Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Monday, May 04, 2009

LeBron MVP off the court

I recently reconnected with a college friend who is from the Detroit area. She mentioned how she is no fan of that LeBron. She said the way the media falls all over him makes her nervous. She wants to cheer for a team of good players and not just one superstar.

LeBron isn't perfect. There is the Yankees hat, hanging out on the sidelines with the Cowboys, he celebrates a little too much and acts like he is shot when he gets fouled.

But I have watched LeBron play basketball since he was 16 years old. It is amazing the man he has turned out to be. He had so many opportunities to mess this up. There were signs his senior year that he could make some mistakes. No one would have really blamed him. On the cover of SI as a high school junior. Given loads of cash three years before he could legally drink. Put on his hometown team surrounded by players like Ricky Davis and Darius Miles.

Instead he has grown up a solid citizen and the perfect teammate. The NBA's MVP is about on the court. There he has battled Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade for that right. But off the court there is no comparison. You don't see LeBron in the tabloids for marital problems. He could have demanded publicly his way out of Cleveland years ago. Kobe is always going to the media with his team issues. LeBron avoids that route.

Many compare LeBron to Michael Jordan. LeBron is a completely different player. Jordan left no doubt he was the man. He wasn't friends with his teammates. He wanted to win everything at all times. It led him to greatness but also loneliness. LeBron lifts his teammates not only with his play but also with his personality. LeBron could easily demand Jordan-respect from his teammates but he engages them. You can tell this Cavs team is having fun. His teammates not only respect him for his play but they love him for the man LeBron is.

And for his Cleveland fans, LeBron will never come out and say it but I think he has started to get it. He won't turn his back on his childhood heroes --the Yankees and Cowboys-- but I think he now understands our passion. Two years ago he would have worn a Cowboys jersey in that ad. Before the playoffs he acknowledged our hurt through the drive, the shot and Mesa. He wants to end our pain. Just having LeBron acknowledge that meant a lot to me.

LeBron could break our hearts yet here in Cleveland. You never really know who someone is. But I tip my cap at the man LeBron has become.