LeBron James entered the NBA. At the time, the Knicks were one of the worst franchises in basketball and my interest in the NBA was pretty much zero. You couldn't escape the hype or the headlines, of course, so it wasn't as though I didn't know about James' exploits and his takeover of the NBA.
But nearly seven years into James' career, the Knicks appeared to have a plan. A plan, in fact, that prominently featured a certain free agent from the Midwest. So when LeBron spurned the Knicks, made a "Decision" and trotted on down to South Beach to join D-Wade and CB, I officially joined the LeBron Haters Club.
When the Spurs prevailed in this year's Finals -- knocking off LeBron's Heat -- I was giddy. Sure, the Heat were in four straight Finals but they only managed to win twice. Not quite the LeBron guarantee. And, I suppose, not quite what LeBron had in mind, either, because it became quickly apparent that a return to Miami was not a done deal.
For the past week, we were all caught in the Speculation Vortex, as theory after theory was floated about where James might land. And then, to the surprise of most of us, King James gave us his answer: Cleveland.
I must tell you: whether it was genuine and heartfelt, or merely a manufactured P.R. smoothie, LeBron' open letter hit all the right notes. "I'm coming home," he declared. He didn't apologize for going to Miami, but said he'd "obviously do things differently" if he had to do it again. While he still cares about winning titles, winning a title for Cleveland is most important of all.
To be honest, my hatred of LeBron was basically manufactured, a "He screwed my team and ran off to play with a bunch of other all-stars" grudge. A Schadenfreude perfect storm. But now I'm finding it hard to root against a guy who left the cushy gig to take on a real project in his home town. I heard that the Cavs are now the favorites in the East next season, so it probably won't be so hard to win, but winning this way just seems right.
Don't get me wrong -- I'll still be rooting against LeBron and the Cavs, but only when they're facing the Knicks. I'll take an Eastern Conference Finals matchup any time.