Is Lebron Having Trouble Shaking his Rust Belt Roots?

LeBron James is in Cleveland to play the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. People are buzzing, particularly about what he had to say when asked about the prospect of coming back home to play for the Cavs (a mere two years out mind you):

“I think it would be great…It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had

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a lot fun times in my seven years here. You can’t predict the future, and hopefully I continue to stay healthy…And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”

Speaking about Clevelander’s hometown pride, LeBron said:

“I’m always excited to come back. They’ve got some of the best fans the NBA and the world has to offer.”

When I read the quotes I was conflicted. After all, he left in such an inglorious fashion, shining camera lights on that old American pastime of pitying Cleveland, if not the whole of the Rust Belt. Then hearing the same thing over and over and over: “well, can you blame him? It’s Cleveland. This is Miami we are talking about”—that drivel drove me batty, if only because I have been to Miami. It felt like an illusion. Like the whole of the city was painted and re-painted teal if only to drill in the pretension that every day is Easter.

But it’s not. Monday morning rolls around. And Miami is dealing with their own tough times as such, being rated the most miserable city in America recently, not to mention the vainest city.

Great—imagine living on the body of Charlie Sheen, but I digress…

Anyway—and I can’t believe I am saying this—but I kind of feel for the guy, because it is apparent he is feeling a little guilty, and that—more importantly—he misses home. He is an Akron kid. He lives there after the season. He grew in rust—his life the epitome of reality to the point that it was perhaps too real (drug-addicted mom, missing dad, projects, etc.), thus the desire for the illusion…

Now I know that there is vanity and PR in much of everything LeBron does and says. He is American after all, and fame in America can wipe the grease out of any working man’s hands. But fame is just that, a cover for the reality of where you came from. Said Francis Bacon:

Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.

Time will tell, but perhaps yesterday was a sign that LeBron’s Rust Belt soul is coming up for air.

–Richey Piiparinen

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