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Can a Ring Save a City?

Admittedly so, I’m a die-hard Lakers fan, so it’s almost naturally ingratiated in my DNA to dislike LeBron James and everything that has come with his seemingly pampered success. Yes we have all “witnessed” the theatrics of his flopping and/or his oxy-moronic tweets about his teammates. [Emphasis on moron]. LeBron’s actions on and off the court are as predictable as the weather to a blind man; But no matter what team you root for, one thing is for sure. Even with the emergence of the Steph Curry’s and Russell Westbrook’s of the world, LeBron is still the most impactful player in the NBA. LeBron is as galvanizing as any player we’ve ever seen since Jordan. He’s a walking triple double, a physical specimen as well as the most explosive player you’ve probably ever seen in your lifetime. This guy can drop 30 with 15 dimes effortlessly on your favorite player on any given night. Now with that being said, if you expect me to ramble on any further about stat lines and numbers, then this article may sour you.

Fact is numbers alone don’t define LeBron. Stats don’t begin to explain his 6’8′ 250 pound physicality. His 3-point % and NBA Finals record can’t quantify how dominant his career has been. Hate him or love him, he’s going to be in your top-10 when it’s all said and done. Along with that level of greatness, the numbers also can’t depict his impact on a city most wouldn’t visit even if paid to do so –Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland is a city of hard working people who appreciate others who do honest work. It’s also a city that absolutely loves it’s sports teams even though they’ve seen some of the worst professional performances in history. Yet and still they always show up and support their teams, so naturally LeBron’s initial departure rocked the psyche of the city to a magnitude only few could begin to understand.

Here in 2016 Cleveland is also a city that has endured turmoil outside of the sports realm. Since LeBron’s return to the city, Cleveland has suffered numerous amounts public backlash. Most recently,  racially provoked crimes committed by police officials against black men has been at the center of the media. Most notably was the case of Tamir Rice who was shot by Officer Timothy Loehmann on November 22, 2014 in a local park, has been the main focus. The details behind the event has caused much public stir, and when the city seemed to be falling apart at the seams one man reminded them that this was his home. That one man was LeBron James. There we saw the “King James” as he’s affectionately known, taking a stand not just for the Nation, not just for African-American people, but a stand for Cleveland as a whole! He proudly and publically stood for the civil rights of 12 year-old, Tamir Rice. Many athletes shy away from such instances, but that’s never been the King’s forte.

Yet here we are, another officer not indicted for the death of a child because… Well, I’ll leave that for you to infer. Fact is as much as Cleveland wants justice for Timir, it’s also wants it’s sports. Cleveland wants to win for once– badly. Sports and human rights… two vehicles weaving on the same highway side by side. In a way the two topics almost seem to be an inhumane comparison considering “justice for all” is the mantra that our country stands for. It should be sought at all costs no matter what. But at what expense? That is the question that King James is faced with daily. His reign in Cleveland extends far beyond the basketball court.

The good news for LeBron is he won’t have to deal with the social media buzz as he has deactivated his accounts in preparation for the NBA Playoffs. He has been off the grid so to speak for a couple of months now, but the city is now asking it’s King to boycott the NBA Finals to show his support for Tamir Rice. As outlandish as this assertion may be, the hope is it will change the outcome of a seemingly unjust acquittal. The people demand reprimand for Officer Loehmann who delivered the fatal shots and the dispatcher who failed to properly identify Tamir as a juvenile, as well as failed to include Tamir was holding a toy.

LeBron readily carries the burden of being Cleveland's King
LeBron readily carries the burden of being Cleveland’s King

LeBron has had the task of carrying many of other people’s problems and expectations on his broad shoulders since the age of 14, so this isn’t anything foreign to him. Either way, LeBron is in hard place. Cleveland has been torn by not just this tragedy, but several others like it. Many are fed up with no justice being served, and the King must answer his people. One would assume his ONLY choice is to not play.

So let’s dress this down for a second. What if he doesn’t play? Is that enough of a gesture to change the narrative of the city that seems to be tearing at the seams? If he plays, could a finals loss be the complete undoing of the last strands of fabric that holds the city together?

This a tremendous burden for any person. LeBron never asked to be this gifted, but the fact is he is. LeBron is Cleveland’s superhero and hero’s can’t just show up to the fight, they win. If he so chose to not play, LeBron’s absence would cause an unshakable rift. But let’s ask ourselves, does that rift heal Tamir Rice’s family? Does that rift give justice? I don’t have those answers. One thing I know is that winning changes things. So for a city that seems to be in a position to lose everything, winning is all they have to look forward to at the moment.

Can a ring save a city? I don’t know, but it’s one mark in the win column that nobody can take away.

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