Clevelanders Watch LeBron James Win NBA Title

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When Ohio native LeBron James announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat in 2010, he left behind a legion of furious fans who had followed his career since he was an Akron teenager. Now that James has won the NBA ring, are Clevelanders ready to forgive him for leaving?


The Miami win was greeted with anger, resignation and joy in Cleveland, all because of you-know-who. As David C. Barnett of member station WCPN reports, it's a town that knows how to hold a grudge.

DAVID C. BARNETT, BYLINE: After charming Cleveland with his talents for years, it was only one week after becoming a free agent in 2010 that LeBron James sparked the ire of Cleveland sports fans. During a much-hyped live national broadcast, James announced that he was joining the Miami Heat. And with that decision, his reputation as a hometown hero collapsed.

Last night, the TV screens at the Winking Lizard Lounge in downtown Cleveland were filled with the action from Miami, where LeBron's talents were on display. As the Heat piled on the points, the guys at Dan Linger's table got quieter.

DAN LINGER: I don't want him to win, ever. And it's not looking good right now.

BARNETT: Once a big LeBron fan, Linger says the sting of the decision still hurts.

LINGER: The most arrogant and selfish thing I could possibly think of, and I will never respect him again for that.

BARNETT: Hell hath no fury like a scorned Cleveland sports fan. The Indians felt it in 1960, when they traded popular right fielder Rocky Colavito, and Browns owner Art Model became persona non grata after moving the team to Baltimore in 1996.

Paul Jesberger says after a while you get used to the disappointment.

PAUL JESBERGER: You could almost laugh at it. It's just that - it's just that way, growing up a Cleveland fan saying you just know it's going to happen to you. That's just how it is.

BARNETT: But one table over, Kevin Cameron has a different take. He's a recent Cleveland transplant from Toronto.

KEVIN CAMERON: But since moving to Cleveland, I've felt like I had to automatically hate LeBron, and so I refute that with every passion, every bone in my body. I do not hate this man.

BARNETT: Jason Walker agrees. He figures it's time to forgive and forget.

JASON WALKER: I think it was a bad choice on his part. I wouldn't have done it. He has lived with it. It worked out for him. He's the NBA champion now, so it all worked out in his favor.

BARNETT: For many Cleveland sports fans, though, it's just another day, just another disappointment.

For NPR News, I'm David C. Barnett, in Cleveland.

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