It has been almost 11 months since Le- Bron James changed the NBA landscape with six self-absorbed words.
“Take my talents to South Beach.”
The outcry was swift and brutal from every corner of the country except South Florida.
All of a sudden, King James, a two-time league MVP who had almost single-handedly carried the Cleveland Cavaliers past respectability to perennial title contention, was a villain.
Never miss a local story.
Had no heart.
Wasn’t a clutch player anyway.
Jerseys were torched. T-shirts bore slanderous slogans.
It was one bad choice, unveiled in the worst possible, way, for the Chosen One.
The haters loved it when James and the Miami Heat got off to a 9-8 start, dropping nearly every game they played against an opponent with a winning record.
Well don’t look now, but a lot has happened since that July 8 night and The Decision, and things are looking pretty fine from all angles.
James, of course, will be playing for his first NBA championship with partners Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh against the Dallas Mavericks starting Tuesday.
Along the way, he has proven he can play at crunch time, taking over the end of two games, including the Game 5 clincher, during an Eastern Conference final series victory over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
But the people of Cleveland, the injured parties upon James’ departure, have started to get a few breaks as well. The lottery handed them the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in next month’s draft, a bounty they’re trying to parlay into a trade to get the top two picks, according to an ESPN.com report.
Though this year’s draft isn’t considered particularly strong, the two players the Cavaliers select should go a long way to helping rebuild what was the league’s second-worst team last year.
And don’t forget the Cleveland Indians. From nowhere, they sport the best record in the American League as June approaches.
Even some of the bit players in the LeBron drama are living well.
Mike Brown, LeBron’s coach for five years with the Cavaliers, was let go before The Decision, but an endorsement from the King could have kept him around, if of course James had stayed.
But now Brown finds himself the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, where he’ll have the resources to win the title every year.
And Jim Gray, the host of the ill-conceived ESPN broadcast of James’ decision, still gets to be on TV despite being one of the least likable personalities in sports.
The only big loser left seems to be Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who stupidly guaranteed his team would win an NBA title before James’ Heat in an open letter to Cleveland fans.
Now that was a bad decision.
Timothy R. Wolfrum, Herald sports editor, can be reached at 745-7052.