Perspective is everything. I gained a little bit of that Sunday.
Fifteen years ago, when I first fell in love in with the NBA, it was because of Allen Iverson.
Sure, I, like many other elementary school students at the time, proudly wore a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey incessantly throughout my early formative years.
M.J., I would tell you, was the greatest basketball player on the planet. He was the ultimate professional — a champion — and no one could top him.
But did I really and truly appreciate Jordan? I was, after all, just 11 years old when he played his final game with the Chicago Bulls.
Iverson was a different story though.
From the moment I witnessed his signature crossover, I was hooked. The tenacity, bullish attitude, competitiveness — I fell in love with every bit of it.
While I was always rooting for the Cleveland Cavaliers, cheering for the Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers became a guilty pleasure of mine. So much, in fact, that Iverson holds the distinction of being the only non-Cleveland athlete to ever grace my bedroom wall.
But the poster was only the beginning. I purposely decked myself out in the gaudy Iverson Reebok clothing and shoes; the Answer IV was my personal fave.
I probably watched nearly half of the 19,931 points Iverson scored during his 76ers career without ever stopping to realize just what I was witnessing. Though, as a teenager, who can blame me anyhow?
If you’ve read this far along, you’re now probably wondering, “What’s the point to this all? Isn’t this a Cleveland-themed sports blog? Why can’t this guy go fill up some Philadelphia sports blog with this Iverson love affair.”
The point is this. On Sunday, LeBron James scored 18 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 101-82 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. In scoring those 18 points, James brought his career point total to 24,383, moving past Iverson (24,368) into 22nd place on the career scoring list.
As I kid, when I watched Iverson play, I would say I never quite appreciated what I was seeing. Call it art, poetry in motion, basketball excellent or whatever you will, but the point is that there was never a player before like Iverson and there’s never been another one since.
I did not appreciate that back then. I do now.
If you’re still searching for the relevance, here it is. This is now the same way that I feel about James. Years ago, perhaps even during James’ first stint with the Cavaliers, I might have taken things for granted. I’m not going to make that mistake again, and I ask that none of you make it either.
As sports fans, it’s almost as if we have this innate responsibility to complain when it comes to my favorite teams. I would garner to guess that trait is accelerated for us sports scribes.
For much of the first half of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season, I bitched, moaned and complained:
“Why is Matthew Dellavedova playing over 20 minutes per night? He’s being over exposed.”
“Joe Harris is a second round rookie. Why is David Blatt giving him these kind of minutes? That’s asinine. Rookies do not play in the NBA, especially when they’re drafted in second freaking round.”
“So, this is what we traded Andrew Wiggins for? Kevin Love, a guy who doesn’t defend and bricks 3-pointers all night.”
I’m not making any promises on ending my sports rants anytime soon. I learned long ago to never make a promise that you cannot keep.
However, I do have a different promise.
I promise that I am going to make a conscious effort to appreciate — and embrace —every remaining second of LeBron James’ career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I ask you all to join me.
Just stop for a minute, pinch yourself and say out loud, “LeBron James came home. LeBron James is once again a Cleveland Cavalier.”
For me, that’s going to become my remedy for the next time I find myself down on Cleveland sports. Because as dire things may seem (And for a town in which the Cleveland Browns call home, things can certainly seem hopeless), we have to remind ourselves that the greatest basketball player on the planet chose to return Home.
I do not know what the future holds for this team. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a prophet.
I’d love to speculate that the future includes an NBA Championship, but who am I to say?
That’s the goal, and every one of us is obviously for that, but James’ return should not be defined by whether or not he delivers a championship to Cleveland. Title or no title, James has put us at the center of the national sports scene, and we’ll remain there for as long as he continues to play basketball.
Not since Jim Brown, has one singular athlete been able to accomplish that for Cleveland. Not Brian Sipe. Not Bernie Kosar. Not Jim Thome. Not Manny Ramirez. Sure as hell not Johnny Manziel.
So, here’s my advice.
The Cavaliers are now 35-22 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They’ve won sixteen of their last eighteen games, and there are now just 25 games left in the regular season.
Watch them. Embrace every second and every minute of these games.
Cleveland basketball, perhaps now more than ever, is a spectacle. Who knows when or if that will ever be the case again.
After those 25 games, the playoffs will follow, hopefully complete with a deep run for the Cavaliers.
Cheer loudly. Cheer proudly — We all know how special a title in Cleveland would be.
But remember to temper expectations. Title or no title, things are pretty damn special as is.
Orbiting Cleveland is the regular Monday column from EHC Managing Editor Steve Orbanek. You can contact Steve via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @orbaneks.
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