Goodbye, LeBron James, and Good Luck

A week removed from LeBron James's decision to sign with the Lakers, this is my goodbye letter. Cheers to you, LeBron James.

Dear LeBron James,

Wow. What a ride. Not just the past four years, but the other seven too. I don't know if you'll make a swan-song comeback and spend your final season with the Cavaliers in, I dunno, 2024, so I'm going to just assume that we won't see you in a Cavaliers uniform ever again. With that in mind, here's what I have to say.

I'm gonna miss you. I won't watch as many Lakers games as I do Cavs games for a ton of reasons (not least of which is that my wife wants to be in bed at 10:00 every night and I can usually fight for 10:30, at which point it's time for an episode of something on Netflix and then sleep by 11:30), and while I won't get into the personnel decisions that are going on around you, I'm just going to miss watching you play basketball.

As someone who willingly watched a few random Mavericks and Suns games last year, I will gladly watch the much-diminished Cavaliers play this year, but I'll miss those moments of "hang on...did he just...?" that you provided for us on a night-to-night basis. You made the difficult look so easy that people didn't even notice it. Imagine taking your non-NBA friends to a court and asking them to throw opposite-corner passes into someone's shooting pocket. Can you imagine those dorks trying to wing a basketball 45 feet on a line? I'm probably slightly above-average on the athletic scale, and I couldn't make it look half as good as you did - and you would do that several times per game. Consistently. 

I'll miss the "don't you dare shoot th - oh my god it went in" which became a staple of my basketball-watching vocabulary on the night of May 31, 2007. I was watching that game in Brown Hall, at Ohio University, in the dorm room of my friends Pat, Ryan, and Frank (did you guys have a 4th roommate? No, right?). Every shot blew our minds a little more. We paced up and down the halls during commercials. We screamed. We felt nearly every emotion that a sporting event can make you feel...except sadness. Sadness, of course, was the one we were expecting. But you changed that.

Officially, you changed that feeling on June 19, 2016, but it really felt like we were going to get a title with you during the first stint. That reminds me; I'm sorry for what was going on around you back then. In what were arguably your best years as a pro - the seasons ending in 2008, 2009, and 2010 - you weren't exactly surrounded by fan-friendly studs. In 2008, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was the team's 2nd-highest All-Star vote-getter. He was outside the top-30 in the eastern conference. A year later, Z and Ben Wallace finished 8th and 9th among eastern conference centers in All-Star voting. Shaq finished 2nd among centers in the 2010 ballot, but that was ceremonial because he was super washed-up. Mo Williams was named a reserve in the 2009 game, and he was reasonably deserving, but I mean...the other options for a 2nd All-Star from that 66-win team were Ilgauskas (33 years-old), Delonte West, and maybe Ben Wallace. It's been a weird ride. But again, I'll miss you because I believed in those guys, and I only believed in them because you made them look so damn good.

I'll miss the way people from all over the world would hear that I'm from Cleveland and say "Oh! LeBron James!" instead of something dumb. I'll miss the way I used you as a bridge to talk about basketball to one of my students in Italy - he knew about the NBA because of Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani, but he also knew about LeBron James. And LeBron James was from Ohio, just like me. 

I'll miss the way I was convinced Damon Jones was an underappreciated stud because of you. I'll miss the way you called out opposing team's plays when they came out of huddles. I'll miss the way the Washington Wizards thought they were a rival of yours. I'll miss the 45 different styles of jersey that have your name on it. I'll miss having the antidote for the short-sighted moves that Dan Gilbert makes. I'll miss Zero Dark Thirty 23 and how that made absolutely no sense and you should've just said Zero Dark 23. I'll miss wondering if every super-fancy car I see in the Akron area is actually you. I'll miss how my grandma asks me about you and whether I heard/saw the most recent thing you did. I'll miss how my mom, who watches fewer than five sporting events per year, marvels at you. I'll miss how often I would say things like "if a player averaged LeBron's first-half stats for 15 seasons, they would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer." I'm gonna miss my bi-weekly texts to friends of "LeBron is the greatest basketball player of all time." I'll miss thinking about how I've never seen an athlete do what you did, and then watching you outdo yourself.

Thankfully, you're not retiring, so I'll still get to do most of these things, they'll just be less convenient and less frequent.

I'll miss a lot, and while there are still things to look forward to in Cleveland, it's hard to focus on those right now. Instead, I'll plan to browse my 2016 NBA Championship commemorative edition of Sports Illustrated, wear my 2016 NBA Championship tee over my other 2016 NBA Championship tee, and just generally love basketball. I'll still keep an eye on you, and I'm sure you'll still keep an eye on us over here in northeast Ohio. We'll be proud of your foundation and you'll keep coming back to the area to work on the I Promise school. It will be a pleasant experience as you cement your place as one of the most influential people in the past 100 years of this region - frankly, your name should end up with the Rockefellers, Severances, and Hannas of Cleveland lore (most of whom were over 100 years ago).

I'll miss you, and I think you'll miss us. But thanks for everything. You did what nobody else has done, and nobody will do what you did again. You're the best, and you deserve the best*; therefore I wish you the best.

Yours,

Kevin Nye

*The Lakers with a bunch of non-shooters are not the best for you. Sorry to be the one to tell you. Rondo? Lance? Man, if Dan Gilbert had done that to you, I would have been pissed.

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