“Write On” Wright Thompson!

Fellow Cavs fans,

ESPN’s Wright Thompson came to Cleveland in October to tell the tale of LeBron James’ departure. The resulting work is a masterpiece. Click the image to jump there, and enjoy! And to all who participated in our Twitter chat session, and later contributed blog comments, thank you!

This came today, from Wright, to all of you:

“The piece is up. Your help in giving me a window into what people thought proved to be my rudder and compass on my journey around Cleveland. I cannot thank you enough.”

It’s not easy to understand or explain #ClevelandFan. Hell, I struggle to comprehend myself. Wright, however, for having spent one week in Cleveland – and to perfectly capture the moment (and many, many before it) – has earned my lasting respect and admiration, and perhaps yours.

So, I invite you to write a comment to Wright, which I’ll be sure to share. Write what you feel, it’s what Wright wrote – thanks in part to all of you who helped set the tone.

Thank you Believeland!

Advertisements

Tell ESPN How YOU Feel

Click below to download the Twitter transcript from our “LeBron Gone” Q&A session with Wright on Friday, October 22nd. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!

@CavsWITNESS_LeBronQ&A_TwitterTranscript_10.22.10

______________________________________________________________________________________

Cavs Fans,

I met with ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson today to discuss Cavs fans’ reaction to LeBron’s departure, namely, “The Decision.”

Wright is on assignment, spending a week in Cleveland to absorb the local sentiment. Despite our doubts about ESPN’s suspect journalistic integrity, I ask you to give Wright the benefit of doubt. Quite simply, I spent two hours with the man – I read him as genuine and sincere (he’s a Saints fan, he knows heartbreak; yet should we later discover ESPN has hoodwinked us – again – then you have my word, I will call shenanigans. I’m pretty good with indignant rants, as you might know).

Wright wants you to know, Cleveland may not have LeBron, but Miami does not have stadium mustard. So there!

Following are eight questions Wright would like your responses to. If you replied during today’s interview, know that he saw your tweets – appreciated them very much – and was quite eager to read more. In fact, he will, as I will later email him a recap – at his request.

I’ve set up this blog post to encourage longer, more thoughtful and insightful responses than Twitter will allow. You can share yours by posting a comment below (I will approve and publish these periodically, so please be patient).

Wright will be in Cleveland through Wednesday, and will attend the first Cavs’ game. If you’re there, and if you see him, say “hi.” Take my word, he’s interested in what you have to say. Along with today’s Twitter replies, I will be sending him the comments you author (please note: 250 words or less is preferable; if you’d like to say more, reach out to me and I’ll provide an email address to send documents to).

Without further ado, please feel free to address any and all questions below. Wright formulated these himself. And no, despite any initial misgivings you may have, they are not intended to help him build a defense for James.

Wright is trying to reach the heart of Cavs fans’ anger – to understand why and to what degree we invested our emotions, expectations and egos in LeBron. These are tough questions, and require not only an analysis of James, but – more importantly – ourselves.

Cavs fans, it’s time to tell YOUR story…

Question 1: Name an action taken by LBJ that suggested he would do anything other than what he did (re: “The Decision”)?

Question 2: What’s worse, concerning “The Decision” – that LeBron did, or truly did not, understand how Cavs fans would react?

Question 3: Prior to “The Decision,” did you imagine LeBron could talk knowledgably about steel mills, rust-belt ethos, etc.?

Question 4: What’s the difference between “The Yankees Hat” and “The Decision,” other than scale?

Question 5: Does anyone feel guilty for believing that LeBron was a reflection of Cleveland’s attempt for resurrection/redemption?

Question 6: Did LeBron ever ask for the unconditional love and admiration that we put on him?

Question 7: Is it fair to be mad at LeBron when fans ignored numerous signs that he would ultimately behave like he behaved?

Question 8: Do you think “The Decision” is a failure of character or public relations?

“LeFraud”

WITNESSES,

The following was submitted by @CONCEDE (Justin Meiser). I think it an exceptionally insightful, accurate and honest summation of the events of recent days – and remembered years.

Fantastic work, Justin. Your soul and passion shine through. All my respect and praise.

Thank you for sharing it with us.

–Eric (@CavsWITNESS)

________________________________________________________________________________________

Please note that these are not all original ideas, I did not personally investigate or research every item, nor do I profess to be reporting these items. This is merely a summation of the recent events from a local educated fan. Many of these ideas are drawn from my own conclusions from watching, listening, reading & attending Cavs games over the years. I have drawn insights from Brian Windhorst from the PD, Kenny Roda & Michael Reghi from WKNR, @CavsWITNESS and various others.

What LeFraud Raymone James will hopefully someday come to realize is that no matter how much money you spend on marketing, no matter how much you may capture the public’s attention…. You CANNOT force or manufacture legacy. Legacy is the end result of someone’s accomplishments, character, integrity, competitive spirit, heart, and respect that is earned. LeFraud will probably go on to win multiple championships. The odds are for him and Wade & Bosh to win. The NBA is set up to allow teams with 2 or 3 stars to compete despite the lack of team depth and the rules changes allow for perimeter players with ungodly physical skills to prosper. The clock is ticking on a true champion’s career in LA and so he will only be able to stave off this trio for so long.

What LeFraud fails to realize though is that the championships will be empty. He may feel happy & satisfied or he may not. We’ll never know and he’ll likely never admit to the empty feeling resulting in his quitting on an organization, a city & a state. He’ll likely bring millions of dollars to the Heat organization, but he will undoubtedly bring more as well. Starting on Friday night, LeFraud was reportedly 40 minutes late to the welcoming party. Now begins the hijacking of an organization, holding them hostage as he will  impart his control and assert himself “king”. Even though the true champion & leader on that team was drafted 5th overall in 2003.

LeFraud has always been a follower. The tremendous responsibility & burden placed on him is completely reasonable when comparing it to his immense skill & talent. He is, in fact, a once in a lifetime physical specimen. Unfortunately, he is a truly average leader & competitor at best. He didn’t ask for this responsibility, but he sure embraced it as the self proclaimed ‘King’ & ‘Chosen One’. He has never been a leader or true champion and likely never will be. I’m not the first to point it out, and hopefully not the last, but his lack of strength and cowardly nature was evident early on. He jilted the local Akron Public School of Buchtel to FOLLOW his close friend Dru Joyce to St. V. LeFraud was obviously the most talented player on the team and in the country and maybe that we’ve ever seen. But he wasn’t the leader. When the chips were down, Dru was the leader of the team. Dru hit the tough shots. Dru lead the team back from a deficit in the State Championship. LeFraud was only as great as his talent called for when he was able to be the front runner. He is a life long front-runner. Rooting for the Yankees and Cowboys instead of the Indians & Browns. Rooting for MJ instead of his hometown Cavs.

And so now, LeFraud has FOLLOWED his close friends D-Wade & Bosh to allow him to be the ultimate front-runner. To take away the burden of being the leader. He and everyone in the universe knows that it is and will always be Wade’s team. Wade is the champion, the leader, and when the chips are down , LeFraud will lean on Wade to pull them back. Then when game or series is within reach, LeFraud’s immense talents will take center stage and the ‘King’ will be back.

Everyone seems to see this except LeFraud. He still touts loyalty and family and his rhetoric over the years lead everyone to believe that he was a true competitor, leader, & champion. While we should have seen this from the beginning, the front running, the lack of heart & ability or will to compete, we were all blinded by his incredible talent and by the prospects of HOPE. Our savior was here to rescue a franchise, a city, and a state that has long been denied a champion. We allowed ourselves to be blinded by his talent & charisma & lies all along. And when it became obvious that there was a possibility that LeFraud didn’t have what it took to be a champion, he started planning, blaming & giving up. He blamed the organization, his teammates  and started stringing everyone along.

The Cavs & Dan Gilbert enabled him and did everything in their power (however irresponsible & inappropriate) to appease him and to build a champion. Who could blame them? But no longer could LeFraud blame his lack of a supporting cast in good conscious after winning 60+ games & MVP’s in back to back seasons. After the Cavs repeatedly mortgaged their future in making short-term trades to try to win NOW in order to keep the ‘King’. LeFraud sites the flexibility & opportunity to play with his friends in Miami. But he forgets to mention that HE is the cause for the lack of flexibility with his hometown Cavs. He didn’t allow the organization to build the team from the ground up with the future in mind. He didn’t allow them to make decisions with a strategic perspective and leave room for such flexibility. He dictated that the organization sell its soul and mortgage its future for the CHANCE to keep the ‘King’ happy. Only while stringing them and the entire City, Region & State along, he knew that he had no intentions of staying. He planned his exit years ago and now LeFraud was faced with a true dilemma.

LeFraud gave continual lip service of his desire to build a hometown champion. As stated in a 2006 interview with ESPN The Magazine, he didn’t want to just chase rings. He wanted to build a champion in Cleveland (Courtesy of Will Burge ESPN 850 WKNR). He applied consistent & constant pressure to the Cavs to bring him help. And actually at first he was 100% right. He did carry the organization with little surrounding talent past the Pistons scoring 25 consecutive 4th Quarter points. He did carry perhaps the least talented team in NBA history to the Finals in 2007. But what LeFraud didn’t count on, is the will, competitiveness, and savvy of his owner.  LeFraud always knew in the back of his mind that if he couldn’t get the job done, he had a built-in scapegoat in his loveable losers the hometown Cavs. He counted on their ineptness & inability to build around him as an excuse. Once Gilbert, Ferry & Brown proved that they were not only competent, but successful & driven, LeFraud had to begin his exit strategy.

After all, it’s hard to blame the organization for not building the team and accruing talent around you when you win 60+ games and an MVP award in back to back seasons. There were increasing rumblings of LeFraud’s inability to win and not having the heart of a champion by national sports personalities (Skip Bayless for example). As an invested ‘Witness’, I wrote off Skip and others’ criticism as unfounded hate or ratings chasing. But after watching the 2010 playoffs, I and many other Cavs fans and spectators started to see LeFraud’s true colors. As LeFraud himself said in the news conference on Friday, ‘When things hit the fan, you see people’s true colors come out’.

Well beginning in the series against the Bulls, we started to see just how much this young man had changed over the years, for the worse. In a tight game, and for some unknown reason other than to draw more attention to himself, LeFraud shot a left handed free throw after just making a right handed free throw that likely iced the game. The Cavs went on to win and won the series 4-1. However, it was a bizarre and surreal event as it was unnecessary and unlike anything we’ve ever ‘witnessed’ from LeFraud. Fast forward to the Boston Series:

Game 1- LeFraud and the Cavs seemed flat falling behind by a large amount in the first half. It looked like the strategy to rest LeFraud and various others at the end of the regular season, as well as Shaq’s injury may have hindered their rhythm and it seemed as if Boston would steal home court right away. Mo Williams had other thoughts though. The much maligned point guard (and I agree with much of the criticism by the way) went off. He was on fire from the field and even threw down his SECOND career slam-dunk. Mo was carrying the Cavs through their toughest challenge in the postseason. As is customary with LeFraud, once the team was carried back into striking range on the shoulders of his ‘talentless’ supporting cast, LeFraud’s talents prevailed and the Cavs held on to the game 1 victory in surprising comeback fashion. Only this was the fly in the preverbal ointment for the ‘King’. He was supposed to be able to blame Mo, Shaq, Z, Andy, J.J. and Mike Brown for his own shortcomings. How could he leave town and leave the Cavs if it wasn’t the supporting cast who was lacking but it was the self proclaimed ‘Chosen One’?

Game 2- In one of the most pathetic professional performances I have ever ‘witnessed’, LeFraud ‘LEAD’ the Cavs out of the gates incredibly flat and he demonstrated to us all why he will never be half the champion that MJ, Magic, Bird, Kobe or even Tim Duncan is. LeFraud put forth little resistance as the Celtics destroyed the Cavs and handed them one of the most embarrassing playoff defeats in franchise history. I and many other Cavs fans started to question this man’s heart. I mean face it, MJ would NEVER have let this happen. NEVER.

Game 3- Perhaps tired of hearing about his injured elbow, LeFraud entered game 3 angry, motivated & on fire. He showed us all how immensely talented he really is and showed just how great someone of his caliber could be if he had the right mental toughness and heart. He showed how much his teammates really wanted him to be their leader and they responded. The Cavs went on to dismantle the Celtics taking back home court advantage and it appeared to everyone that they were back in the driver’s seat.

Game 4- LeFraud again comes out flat and seems disinterested. While it would be blasphemy to place the blame on the ‘King’, we all fooled ourselves into thinking his elbow really was injured and he was just pacing himself for the 4th quarter where he could close it out and take complete control of the series. After all, his ‘talentless teammates’ were keeping the game close despite LeFraud’s mediocre play. His supporting cast kept it just close enough and opened the door for the ‘King’ to take control. We kept waiting, and waiting and as it became evident that the supporting cast was good enough to keep them in the game, they needed their ‘Leader’ to close the deal. The minutes ticked off the clock and we waited for LeFraud to pick his spot, take the lead and close it out like he has done time and time again. We kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

Game 5- the series is tied and the Cavs were headed back home to the Q where they could take control again by winning the ever-pivotal game 5. They play great at home and despite some doubt as to what exactly is going on between the ears of the ‘King’, he HAD to show up in game 5. He could erase all questions of his injured elbow, lack of focus, intensity & general interest in the games if he could just muster up a performance close to what he showed us in game 3. Unfortunately we went on to ‘witness’ the most embarrassing, cowardly, and heartless performance by a superstar perhaps in the history of the NBA. LeFraud again showed us why he will never be able to hold the jock of MJ, Kobe, Magic, etc. He put up ZERO fight and showed us exactly what he’s made of. He sat there uninterested and disengaged as his Cavs were dismantled and handed the worst home playoff loss in franchise history. His teammates seemed to be in disbelief, not of the Celtics incredible defense, game plan and coaching which was impressive, but of the lack of heart and courage by their self appointed ‘Leader’. It has been shown many times throughout sports, but is often forgotten. The player with the most talent is given every opportunity to be the leader of the team, but they often don’t have what it takes. We give them chance after chance and their teammates continually defer to them to take control and lead them because they are in continual awe of their physical gifts. LeFraud wasn’t the first example of this and wont be the last, but he may be the most extreme example. He truly is a once in a lifetime talent and wasn’t even close to the leader the team and City yearned for.

Game 6- taking incredible heat for maybe the first time in his career for not playing hard and for letting his team down (instead of the organization being at fault for not giving him help), LeFraud came out and at least gave the appearance of trying. The damage, however was done and LeFraud whimpered out of the second round of the playoffs, without a fight. LeFraud immediately ripped off his Cavs jersey as he left the court in a bit of foreshadowing. In the post game press conference, it became apparent that LeFraud and his ever-growing ego were unconcerned with the loss or his poor performance. After all, he’s only had 3 bad games in his career and he spoiled the fans of Cleveland. How dare his ability and performance be questioned?

LeFraud was distant in the playoffs and distant leading up to his free agency. It is now apparent that he was trying to make it easier for him to leave. If he was truly invested and if they actually succeeded it would be near impossible to bail. As many have said, he had every right to leave. But what he didn’t have the right to do is to damage the franchise, string the fans along and act like a hypocritical cowardly child. He destroyed the Cavs long-term viability as he held them and us hostage for years with the threat of him leaving. The Cavs repeatedly were forced into shortsighted moves only in an attempt to appease him and keep him here. Gilbert was forced to fire one of the most successful coaches in Cavs franchise history (despite his obvious shortcomings he didn’t deserve this treatment) and a very good GM was forced out the door. All in a futile attempt to keep the ‘King’ who made up his mind to leave long before the 2010 season came to a close.

As a fan, it’s hard to prioritize the worst part of this saga. Is it that he quit on his team in the playoffs to selfishly open the door for his departure? Is it that he held us all hostage for 3+ years? Is it that he severely damaged the team’s long-term viability when he knew he wasn’t going to stay no matter what they did? Or was it the degree of hypocrisy & cowardly acts? After all, LeFraud made a movie detailing his love for Akron and Cleveland. He spewed repeated BS about how he knows how bad this City deserves a winner after the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, etc. Except he didn’t feel our pain. He was a front-runner who rooted for already established champions in the Yankees & the cowboys. All the while he was preaching loyalty, family, heart, & his desire to not just be a champion but to bring and build a champion to his hometown, he knew that he had to intentions of following through. As is his M.O., once times get tough and the chips are down, he whimpers in the corner like an abused dog. He waits for someone with the courage and heart that he lacks to bring him along and lead him. Just like he’s done his whole life and just like he will do his whole career. Now he has that true leader in Dwayne Wade. And the ‘King’s’ talents will likely shine now that he is not required to be the leader and he can spread blame and responsibility around.

He hasn’t had the easiest life. I don’t pretend to know what it is like to have a mom who is incapable of raising him or having that kind of pressure and so I don’t blame him for what he is. But I do blame him for feeding into it, for proclaiming himself ‘King’ for being so cruel and heartless toward the City that he supposedly loves and for STILL trying to convince everyone that he loyal above all else. He has built his reputation and image on loyalty, family and his hometown. That has been a fraud and shame on him for selling it and shame on us for buying it.

–Justin Meiser

Akron, OH

A Final Salute to Coach Brown

Yesterday the Cleveland Cavaliers parted ways with head coach Mike Brown. Technically they fired him. Semantics aside, it’s an abrasive end to the most successful era the organization ever knew.

It’s difficult to dismiss 272 regular season wins, 42 playoff victories, an Eastern Conference championship and “Coach of the Year” honors in a hastily prepared post or grammatically tortured tweet – but rest assured, it has deterred few from trying.

I write this not in opposition of Brown’s demise. Mike lost his team, and the battles, then the war – leaving President Gilbert only the ill-fated prospect of sending a disgraced general to win back the favor of the now neutral James territory. Mission impossible. Cue change.

I author this instead to pay mind to the mitigating circumstances that factored into Brown’s honorable discharge. His legacy, I think, deserves better than to be abandoned to forum threads and comment queues where – “It’s about time! Mike sucks!” – suffices as the final summation of five fantastic seasons.

Brown failed to lead the Cavs to a title. The same is true for James...for now.

There exist four commonly perceived shortcomings of said former coach among wine and gold witnesses. Here I pay them no heed other than to recap 1) in-game adjustments, 2) irregular substitution patterns, 3) offensive acumen and 4) motivational prowess.

Perhaps Van Gundy and Rivers indeed bested Brown in X’s & O’s. Maybe Mike could never muster a Pacino-esque address as to tremble locker room walls. And possibly our court-martialed captain did his best thinking not during, but between battles. Certainly, these faults helped seal his fate – but other factors were afoot.

After reaching the 2007 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers – to great acclaim – bolstered Brown’s squadron with such high profile acquisitions as Mo Williams, Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison. While proving potent additions to Mike’s offensive arsenal, his new weapons were equally ineffective at warding off enemy advances. As the quality of his guard slowly deteriorated, Brown’s once-stalwart designs did less to defense the formidable and myriad offensive onslaughts first Orlando, then Boston, would level. Still other newly enlisted men, including capable Anthony Parker and athletic Jamario Moon, did little to stem the tide.

Mike also fought his Waterloo alone. We may never understand just how, or when, he lost the hearts and minds of his men, but I dare conjecture Coach Brown as incapable of such egregious folly as to warrant utter desertion in the hour of his (better, our) greatest need. As the Celtics closed ranks, the Cavaliers surrendered atop a stockpile of unspent ammunition, their spirit extinguished – an empty beacon beyond the means of one man to rekindle.

Finally, a deft nod to James who – ever unwilling to pledge lasting allegiance to his homeland – effectively left top brass little choice but to populate Brown’s barracks with veterans. Captive to The King’s “win now” credo – absent time to cultivate a young corps of recruits – Cavs commanders sought mostly seasoned soldiers. Perhaps a band of brothers, unified by years of trial and triumph, would have better served Brown than the mercenary militias he was tasked to manage.

I cannot burden Mike Brown’s mantle with the collapse of the Cavaliers. Neither do I renounce (nor did protest) the blueprint of Cleveland’s vanquished roster. And I remain steadfast in my assertion that The Chosen One – pending personal reflection – can yet make good on his promise to deliver a championship to Cleveland.

I celebrated the spoils of war in anticipation of victory. I cheered our combatants and exalted their virtues. Now, surveying the ruins, I regret nothing. With conflict comes consequence. Conquest is ever uncertain.

I invite you only to consider the full circumstance of Brown’s dismissal and implore recognition of his many achievements. No one man can lose a war. At sea, it takes a crew to hang the captain.

To Mike Brown, for all that has been won here – I thank you.

Fight on coach.