Cleveland is moving on without LeBron James—this time minus the jersey burnings

By Daniel Terdiman

July 02, 2018

Decision 3.0 was so very 2018: A tweet from LeBron James’s management company–sent just as he was about to board a private jet for a trip to Europe–announced he’s joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

When Ohio native James left the Cleveland Cavaliers the first time, in 2010, he told the world via a universally panned TV special that he was going to the Miami Heat. He was chasing rings. Cleveland did not react well, with fans burning his jerseys and calling him a traitor. His former boss, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, wrote an open letter to James accusing him of “cowardly betrayal.”

Did he betray Cleveland? Maybe. But he got two rings in Miami (though he lost twice as well).

Then, in 2014, he went back to  Cleveland, once again to chase rings, and for the next four years, the Cavs went head-to-head with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals–the only time in major American sports history that the same two teams faced off for the championship four times in a row. The Warriors, led by the Babyfaced Assassin, Stephen Curry, and two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant, won three of those titles, culminating with the second straight championship, which they won last month.

But LeBron did pull off something that no one thought he could. He helped Cleveland beat the Warriors to become the NBA champions in 2016. And thanks to hoisting the trophy that night two years ago–bringing Cleveland its first major sports championship in more than 50 years–LeBron’s departure for L.A. this weekend was met with far more calm. Even Gilbert was gracious, penning another letter. This time, he thanked James and offered “nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform.”

Because LeBron fulfilled his promise to bring a title to “The Land,” there were no jersey burnings. But things can’t all be rosy. A giant, building-sized James banner that had been hanging since he returned to Cleveland in 2014 is being removed now that he’s leaving. Just as it was in 2010.