Cavs' meltdown is most bitter heartache of all for Cleveland fans
The clock ticks down --
"MOVE OR SOMETHING!" I hear myself shout.
Is this really how it ends? The Cavaliers players just stand there as the clock drains away --
There have been so many heartbreaking moments for us Cleveland fans ... each of them conveniently named so that they can be itemized when a Cleveland team loses yet again. Red Right 88. The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. Old timers will remember
But at least none of those teams quit. Maybe they faded. Maybe they choked. Maybe they even fell apart. But to quit? No, teams don't really quit. As Kansas State football coach
Only ... they're just standing out there. They quit.
In less than a minute, the clock will run out, and everyone will be talking about LeBron James. Where will he go? That will be the talk. The New Yorkers will talk about how the only place for LeBron to play is at Madison Square Garden, and they will stir up the ghosts of
The Chicago people will talk about
"Hey, Akron's a fine place," some ESPN announcer will say. "Love that Soapbox Derby and all." Ha ha! Yes, they will mock Cleveland, sure they will. They will wonder why LeBron would possibly want to stay in his hometown, where he is loved, where he is world famous, where he represents something larger than sports. They will tell him that he can shake the Cleveland dust off his feet and come somewhere so much more exciting. Yes. All that is coming in just
And still the Cavaliers players just stand around waiting for it.
The Cavaliers lose the game because they aren't good enough. That's a surprise. Going into Game 5 of the series, they looked plenty good enough. And then, in Game 5, they got annihilated. Exposed. LeBron himself drifted, like he couldn't muster the energy, like he was tired of the expectations or the burden or something. He played the worst playoff game of his life. "Let someone else do it," he seemed to be saying all night long. There was no one else. The Celtics won by 32.
There had always been doubters about this Cleveland team, about the way they were put together, about the purpose of
And the guy at the center of thing was LeBron James -- the man who dared call himself King. He took a ferocious beating for his bad game. More than that, he took a ferocious beating for not being Michael Jordan and not being
"I spoil people with my play," LeBron said afterward. That rubbed people the wrong way. Spoil people? He had been a part of zero championship teams. Spoil people? But maybe that was part of what he was saying. Maybe what LeBron meant was that he has been such a good basketball player that people expect too much from him. They expect him to be a basketball assassin like Michael and Kobe. They expect him to double his intensity for a big game. They expect him to take on three, four, even five men singlehandedly. Maybe, LeBron was saying he just doesn't have that stuff in him.
The clock keeps ticking --
LeBron's numbers are special. He scored 27 points and grabbed 19 rebounds and added 10 assists. The headline writers and local television anchors will undoubtedly say that Boston won despite LeBron's triple-double. "Despite" will be the key word. But it's probably not right word.
Even with those numbers, LeBron seemed oddly distant. He turned the ball over nine times. He shot 8 of 21. He too easily gave up the ball time and again so that
Everyone wants to know what LeBron is thinking. His face is so placid. Is he hurt? Angry? Or maybe he doesn't want to be the hero. He's so unselfish, such a good passer, so eager to make other look good -- maybe he wants a team that allows him to be himself. Maybe he resents this team that relies so much on him to take center stage. Maybe he doesn't like having 40-plus years of Cleveland agony heaped on his shoulders. Maybe he wants it to be easy.
The last few seconds seem to last forever, like it's one of those slow-motion sports scenes at the end of a movie.
As he walks off the court, he half-heartedly high-fives a few fans. Then he takes off his Cavaliers jersey. Of course, the announcer wonders if it will be the last time that he ever does. I hope not, of course. I hope LeBron James stays in Cleveland, for many reasons, only a handful of them selfish. I hope he realizes that he doesn't need the bright lights -- he
And I hope LeBron James looks back at the sad, even pathetic, way that this season ended and wants to make it right. In the end, though, LeBron's decision is for another time, and whatever he does you can't blame a man for following his heart. What's left of the wreckage of this night is another Cleveland heartache, though not quite like any of the previous Cleveland heartaches. This heartache has no catchy name like The Drive or Red Right 88. This heartache is just about a team getting outworked and outplayed by an old team of Boston champions. This heartache is about a Cleveland team that quit the first chance it had. This heartache is about the last minute of the season, when the Cleveland Cavaliers decided there was no point in trying anymore.
And in its own strange way, this heartache was the bitterest one of them all.