Since “The Decision” the pressing question is how could LeBron possibly do this to his hometown? There’s a simple answer. He doesn’t consider Cleveland his hometown. Cleveland may have embraced LeBron as its broad regional son, but that doesn’t mean LeBron ever embraced Cleveland. His hometown is Akron.
The quick retort is that Cleveland and Akron are indistinguishable. That’s not necessarily true.
Eminem and I grew up twenty minutes away from each other in “Detroit.” He is from a poor neighborhood. I lived in the wealthiest city in what was then the third wealthiest county in the United States. The one black person who lived on my street, literally, was Isiah Thomas. Eminem and I shared geographic reference points, but were from entirely different worlds.
Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills residents listen to Eminem’s music and claim a connection with him because he’s from “Detroit.” It’s doubtful Eminem feels a similar affinity with them.
LeBron can’t express himself in rap lyrics, but he’s made it clear his loyalty is to Akron. His twitter bio is “King of Akron.” He made the entire Cavs organization drive 45 minutes south to celebrate his MVP award at his home, in Akron.
Can LeBron go home after this? Yes, quite easily. Home for him is not frequenting Cleveland’s finest eateries and high-fiving Drew Carey at charity events. It’s visiting his friends and family, in Akron. He’s a hero there, not because he plays for the Cavs, but because he’s from there.
People (edit: he cares about) in Akron feel connections to LeBron because he lived down the street from them, he showed up to their party once, he played against them in 5th grade or he shopped at the same grocery store. It’s hard for those who fetishize sports to grasp, but those bonds are far stronger than playing for the local NBA team.
Even with Cleveland supposedly at Defcon One, LeBron can take a charter plane home, work out at his old high school, hang out with his buddies and still be “The King” without incident. Why would he care if fickle fans from the Cleveland suburbs boo him when the Heat play the Cavs?
[Photo via Getty]