Dan Gilbert is generally regarded as Cleveland’s best sports owner. Sure, his competition is the cheap cheap penny pinching cheapo Dolans and a former Steelers owner who’s under investigation by the FBI, but still, Gilbert’s the best we got.
Nationally, Gilbert is somewhat of a joke. That’ll happen when you promise you’re team will beat LeBron to a championship and then embark on a 26 game losing streak. Whether it’s his comic sans letter, his involvement with the Chris Paul trade or crashing the NBA lottery party, Gilbert is no stranger to criticism.
Some of this criticism can be very much deserved. Others… notsomuch. Regardless, Gilbert rarely receives the benefit of the doubt. A recent example: when the Cavs owner took to twitter to ask fans about the Trent Richardson trade, the ensuing coverage was dripping with snark.
Gilbert’s anti-LeBron letter may have been foolish, but the comic sans screed bought the billionaire some goodwill from the fans (and some time for the Cavs’ complete rebuild). Cleveland fans ate up that letter up and Gilbert learned a valuable lesson: keep taking shots at LeBron. We laughed when all LeBron fatheads were discounted to $17.41 (Benedict Arnold’s birth year. GET IT?!) and we cheered when he told LeBron’s friends “not in our garage”. It was us against the world and Gilbert had our backs.
I’ll admit, I waffle back-and-forth on the LeBron stuff. On one hand, sports are supposed to be fun and these little sports hatreds and rivalries are part of sports fandom. I mean, Michigan sucks, amirite? But when Gilbert goes out of his way congratulate the Heat on winning a title but leaves out LeBron’s name, well, it just looks petty.
And I’d rather Cleveland’s best sports owner stopped looking so petty.
You may not be aware, but Cavs.com is currently running a feature where they list the best Cavaliers for every jersey number. It’s a pretty fun click-through if you have fond memories of terrible basketball. Even now, clicking through the list brings smiles to my face. Hey, there’s Terrell Brandon! Oh, Shawn Kemp, you beautiful fat bastard! Really? Jon Bagley over Steve Kerr?1
Good, harmless offseason fun.
But when you got to number 23, the picture wasn’t of LeBron James who, despite how you feel about him, is clearly the best player (regardless of number) in Cavalier history, but of Tyrone Corbin.
Not that anyone needs to give LeBron more props or that the Cavs should pay him his due respect but this was unnecessary and childish trolling. All that does is give national media reporters more ammo when calling Dan Gilbert a petty jerk.
I’m not saying the Cavs need to lavish LeBron with accolades or retire his jersey in hopes he comes back in 2014, but simple acknowledgement shouldn’t be too difficult, no?
One day I hope that the Cavs and everyone else can just treat LeBron like any other ex-Cavalier. That the Cavs announcers won’t treat him like Voldemort and actually use his name in casual conversations. I want him to be just another guy. This will never happen, of course. LeBron sits atop the Cleveland record books and has the franchises only two MVPs. We’re never completely getting away from him. But the Cavs don’t need to constantly take small jabs at LeBron, it only makes him more ‘special’ than he already is.
While the Decision sucked, I maintain that the overall LeBron-era didn’t. I’m friends with many a Cavalier fan who came of age during the LeBron years. Those teams are why they’re Cavaliers fans (as the Price years were with me). It’s not like they jumped ship for the Heat when LeBron skipped town. They’re still around and suffering through the Alonzo Gee-era with the rest of us. But we have a whole generation of Cleveland basketball fans that wouldn’t be here if not for LeBron. Regardless of how one feels about the ending, the LeBron years happened and they were pretty good for the Cavaliers (and the rich guy who owns them).
Yes, a photo montage of player numbers on the team website is a small thing. What does it matter that the Cavs trolled LeBron and put up a picture of Tyrone Corbin? It’s just a photo gallery ferchristsakes! But that’s it’s a small issue is precisely why this cuts both ways. We’re still so mad at LeBron (even two no-1 overall picks later) that we’ll take shots at him in a photo gallery on the team website? Really? If it’s so dumb that the insult shouldn’t hurt or land a blow, then it’s small enough that it wasn’t needed in the first place2. Are we Soviet Russia trying to erase unpleasant and embarrassing history?
After a small internet uproar, the Cavs have changed out Corbin’s pic for one LeBron. Excellent job, internet complainers! Good. The Cavs aren’t honoring LeBron by putting his pic by his number, they’re making him no more special as guys like Brevin Knight or Darnell Jackson. All Corbin’s picture did was bring negative attention the Cavalier franchise and give folks another whack at the Dan Gilbert pinata.
It was unnecessary.
The Cavs have a lot of positives right now (seriously, all of Kyrie Irving’s limbs are currently unbroken!) and I’d rather the Cavs not give folks more reasons to poke fun at the franchise. I’d prefer positive press for my favorite sports team and petty slights to the best player in the NBA isn’t helping.
The Cavs begin their preseason on October 8th against the Milwaukee Bucks.
- RIP Bobby Phills [↩]
- this is a whole other can of worms, but I feel the same way with regard to Native American team names. That “it’s only a sports team, who cares if it’s bigoted” cuts both ways. If it’s only a sports team, who cares if the name is changed? You’ll stop watching the local baseball team if they have a new logo? [↩]