Unlike the first time eight years ago, LeBron James’ second decision to bolt the Cleveland Cavaliers was not a stunner at all.
Or even simply a mild surprise.
It was more or less expected by just about everyone that he would leave to go to the Los Angeles Lakers, and it became official at about 8 p.m. Sunday when James signed a four-year, $154 million deal.
What happens with LeBron, Lakers General Manager Magic Johnson and that franchise – one of the most iconic in not just NBA history, but rather also pro sports history – remains to be seen. Regardless, we’ll all watch it from afar.
Fans in Cleveland will be upset, but they can’t be overly so, like they were the first time, nor can they be so for a long time, although the Lakers’ lone visit to Cleveland – whenever that turns out to be – will be painful.
LeBron revitalized Cavs basketball and energized Downtown Cleveland and Northeast Ohio to such a degree that every home game at Quicken Loans Arena was an event. It was a happening. If you had a ticket, it was if you were holding a million bucks. You were the envy of all your family members and friends. If you were willing to sell that ticket, you could take the money and make a healthy car payment or, depending on where that seat was located, perhaps even a house payment.
And in 2016, during his second stint, LeBron delivered an NBA championship, breaking Cleveland’s 52-year pro sports title drought. For that alone, LeBron will always be a legend here.
Those are memories that will remain for a lifetime. The fact he no longer plays here can’t take them away. Nothing can.
But there’s a rub – and it’s a big rub.
It’s that the party is over. It’s history.
And it isn’t coming back.
Ever. Period. End of statement.
Don’t try to deny that.
Or to sugarcoat it.
Or to pretend that everything will be OK going forward.
Because it won’t.
Not in a million years.
There are no young, high school-aged LeBron James types – phenoms - in Akron, Alliance, Avon, Avon Lake, Ashtabula, Atwater, or any other city or town in Ohio beginning with "A" or any other letter in the alphabet, waiting to put the Cavs onto his shoulders and carry it to a league title while becoming arguably the greatest player ever.
That was a miracle. It was a fairy tale, the likes of which has never been seen in Cleveland or just about anywhere else, for that matter. Here’s a kid who, after graduating from high school, immediately went 33 miles up the road and played for the hometown team. More than that, he turned that club from a disaster to a dynamo in rags-to-riches fashion.
And he did it twice.
In between those two times, the Cavaliers turned back into a pumpkin.
And into a pumpkin they have now returned once again.
It’s not going to happen a third time.
Tony Rizzo, who does "The Really Big Show" weekday mornings on Cleveland’s ESPN Radio affiliate, WKNR-AM (850), is the best sports talk show host in the city.
He’s usually right on target with his opinions. He’s able to see through all the fluff and get to the truth.
But with that having been said, I couldn’t believe what came out of his mouth one day late last week. He said that if LeBron left, the Cavs, contrary to popular belief, would still field a team, they would still conduct training camp, they would still play preseason games and they would still play 82 regular-season contests. He implicated that everything is going to be OK going forward.
Are you kidding?
Rizzo couldn’t have been more wrong if he had tried.
No, everything is NOT going to be OK going forward.
It’s not going to be fun or exciting at all. It’s going to be dull and boring.
Compared to what it was with LeBron here, it’s going to be like watching paint dry.
It just is.
And everybody in these parts should just resign themselves to it.
It is the new reality.
Like it or not.