LeBron leaves behind a Cleveland that is really happening

LeBron leaves behind a Cleveland that is really happening

If you’ve followed this column space for any amount of time, you may have noticed that I don’t really care for the whole LeBron James show.

Taking nothing away from his basketball ability — I rate him third all-time behind Jordan and Magic for the record — but I was unimpressed with him as a young professional during my sports-writing days.

That, coupled with the flurry of rumors around town of how he’d stiff restaurant waitstaff, his outward boasting of himself as the greatest player in the world and of course his ceremonious departure from Cleveland in 2010, and I’d seen enough.

The LeBron James legacy, as far as I’m concerned, ended years ago. So when he and his management team announced last week that he’d be leaving Cleveland once again — this time for the Los Angeles Lakers — I wasn’t really all that disappointed.

But the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I was.

That’s because the nicest things I can say about LeBron James go like this: First, for the millions and millions of dollars he brings in, LeBron James ear marks an awful lot to help underprivileged families and children in Northeast Ohio, and second, he is really, really good for business, particularly if you’re a business owner in downtown Cleveland.

The latter is what I’d like to address.

Before LeBron James, downtown Cleveland had more than its share of slow nights through its dark, dreary winter months. But with him helping the team become perennial winners, there were 41 nights each winter that businesses could bank on a captive audience at their doorstep.

Those are the folks I’m disappointed for in all this.

Nobody ever likes to admit to being a bandwagon fan, but it’s magical how the Cavaliers post sellout after sellout when they’re winning.

Bob Sura and Dejuan Wagner, I suppose, didn’t sell tickets quite the same.

Losing the star power of LeBron James — not necessarily LeBron James himself — is what’s going to have the biggest impact on Cleveland.

When LeBron left the first time around, downtown Cleveland felt it. And when he came back four years later, the city also felt it.

And now that he’s gone again? Well, we know the drill.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If LeBron James is the only reason you had to visit the shores of Lake Erie for the past four years, then you’re missing out.

Cleveland, in case you hadn’t noticed, is really, really happening.

So I’m challenging all of you — the bandwagoners, the fair-weather, what-have-you-done-for-me-latelys — to climb off the wagon and be a real fan, not just of the Cavaliers, but also of Cleveland in general.

Go visit the West Side Market. Ice skate on Public Square. Catch a Tribe game. Tailgate with the Browns. Watch the daily release of the butterflies at University Circle. And eat some of the most innovative food in the country at any number of amazing, chef-driven, independent restaurants.

If you need a reso, just let me know.

What I’m getting at is this: Just because LeBron James left Cleveland doesn’t mean you have to as well.

Embrace and explore the city. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

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