LeBron James is the king of Cleveland again. In a city with three major sports teams — the NBA’s Cavaliers, the NFL’s Browns, and the MLB’s Indians — James brought home the first championship title in 52 years (the last time was the Brown’s in 1964).
To watch LeBron embrace his third Larry O’Brien trophy, and witness the response from the fan base, you’d think that there has always been love between James and the city of Cleveland — but that’s not the case at all. The warmth and acceptance we all saw after the Cavs Game Seven win was the result of a long, healthy process of forgiveness.
You see, LeBron deeply hurt the city of Cleveland when he chose to take his talents to South Beach in 2010. The hometown kid from Akron, the 2003 first overall draft pick, the “king,” stepped down from his throne and set off for greener pastures, and he devastated the fans.
Brokenhearted, Cavs Majority Owner Dan Gilbert published an open letter where he called James “narcissistic” and accused him of “cowardly betrayal.”
At this point in his career, LeBron appeared to have burned all bridges with Ohio. Adding insult to injury, he would go on to win two titles in four years with the Miami Heat, making restoration between both parties seem absolutely impossible.
I’m a pastor by vocation, which means that I’m in the business of teaching people how to cultivate good relationships with God as well as other people. If there’s one thing that I know to be completely necessary in the reparation of any broken relationship, it’s forgiveness. Whether you’re receiving it or giving it, it is truly the only path to restoration.
Having played four years with San Diego Chargers, I know the sports industry inside and out. I understand that there are many things that must be considered when players contemplate their futures.
I don’t blame LeBron for joining a Heat team that featured Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. What I can say is that the way he left Ohio fractured his relationship with the city of Cleveland.
One of my favorite things about sports is how they serve as a metaphor for life. Like Cleveland — we’ve all been so badly hurt by someone that we can’t imagine ever forgiving them. And, if you’re like me, or LeBron for that matter, you’ve also been guilty of hurting someone that badly.