Now that LeBron James has decided to come back home and play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, there is plenty of forgiveness to go around. Fans in Cleveland who once burnt the King’s jersey are now celebrating in the streets. Even here in Chicago, one of the biggest strongholds for anti-LeBron sentiment, we have plenty of people ready to give the guy another chance.
But what happens in a relationship when one person has forgiven LeBron, yet the other still despises him? Can a house divided on LeBron James still stand?
Enter the O’Brien household. For me, it was easy. When LeBron left for Miami, I turned against him. When he announced his decision to come back home, I was back on board. But my wife, my Chicago suburban born, MJ loving, LeBron hating wife didn’t exactly get caught up in the same warm and fuzzy Prodigal Son narrative.
When the LeBron to Cleveland news became official, I immediately felt compelled to bring this to the dinner table. And I had a feeling we would be split on this. So I felt about as anxious bringing this up as I imagine women feel when they’re ready to share the “Honey, I’m pregnant” news or for guys when we’re about to share, “I accidentally spilled a plate of spaghetti on the couch.”
“Ashley, I think it’s time to give LeBron a second chance.”
“We’re not talking about this,” she said. “We’re not going to ruin dinner by talking about him.”
LeBron’s name is like Voldemort’s in our apartment.
“But Ashley, you gotta understand,” I continued. “Things were different then! Cleveland LeBron was a different guy. He was fun, everybody loved him, he used to dance during warm-ups. I mean you dance, you like dance. Miami LeBron was not the true LeBron. And if he comes home he’ll be back to his old self. You gotta give him another chance.”
“Chris,” Ashley said. This time more stern. “We’re not talking about this.”
That’s where the conversation ended. And here’s why she’s not wrong.
When it comes to views on LeBron, there is a big difference between those born and raised in the Chicago area and those who moved here from Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, etc.
For those born and raised in Chicago, or the surrounding suburbs, LeBron has always been the enemy. Pre, during, post-Decision, it didn’t matter. For over a decade, LeBron has been labeled the “Chosen One.” “King James.” “The heir to Michael Jordan’s throne.” This label is a clear violation of the well-understood Chicago trinity of untouchables – the ’85 Bears, Chicago style pizza and, of course, Michael Jordan. There is no replacing these three.
In contrast, those of us who moved here after college, we don’t have the same Chicago brand loyalty. For us, especially from 2006 – 2010, the NBA teams in our states (the Bucks, the Pacers, the Pistons) weren’t much to cheer for so a lot of us became LeBron fans since he was playing for the underdog Cavs trying to knock off the Goliath Boston Celtics.
When he left Cleveland to join a super team in Miami, we turned against him too, which made us feel right at home in Chicago with the hometown anti-LeBron fans. ♦
So what do you do if your relationship is like mine, a LeBron apologist who still has an out of state license paired with a Chicago native who would not even take a selfie if she ran into LeBron at the Bean?
Here are five Medium Rare tips to keep relationships from turning rocky this upcoming NBA season:
1. At NO point shall the LeBron fan make the argument, “A championship in Cleveland is worth like three rings, so all LeBron needs to do is win two, and he passes Michael Jordan.” That one comment will be worth like three weeks sleeping on the couch.
2. Do not email local pastors trying to convince them to do a sermon on why forgiving LeBron is the moral thing to do.
3. ‘Cheering for LeBron James’ should join the list of things like eating pizza rolls three days in a row or going to the bathroom with the door open as activities best/only done when home alone.
4. For the anti-LeBron people, just avoid the NBA for the next eight years. You have Kane and Toews. Enjoy the Blackhawks!
5. To Dwyane Wade, Anthony Davis, and Jabari Parker, just remember LeBron’s key to happiness and make the journey home.
Burnt Ends (aka Footnotes)
♦ The irony is LeBron was doing what we did, leaving home for a new job in a big city.
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