It’s been almost a decade since an 18-year-old young man named LeBron James was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs got James by securing the first pick as a result of their win of the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery.
In the 2002-2003 season, James’ senior year at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School, the Cavaliers struggled through a dismal campaign, going just 17-65. As soon as the team won the Draft Lottery, James signed a contract with Ohio’s lone NBA franchise.
Many thought LeBron was going to be the guy to finally lead Cleveland to a professional sports championship. He had the skills to do it. James won the 2003-2004 Rookie of the Year Award over the #2 overall pick, Carmelo Anthony, then of the Denver Nuggets.
That summer, James guided the United States Men’s National Team to a third place finish in hoops at the 2004 Athens Games. Some detractors referred to James as “LeBronze.” The next NBA season came around, and LeBron and the Cavs just barely missed the playoffs.
The 2005-2006 season was James’ third year in the NBA, and his first playoff appearance. He was denied a ring. After an incredible Game Six from King James (32 points and 11 rebounds), the Detroit Pistons regrouped in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Fast-forward to 2007, when the Cavs found themselves in the Playoffs again. LeBron and company found themselves in the NBA Finals for the first time in Cavaliers franchise history. The Cavs were no match for Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, who swept Cleveland in four straight games. Duncan and company snatched their fourth ring.
In 2007-2008, Cleveland found themselves in the playoffs again. The Cavs faced the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a series that went the distance.
In spite of a 45-point output from James in the deciding game, the Celtics, led by a 41-point burst from Paul Pierce, advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and ultimately defeated the L.A. Lakers in six games to take the World Championship.
2008-2009 was the best season the Cavs ever had. They posted a 66-16 mark, securing the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After sweeping their first two opponents, Cleveland ran into a juggernaut of a team known as the Orlando Magic. LeBron’s major highlight of the ’09 ECF: A game-winning three-point shot at the buzzer to take game two and knot up the series at a game each.
The Magic ultimately took the Eastern Conference berth in the 2009 NBA Finals, but were defeated by Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals. This was Bryant’s fourth NBA title.
The 2009 off-season was highlighted by the signing of the legendary Shaquille O’Neal on the morning of the 2009 NBA Draft. In exchange for O’Neal, the Cavaliers rescinded their 2010 draft selections and cash consideration.
This was believed to be the acquisition that would give the Cavaliers a title for sure, but no dice. Cleveland didn’t even make it to the ECF that year.
It was a late spring and early summer of uncertainty for the Cavs franchise. They had no draft picks to build the franchise around, and LeBron’s contract was up. In an interview several years prior, James had said that he’d remain in Cleveland until the Cavaliers won a championship.
It was obvious, however, that he didn’t want to stay. In July of 2010, LeBron announced on a highly-publicized and controversial ESPN special titled The Decision, “This fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami HEAT.”
Clevelanders immediately resented James and wanted him to fail. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert composed an open letter to fans where he promised that the Cavaliers would win a title before King James did.
Uh, hey, Dan, how’s that workin’ out for you?
Cavs: Past three years: No playoff appearances
HEAT: Past three years: Three playoff appearances, three Eastern Conference Championships, one NBA title.
Cleveland fans, it’s time for you to be happy for LeBron. He left the Cavaliers for the betterment of his career. The move to the HEAT was a business move, one that paid off handsomely for him.
Watch The Finals over the next few weeks, but don’t hate LeBron because of how he supposedly wronged you. Appreciate his game. He is an awesome player and even a better person.