Friday, December 03, 2010

LeBron's return never had a chance to live up to the hype

By John McMullen

Legendary moments, players and games in sport are born out of scarcity.

Think about it. If the next Michael Jordan came around every other year or so, do you really think the original would live on with such reverence?

If Julius Erving's amazing up, over and around baseline move past Mark Landsberger in the 1980 NBA Finals happened each and every night, don't you think the good Doctor's YouTube hits might dry up?

Or if a 7-foot-4 guy like the Rockets' Ralph Sampson buried a twirling, turnaround jumper every year to knock out a club like Magic Johnson's 1986 Los Angeles Lakers, would that game still stand out?

Of course not.

Few things ever live up to the hype in this world and LeBron James' return to Cleveland never had a chance.

Don't get me wrong, LeBron was spectacular. In his first game back in the Forest City as a member of the Heat -- in his first game back since "The Decision" in which James opted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach -- "The King" scored a season-high 38 points with eight assists and five rebounds, and led Miami in a 118-90 rout of his former team.

Of course, that's nothing we haven't seen on dozens of occasions in the past from James. Remember this is a player who has 29 triple-doubles in his career.

Sure, the off-the-court stuff was fun. The fans booed James during warmups and when he performed his signature tossing of the powder before tip-off. They booed him every time he touched the ball. They held signs and they cheered for each and every Heat mistake, but that's where it ended as James quieted the raucous crowd with a superlative 15-of-25 shooting performance and a franchise record-tying 24 points in the third quarter.

The quickest way for an opposing player to take the air out of any crowd is to perform well and LeBron certainly accomplished that, But, for the purpose of this exercise, let's assume he laid an egg and shot 8-for-30 and enabled the crowd to keep its energy throughout and never let up ... Exactly what were people expecting?

Thousands of disgruntled fans waiting for LeBron with torches and pitchforks?

Were they expecting one lunatic to race after him like he was Monica Seles?

Were they expecting Ron Artest in the stands, swinging blindly?

Let's face it this was Mike Tyson versus Peter McNeeley. The hype just never had a chance to live up to the reality of the situation -- the fact that this was the 20th of an 82-game Heat marathon. Just another stop for a team that has yet to be defined, a club where anything short of an NBA championship will be viewed as a disappointment.

"So many things went through my mind," James said after the game. "I have nothing bad to say about these (Cleveland) fans. It was seven great years. We grew from 17 wins in the year before I got here to the last two seasons I was here being the best team in the regular season. I understand their frustration and I was frustrated also because we didn't accomplish what we wanted to do at the end of the day. I wish this organization and these fans, which are great, the best."

A white bread quote for a white bread moment.

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