A year later, I'm still not sure how to describe the feelings I felt as I was driving to Greenwich for "The Decision". As a LeBron James fan, I knew deep in my heart that I'd probably end up supporting him no matter where he ended up, but I think I also knew that even if he stayed in Cleveland -- which was unlikely at that point -- nothing would ever quite be the same.
The scene in Greenwich is still one of the most surreal I've ever been around. The crowd swelled throughout the afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of LeBron and celebrate with fellow fans should he pick their team. For the most part, Knicks fans were CONVINCED he was coming to New York -- why else hold the event in Greenwich, they asked? (In case you're still wondering about that, read this fabulous piece from Zach Lowe, where he talks to some of the behind the scenes people involved with "The Decision").
As the moment for the actual decision to be made came, I was in the dark, both literally and figuratively. The sun had set in Greenwich, and the crowd was gathered around trying to get any word on what was happening inside. It's clear that the organizers didn't anticipate such a large crowd, otherwise they would have set up some way for us to watch the event. I know some people made their way over to the media trucks, but it wasn't until the police announced over their bullhorns that LeBron had picked Miami that everyone knew. Most fans dispersed quickly, but many others stuck around, hoping to see LeBron James and boo him. In retrospect, it should have been my first indicator as to the reception LeBron was going to receive in every city last season.
Still, I couldn't have in my wildest imagination anticipated just how big "The Decision" and the fallout from it would become. I figured that, assuming LeBron picked anyone but Cleveland, that Cavs fans would hate LeBron for a long time, but the hatred toward the pomposity of the special itself would fade after awhile. Part of that is because I couldn't watch the show itself and see just how poorly everything came off to the TV audience. I didn't hear the phrase "take my talents to South Beach" until later that night, by which time I'd already had some time to process what had happened. I didn't sit there watching Jim Gray ask question after question without getting to the point, which I'm sure exacerbated an audience that was already on edge.
July 8, 2010 was one of the most surreal days of my life. I was so conflicted driving home that night; conflicted between being happy that LeBron had a great set of teammates and was likely the favorite to win the title and being upset that he abandoned Cleveland. I wrote the next day, "At some point in the future, I'll eventually reach acceptance. I'll break down and buy a LeBron Heat jersey, because somewhere inside I'm still a LeBron fan." It took about three weeks for me to get to that point, and it really wasn't until training camp rolled around that I was fully comfortable supporting LeBron again. I never got to the point of "hating" him, like so many did, but there was definitely a period post-"Decision" where I found myself questioning if I could be a full-fledged fan again.
This week, I went back and re-watched some of my videos from that day, and it's funny that at one point I said that if LeBron signed in Miami, I'd still be a LeBron fan, but I couldn't be a Heat fan. Honestly, I don't really consider myself a Heat fan, even to this day. Obviously, I want the team to be successful, but only in the sense that it would mean LeBron is succeeding. And while I obviously still consider myself a LeBron fan, it's not the blind fandom it was before "The Decision". I now recognize his flaws and failings, and I'm willing to point them out, rather than just dismiss them.
Re-live "The Decision" from Greenwich, CT