round draft pick in a trade.

Because it’s now dueling renovations at The Q. While the building is undergoing a massive and expensive overhaul, so is the basketball team that plays there.

How many of those currently on the roster will still be around when the Cavs are relevant again? Two? Three? None?

Tough week also for the St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball team. In the ultimate hang with ’em, LeBron James Jr. is not walking through that door.

So is this it? Is this the fable’s final act? From Believeland to La-La Land to End of Storyland?

Or is he still not done shocking us? When his Lakers contract expires he’ll be 37. Not Joey Donuts 37, but LeBron James 37. Prediction: There will still be gas in his tank. Could he come back one more time and finish his career in Cleveland, like he said he would?

A King again in search of new clothes.

Why not the old clothes?

Contact Jim Ingraham at 440-329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com. Follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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