Everyone leaves eventually.
Whether it’s a trade, free agency, or retirement no player’s career lasts forever. The prevailing question fans must answer is how they will regard their onetime heroes who go elsewhere. Are they the recipients of scorn or begrudging respect? For this reason I have developed the Bitter/Support Scale to attribute a value to those players who depart and how we should consider them as their careers press on.
The scale ranges from 1-10, “one” being almost full support as if they never left and “ten” being a burning vinegar fire and wishing them a lifetime of heartbreaking defeats (LeBron James one hour after The Decision).
Several factors go into a player’s score: how beloved they were in Cleveland, the circumstances under which they left, and where they went. If your favorite player goes to play for your chief rival then it pushes the score a little higher. Also if a player’s career blossoms away from Northeast Ohio there are bound to be some sour grapes. Today, for obvious reasons; we will focus on the Cavaliers.
Andrew Wiggins: 1. Wiggins was barely a Cavalier and seemed to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of playing with a newly returned LeBron as a rookie he was banished to the ice and cold of Minnesota. If he does well, good for him. Wiggins certainly seems to enjoy playing his original team; in six games he is averaging 29.8 ppg which is noticeably better than his career average 20.4.
Matthew Dellavedova: 2. Delly played basketball the way we imagined we would play if given the chance: full tilt, dive on the floor, take charges, and go to work. He levitated the Q in the 2015 Finals and after he and the Cavs sealed the deal in ’16 he was going to get paid. Even though Delly signed with division-rival Milwaukee it’s hard to put down a guy who still plays with his hair on fire even with money in the bank – $38 million to be exact.
Dion Waiters: 4. Oh Dion. Waiters fancied himself a star, but the 2012 first round pick could not ascend while in Cleveland. Rumors of clubhouse issues swirled and his on-court play could not justify his ego. David Griffin sent him to OKC where he had a little out-of-bounds snafu. He seems to enjoy Miami though which is reason enough to be less than supportive, but his improved play can make one feel a little bitter. He has a nice Island though.
Shaun Livingston: 6. Livingston did not make a significant impression as a Cavalier. He played in that amorphous blob of seasons I call “Between LeBron” and had a few nice games in the wine and gold. Since leaving, however, he has been a thorn in Cleveland’s side come June. As a Warrior he has played great defense while contributing buckets off the bench. His game is respectable but Cavs fans don’t have to root for the Warriors to have any more success for his sake.
Kyrie Irving: 8. It still hurts to think of Irving as a “former-Cavalier,” but here we are. Kyrie asked for a trade after playing in three straight Finals. He created a month of drama and is still 25 years old with unbelievable handles. He is going to succeed and a lot of it may come at Cleveland’s expense. Bunker down for a decade of bitterness. To clarify, I am neither endorsing nor opposing fans’ booing of him during the season opener. I’m just saying that every time you see him finish an impossible layup with a physics-defying touch while wearing Celtic green your stomach is going to tighten up.
LeBron James: 10??? When the King deserted his people in 2010 he received a bucket of spite, anger, and bitterness unlike any player before or since. That animosity evaporated in 2014 when he returned home. However, with his impending 2018 free agency “Sources” and “People who know people who know things” insist he is Los Angeles bound to play for the Lakers. Nothing is certain, but if he departs it’ll be interesting to see where he ranks on this list again. Another departure would be brutal, but the King kept his promise, winning a long-sought title for his beleaguered hometown. My feeling is he would be somewhere around 5. Tough to see him go, but there is no mistaking that his legacy in Cleveland is secure.
Did we miss anyone? Feel free to share in the comments.