The LeBron James Saga: I say those who do well deserve applause (Part 2)

July 13, 2010 | Drew Forrester

As I scanned the internet last weekend and watched most of the sports talking heads on various national and cable networks, I had to search long and hard to find someone – besides Stuart Scott – who was happy for LeBron James.

It was a near-futile search.

And that’s a shame.

James brought a lot of the anger directed at him on himself for showboating on ESPN Thursday night and flicking a booger on the whole city of Cleveland by announcing he was divorcing them and marrying the fine people of South Beach.

But once the dust settled from “The Decision”, the right thing to do if you have a heart would be to applaud LeBron James.

Applaud him?  Are you nuts, Drew?  (I know that’s what most of you are thinking)

Yes, applaud him.

Give him his due for watching over the rebirth of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Acknowledge the fact that NO teenager in NBA history – perhaps even SPORTS history – did what that KID did when he joined the Cavaliers and took them from totally geek to totally shic in about four years.

And give him his props, no matter how hard it might be, for being one of the few “can’t miss” prospects who wound up actually NOT missing.

These days, the black athlete gets vilified when they do the WRONG thing.  And on most occasions, that angst is justified…particularly when dope is being dealt, dogs are being killed, women are being hit and laws are being broken.

Here’s a blog I wrote several months back where I actually wished good things for four athletes (Woods, Roethlisberger, Vick and Stallworth) who have recently fallen on hard times.  Four months later, I still feel the same way.  I would enjoy watching all four of those men once again rise to prominence in their respective endeavors.

I don’t want to see those four guys ruin their lives…or the lives of anyone else, for that matter.  I want them to succeed and share their comeback story with people who might benefit from it on their own personal level.

I wonder, though, why folks aren’t happy for LeBron James?

They were certainly angry when Michael Vick was convicted of operating a dog fighting ring.  People demanded jail time for that bad guy, Plaxico Burress, after he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a New York nightclub.  JaMarcus Russell is the latest black athlete to be arrested.  He, too, has been ridiculed and beat up by the fans and media alike.

I get the anger directed at guys who break the law.

But why, then, can’t we be happy for a 25-year old kid like LeBron James who finally reaped the benefits of 7 years of hard work in rebuilding the Cavaliers franchise?

Are we that jaded that we can’t say, “You know, that LeBron James kid has done alright for himself.  He’s never been in any trouble, he’s largely been an upstanding member of the community and of his profession, and if anyone deserves an ungodly sum of money like $100 million for playing basketball, it’s him.”

We get down on the guys who DO THE WRONG THING and create havoc in the community.

We often bellyache (and rightfully so) about the players who sign gigantic contracts with gobs of guaranteed up front money and then go missing for three or four years.

Why, then, are we down on someone like LeBron James?  He actually lived up to his end of the bargain.

Are we down on him because we don’t like seeing a young black man succeed?  Is that it?  America pays a lot of attention to black athletes who fail. Why don’t we pay the same amount of attention to the black athlete who succeeds?  Are we down on James because we feel he doesn’t appreciate his stardom and his wealth?  Is that it?  Or are we jealous of him because no one should make that much money playing a “kid’s game” as the saying goes?

That man has earned every dollar he’s made and is worth every dollar he just signed for in Miami.

He didn’t dog it in Cleveland.  He took that franchise and put it on his back for 7 years, at an age when very few folks would have been able to do that with ANY business, let alone a professional sports franchise.

Can you imagine owning a successful steak restaurant and turning the chef duties over to some 18-year old kid because he grills a helluva steak on the deck at your house?

The Cavaliers drafted James at age 18, gave him the keys to the franchise and said, “Don’t f**k it up, kid”.  And he didn’t.  He made A LOT of people A LOT of money in Cleveland.  Cab drivers made more money because of LeBron James.  So did waiters and waitresses.  So did bar owners and bartenders.  So did in-arena beer and food vendors.  Anyone even remotely attached to the NBA franchise in Cleveland prospered while LeBron wore that Cavs uniform.  That idiot owner in Cleveland should be ashamed of himself for lashing out at James in the newspaper.  All James did for Dan Gilbert was make him more money on top of more money.  Money, of course, he could have and should have used to get better players so the temptation of leaving in search of a winner wasn’t enough to get LeBron to LeLeave.

Everyone padded their pockets during LeBron’s 7-year run in Cleveland.

Last Thursday was the night he reaped the benefits of that hard work and for some reason, people in this country were incensed.  No one (outside of Baltimore) was over the top with anger when Mark Teixeira signed on with New York and announced to the world he did it because “I want to play for a winner”.

I don’t get it.

If we’re going to lash out at the athletes who get in trouble with the law and do the wrong thing, we should be man enough to stand up and applaud those who get it right and follow through on their obligations.

At the very least, even if you don’t want to applaud LeBron James, you certainly shouldn’t be attacking him.

Save that for the next idiot who gets caught with drugs or beats his wife or kills a dog or two.

In closing, let me leave you with a quick trivia question.  We all know Doug Williams was the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, right? Well, do you know who the first white field goal kicker was to miss a game-winning Super Bowl kick?  If you guessed Scott Norwood, you win.

Tomorrow: “Who runs the leagues, the players or the owners?”