Magic Radio producer Jake Chapman spends hours on end alone in his studio. If that’s not depressing enough, he regularly talks to himself. Jake’s Take is an aggregate of his ramblings, musings, and occasionally coherent thoughts.

Posted by Jake Chapman, Thursday, August 9, 2012, 5:45 PM

When the King Stacked the Deck

Cheering for the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team is like cheering for the Yankees or Cowboys. Yea you might win a bunch, but you just feel a little dirty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m cheering for the USA. And when they beat Spain by 21 I’ll be the first to eat a hot dog and drink a beer on the bed of my pickup truck while wearing a sleeveless shirt. I’m totally proud to be an Americaaaaaan.

But that front-running, dirty feeling is hard to shake. Cheering for a powerhouse makes me uneasy, if only because it’s so unfamiliar to me. See I was born and raised in the land of underdogs. I’m used to glum faces and dashed hopes. I come from the city of promising little, and somehow delivering less. I’m from the city where it’s always next year. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio.

And so, as you can imagine, seeing Lebron James dominate 2012 like nobody since Jordan is a little hard to take. In America, winning is the easiest way to garner forgiveness. As The Decision fades from our memories and Lebron sheds the label of choke artist and finally puts it all together on the basketball court, playing like a ridiculous mash-up of Karl Malone and Magic Johnson, our country’s view of him is softening, and quickly. He’s easily the most important member of Team USA, facilitating the team’s offense and seemingly making the right play ALL THE TIME. His triple-double in the quarterfinal vs. Australia was the first in Olympic history, and he only played 30 minutes that night. He’s arguably playing basketball better than anyone has ever played basketball. And he worked his butt off for all of it. I appreciate that and I appreciate him representing our country. And by this time next year, I suspect Lebron’s Cleveland exodus will be far from our country’s collective consciousness.

But I will never forget.

When Lebron James was growing up in Akron he cheered for the Cowboys and Yankees too. When he was a Cavalier he went so far as to wear a Yankees’ hat to an Indians game vs. New York, and to stand on the Cowboys sideline during a Browns/Cowboys tilt at Cleveland Browns Stadium. It annoyed fans sure, but if The King wanted to root for winners so be it, as long as he brought us along for the ride when he made it to the top. Lebron said he understood the pain of Cleveland sports fans; no titles since 1964, groin-kick losses to Elway and Jordan and even Edgar Renteria. James was supposed to be the antidote. Delivering a long-overdue championship to Cleveland would have made him a legend, and that one title would have been worth 10 in Miami.

But rather than prove he was worthy of the title “King,” James stacked the deck. He enlisted help. He joined a powerhouse. And powerhouses like the Yankees, Cowboys, Heat and Team USA all win titles, and gold medals.

It was his right to do so of course, and that nonsense about loyalty to the franchise is for the naive. Lebron is an NBA champion now, and soon he’ll be an Olympic hero.

He’s accomplishing everything he wanted for himself, and I will never begrudge him that. But the ultimate destiny, that thing that he may have been the only person ever fit to accomplish, is now gone. He will never be the savior of Cleveland, and he will never be The King again. He’s merely the best basketball player on the planet.

When Team USA undoubtedly wins its Gold Medal the feeling will be more relief than joy. Powerhouses are supposed to win titles and medals. I’ll drink that beer and eat that hot dog and I will be proud to be an American.

But when the Browns beat the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl in 2025? The celebration in Cleveland will be fit for a King. And Lebron won’t be invited.