CLEVELAND // Humiliated and heartbroken, the fans in Cleveland turned their backs on LeBron James as suddenly as he had abandoned them for the Miami Heat on national television, burning his jersey and throwing rocks at a 10-storey-tall picture of the star. Sorrow accompanied the anger. Across the street from the arena where the Cavaliers play, men buried their heads in their hands. When they looked up, their eyes were wet with tears.
Earl Mauldin, a former fan of James, was slumped in his seat. "I think it was a slap in the face to this city, who had supported him and been behind him since he was in high school," he said. "To go on national TV and spit in our face like that is very, very, very wrong." Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers, instantly turned into one of James's harshest critics, telling The Associated Press that James "quit" during his last play-off series with club, versus Boston.
"Watch the tape," Gilbert said. "The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar ? People have covered up for him for way too long." In a letter to fans on the club's website, Gilbert predicted the Cavaliers would win a championship before James did. He wrote: "As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. This was announced with a several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his 'decision' unlike anything ever witnessed in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment. Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.
"The self-declared former 'King' will be taking the 'curse' with him down south. And until he does right by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma. Just watch." Cleveland's professional teams have endured decades of misfortune and bad luck, sometimes referred to as "the curse". The city's last major sports championship was in 1964.
Cleveland also has suffered several decades of economic hardship. The seven seasons of LeBron James seemed to lift spirits. But that is over now. * AP