I should hate LeBron, despise him, curse his name and throw darts at his picture. I am a Cleveland fan through and through, from the heartbreak of losing the Browns during the peak of my adolescent NFL fan days, to the heartbreak of the Tribe being really good at baseball but never actually being the best (see MLB years 1995-1997), and then the most recent display of almost, coulda-beens, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oops, ahem, let me rephrase, I meant LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
I went to Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron, Ohio and our chief rival in all things: academics, sports, whose girls were hotter, whose school was in the worse neighborhood, etc. was St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. In the city of Akron there are 4 parochial schools, Hoban, St. Vincent-St. Mary, Our Lady of the Elms and Walsh Jesuit. The Elms is an all-girls school and Walsh is a commodity that operates within it’s own little bubble of a gated-community, disguising itself as some sort of high school. Plus Walsh is up north, way up in NORTH Cuyahoga Falls, roughly 12 miles away from Hoban and St. V. which is basically another world of living when you’re 14-18 (Hoban and St. V. are 4 miles apart).
I mean come on, Walsh. The Boot (this was a few years after my HS days, but you get the point) was literally down the road from your school, but none of you went there on Sunday Teen Night(s)! Also a big thank you to random Monday holidays for giving us cell-phoneless, underage teenagers a reason to wear turtleneck sweaters, have big X’s on our hands be smeared off from sweating and grinding, and for the ability to encompass a years supply of second hand smoke from the random row of people who loved Swisher Sweets. But, I digress. I basically just wanted to point out that although most of the kids that end up at Hoban/St. V/Walsh/Elms came from the same middle/grade schools, once you got to high school it was Hoban/St. V above any other rivalry.
Author’s note: I cannot speak for the rivalry between girl’s sports with the Elms, sorry.
I was a year older than LeBron James in school, but I can still remember the 1st time I saw him. In Akron, freshman football games are played on Thursdays. My sophomore year, we (the varsity) were having our walk-through practice on the adjacent practice field as the Knights from Hoban were hosting the Fighting Irish from St. V. at Dowed Field (Hoban’s field). Per usual after practice we walk up towards the locker room, ready to engage in some solid contradictory radio selections varying mostly between DMX and Bon Jovi (blood on my d**k, so I f***ed a corpse vs. you gave love a bad name), shower up and then watch some of the Freshman game(s). But before we could get to the locker we noticed something weird on the field that day. Playing quarterback for St. V was some skinny, 6’4″ kid who towered over the other 14 year olds on the field that day. It was remarkable; one to see a 14 year old kid that large, two to see him move around with such ease and athletic ability as a kid, and three this kid had no idea what to do at quarterback, but because he was a gazillion times bigger/faster/strong/more athletic than everyone else on the field, it was his show…and not much has changed 15 years later.
Please note that LeBron James later showed up during the playoffs that year as a receiver for St. Vincent…..for the varsity.
Football season ends and basketball begins. LeBron James averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per games as a freshman in high school (they won state’s too). He had better numbers that year than that year’s Ohio – State Player of the Year: former teammate and current BFF/Cousin/Manager/TurtleEricDrama, Maverick Carter. LeBron was a baby-faced kid doing windmills I still can’t pull off on a 7 foot hoop. Fast forward all the shit you’ve heard and read about through the years (St.V, Dambrot, Travel schedules, national attention, Anthony Fanelli being handsome, etc. etc.). LeBron is now an 18 year-old kid. The Cleveland Cavaliers rig, I mean, receive the 1st pick in the draft and take Mr. James.
LBJ explodes on the scene in game 1 of his career, scoring 25 points (not too shabbs).
However, after a bunch of failed playoff runs and some icky Delonte rumors, LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach. The Decision was a very, very lame way to do what he did. It hurt his appeal, his credit and questioned his “people.” It also raised a shit ton of money for a bunch of kids that had to sit still and quiet for an hour and half waiting for LeBron to break 99.9% of the world’s hearts. It was a dumb, ego driven decision that is over and done with. LeBron to the Heat! Cleveland should go back after Daruis Miles!
WORLD EXPLODES! Remember how well Dan Gilbert handled the departure of LeBron James (collar yank, gulp), all professional and what-not? Imagine how non-billionaires who’s opinions weren’t being publicized actually thought of the guy. Well, my old roommate who shall remain nameless…….Vince Palombo, was one of those hicks that decided to burn his LeBron jersey. Which I guess is a win-win for society because now we have one less adult that wears an NBA jersey in public and Vince got to release his anger (also, Vince is great. Follow him – Vince’s Twitter).
I understand and still get the anger, but Cleveland, move on. The year Cleveland lost LeBron there were signs up everywhere in the city cheering for the Dallas Mavericks in the finals. Hmmm, weird. Fuck the Cavs, Go Mavs, right?
The Mavericks won!! Screw you LeBron, all you did was make it to the finals with your best friends, and lose to a better TEAM. OK, a little much, but I get it Cleveland, you’re still upset. Then year two all is forgiven and forgotten; wait, nope. Now we’re cheering for the perfect advertising opportunity Cleveland was looking for with the Oklahoma City Thunder, AKA this lameness: OK-CLE.
I hope whoever came up with this idea was fired, then re-hired with a promotion, and then fired again just so they can experience extreme highs and lows to better get my point across. This was embarrassing for us as a city. The Heat went on to win title 1 out of……TBD. Gilbert probably smoked a bowl, turned up the Zepplin and just tried to forget his problems. That was when you lost me Cleveland.
RELAAAAAAAAX. Move on. Instead of being bitter about losing the world’s greatest player, maybe go out and sign some players Earth has heard of. Seriously, the Cavs roster (minus Kyrie and maybe Varejao) reads like an E-vite to a friend of a friend’s party. You know you kind of have, maybe heard of some of these e-vitees through someone else, but either way the party is going to absolutely suck.
I cheered for the Heat both years. I cheered for LeBron both years and I continue to cheer for him now. I want him to succeed and win because I can tell stories to either my kids or the guys I end up living with under a bridge somewhere that I knew him when. He is my hometown guy and besides my buddy Tyrell Sutton, Akron doesn’t have professional athletes in the big 3 (football, baseball & basketball) make it that often. LeBron owns a house in the heart of Akron, well Fairlawn right off of 18. It’s not tucked away behind Jurassic Park doors. It is just there. It is his home and I doubt anyone in the next 100 years will be purchasing his home from him. LeBron is an Akron guy through and through and continues to rep his city (I don’t think I am cool enough to use the word rep, but wanted to get my point across). He brings the big names back to Akron to train with him (Durant, Wade, Fanelli), he raises money for the city, his mother still lives relatively close to my mom (not sure if they’re coffee buddies yet though), his fiancé is from Buchtel (an Akron city-school), his heart is in Akron.
Everything the guy says gets analyzed and critiqued to a T. Stuff everyone else on the planet never even has to fathom. He tweets a joke about his hairline and the world erupts. Every time LeBron talks about Tim Tebow, Skip Bayless’ contract gets extended. He is a global, polarizing international star. He is a smart, well-spoken guy who has never had trouble with the law. Knowing his back-story, it is amazing to see where he has ended up. In a personal note he makes ice-breakers with people easy for me because I say Akron and people know it because of him (sorry, All-American Soap Box Derby).
The Heat are on a historic win-streak right now, thanks mainly to LeBron. He doesn’t miss games, he actually tries on both end of the court (Carmelo, you barely try on offense) and I swear the man doesn’t sweat. The inside joke between me and the voices in my head have always been that LeBron was genetically engineered by the government. The dude could have averaged 50 points a game in high school and could probably do his best Carmelo impression if he was a ball-hog and average 40 a game in the pros. He is the greatest basketball player and greatest TEAM player in the world and if you haven’t actually watched a game this year, you’re missing out.
Screw rings and all that jazz. Here’s a huge key of evidence to let you know why I think LeBron is better than Jordan in his prime.
Analytical: LBJ’s last year with the Cavs: The Cavs were 61-21 with the NBA’s best record (second year in a row). The year after he left, the Cavs went 19-63 (the league’s second worst record behind the Minnesota T-Wolves who were a JV like 17-65). The literally went from 1st-(second to)last. Michael Jordan’s 1992-1993 season ended in an NBA Championship. He then left the game to play baseball(?). The year after he won the MVP of everything, the Bulls, sans-Jordan, won 55 regular season games (tied for 6th best in the league) and Mr. Scottie Pippen won the All-Star game MVP as well as ended up third in the MVP voting for the season. The Bulls went from best to like still pretty awesome.
Think about that….Jordan played all those years with one of the the league’s premiere player’s right under his nose. I was close to being the 6th best player on the Cavs during LBJs run.
Personal: If Jordan lived in this Twitter time, he would have not been as well-liked as he is. Having lived in Chicago for 4 years, I heard all the old bar stories and sleaziness that the hoop-earring wearing Jordan would do in his spare time. Yes, all of this is subjective, but based on MJ’s HOF speech (it’s a long one), very doubtful he would have been a good person to have stating his opinion at all hours.
LBJ will be back to play for Cleveland before his career ends and when that day comes I guarantee you all of us NEO (northeast Ohio) people will forgive and forget.
P.S. 15-13 was the score from my senior year (2001) when we beat St. V in football the year they made it to the state semi’s. Go Hoban!
Post By: Anthony Fanelli (@Anthony_Fanelli)
Here’s a bonus fun, high school LeBron story:
LBJs junior year in high school he was standing with my friend Tommy McDonald (he and I attended the same grade school and college, different high schools) who was the other WR for St. V. LeBron had some new phone that he was looking at and Tommy, being the nerdy white guy he is, asked to see it. As he scrolled through it he saw the contact T Mac was in there and said, “LeBron, cool you already got my number in there.” LeBron, baritone laughed and said “Nah, that’s Tracy McGrady.” Lebron was 16 at this time and Tracy McGrady was very relevant.