By Brad Thompson–
CHICAGO (WSCR) Hats off to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Miami disposed of Boston 97-87 in Game 5 to close out the second-round playoff series on Wednesday night. On top of sending the proud, gritty and reigning Eastern Conference champion Celtics home for the season, James was able to get the monkey off his back by beating the team that had been standing in his way of winning titles.
Up until now, the Celtics were the team that James couldn’t beat. Last season, Boston handed James and his Cleveland teammates an especially rude exit. LeBron and the Cavaliers dealt Boston its worst home playoff loss in franchise history (124-95) in Game 3 of the second-round series. That victory gave Cleveland a 2-1 advantage, but Boston went on to win the next three games and the series. Afterward, James received harsh criticism for quitting in Game 5 and 6.
After that, as we all know by now, James took his talents to South Beach.
Now fast-forward to the postgame press conference on Wednesday night after Miami just finished off Boston. For the first time, LeBron apologized for The Decision.
“I apologize for the way it happened,” James said.
“I knew deep down in my heart, honestly I couldn’t, as much as I love my teammates back in Cleveland, as much as I love home, I knew I couldn’t do it by myself against that team,” James said, referring to Boston. “And I knew that was the team I wanted to get over the hump against.”
Was LeBron truly sorry about how things went down or just trying to win some fans back? Was he offering an olive branch to Cleveland and Cavaliers fans? His apology seemed sincere. It seemed heartfelt.
One good thing about his apology was that he apologized for the way it happened. He wouldn’t have suffered nearly the amount of criticism or backlash had he not made such an off-season spectacle out of his decision.
It’s hard to criticize LeBron for leaving in free agency. Professional sports are a business and if James wants to play elsewhere than he can. Fans don’t like it, but it’s a part of sports. No matter how it happened, Cleveland fans were going to be hurt if their hometown hero left, but humiliating the city of Cleveland and the Cavaliers franchise on national television was perhaps the worst way to go about it.
So was this apology a legitimate step toward reconciliation with Cleveland? My initial thought was that it certainly can’t hurt, but upon further review – I think it was a crock of you know what.
It seems all too convenient that this apology came after the Heat closed out the Celtics. If Miami doesn’t beat Boston, I guarantee we aren’t hearing this from James. It’s easy for him to apologize after his reasons for leaving were validated. It’s easy for him to sit up there and explain why he made this choice after eliminating Boston. I’m sure Cleveland fans think it’s too little, too late.
Also, LeBron could have apologized and not thrown his former teammates under the bus in the process. Instead, he managed to trash his old team one more time while apologizing. It’s hard to listen to him say he loves his former Cavalier teammates, but can’t win with them. Basically, he said those players were great guys, but they weren’t good enough to hoop with him.
I’d like to hear what Zydrunas Ilgauskas has to say about all this. I’m curious how Big Z feels about James’ comments since he was a teammate of LeBron’s in Cleveland and now plays for Miami. He can’t love hearing James rag on his former squad.
What’s amusing about James complaining about the lack of talent around him in Cleveland is that he was responsible for a lot of the decisions the Cavaliers made. Cleveland’s front office catered to James in every way. LeBron had input into the trades and free agent signings that Cleveland made. Ultimately, they didn’t put another superstar alongside him, so by his own admission, he couldn’t beat Boston. Therefore, he had to leave.
If LeBron wanted to leave Cleveland for greener pastures, I have no problem with that. Fans everywhere, except in Miami of course, disliked the way James made his decision. And now that Miami is advancing deep into the playoffs, I don’t want to continue hearing about last summer’s decision. So quit with the apologies and comparisons of this year’s Heat team to last season’s Cavaliers team. Stop trying to justify your decision and just play.
Now that Chicago has eliminated Atlanta, I’m eager to see how the LeBron-snubbed Bulls and the United Center faithful treat James in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.