LeBron James’ decision to move his talents and family to South Florida caused the sky to split open above Northeast Ohio, particularly in Cleveland. But he has at least one sympathizer — mainly me. As a former Akron, Ohio, resident, I understand the desire to breathe new life into your life and career, which is why I took my talents to Atlanta. King James took his “talents to South Beach.” I don’t see a problem there.
But other Akron natives went volcanic when he aired the hideous ESPN special, “The Decision,” and now view James as something akin to a deadly bacteria.
“No rings for the QUITTER. Nobody is above the team. That reality show stunt on ESPN cut my ties with him,” roared former Akronite Darrell Walker on Facebook. He has feasted blissfully on every James miscue and mistake since James’ Cleveland departure. “Dirk wins after 13 years with the SAME team,” said Walker. “Props to that guy for being loyal.”
It is clear that LBJ is at the center of a cultural fault line that causes seismic quakes whenever his name is brought up. Nowhere to better gauge the diversity of fan reactions than to harvest the feelings about LeBron from ground zero – his Akron hometown. We already know the citizens of Cleveland would rather guzzle down battery fluid than to cheer for James. But many folks in nearby Akron — the two cities are 30 miles apart — still have love for the 6-foot-9 athletic marvel who made it to the big time, regardless of the NBA Finals’ results.
“My thing is this,” begins Tonya Tillman, a lifelong Akron resident. “LeBron is a grown man. Period. At the end of the day, it is his decision, his money, his family he has to look out for, not us. He doesn’t owe us anything! Nothing … no matter what he says or what he does, he is still going to have haters and, at the end of the day, he is still going to have more money than all of us. Is it wrong for a person to make decisions based on what’s best for him and his family? People do it every single day.”
Mike Carroll, who types with razor blades, carved up James and his performance after he finished charbroiling him. “Michael Jordan is what, 10 years out the NBA [and] his shoes R still a hot item? Why? Six rings, heart [and] a drive to win — no excuses,” says Carroll, who almost grows porcupine needles out of his skin when the topic of LBJ is broached. “James doesn’t get it. To sell your brand, you need to bring home some hardware.” Well, LeBron is hardware-deficient right now.
Still, Aundrey Sommerville bucked back in defense of James: “I keep telling you, we are not like Cleveland. Our heart doesn’t pump haterade. It was a career decision. We will not expect a young, talented player who, for all purposes, may have been gassed TOO hard by a thirsty city, area and state into thinking his [insert expletive here] can’t ever STINK. But NOW, he’s getting a FULL nose hole of his stuff now, which I hope will make him a better player. I still have a lot of love for him like you love a child that may not have made the decision YOU like, but you know it will grow him. That’s why I support him.”
Royce Lewis and Phil Johnson both grew up down the street from where James attained meteoric national stardom while breaking ankles at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. They were fans of James while he was with Cleveland. Now, the very thought of James makes them want to upchuck their breakfast cereal. “For those that say Akron Heat, please end that FOREVER!” Lewis says with enough venom leaking out of his soul to scare away a cobra.
Lewis said he was deflated like a flat tire during his Vegas vacation last year when King James announced his southern migration. Now, Lewis will return to Vegas on July 4 on a totally different note. He’s so high off the Miami Heat loss that he could literally levitate off the ground. Before they fire up the plane to take him to Sin City, Lewis has one more message for Akron natives who jumped on the LeBron bandwagon as it raced toward South Beach: “We are in Ohio, and they are in Miami. Let’s get off of Florida’s JOCK!!!!!”
Guess that means LeBron will not be invited over for one of Lewis’ barbeques. Instead, Lewis loves to roast LeBron over the pit of public opinion.