Drool All You Want, Miami. LeBron Hearts Cleveland.

Ah, you fair-weather LeBron James fans. I saw you drooling over the King last night as he mesmerized the crowd at American Airlines Arena with his warrior layups and toe-to-toe combat with Dwyane Wade.

You held those signs -- "Come to Miami, LeBron. Work on your tan!" -- and you wore your #23 jerseys. You even cheered occasionally when he scored.

But you're not from Cleveland, so you just don't understand.

Ever been to wig night at the Q, to celebrate Anderson Varejao's unruly mop? Or sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Euclid Avenue, surrounded by so many honking, cheering, and absurdly jubilant fans that the cops gave up directing traffic and joined the party?


Everywhere he goes, James is seen as a savior for some other city's team. Denver, New York, Miami -- they all think they can woo him with promises of glamour and championship wins.

They don't realize that James already is a savior of Cleveland. The Jesus-style Nike poster of him that hangs from a prominent building downtown is only a slight exaggeration of his status in the Paris of the Rust Belt.

Impoverished, corrupt, hemorrhaging population, and cursed with six months of gray winter, Cleveland needs a hero to sustain it. LeBron knows this, and also knows that he would never be as worshiped in New York or Miami as he is in his hometown.

Last night, way up in the cheap seats at the arena, there was a small congregation of Cavs fans. A handful of guys in front of me were from Ashtabula -- a tiny coal town an hour north of Cleveland. They've adopted LeBron James too.

We might have been the only ones who noticed that, as the Cavs took an 88-87 lead over the Heat with less than three minutes left in the game, a giant ad for the Cleveland Clinic popped up on the banner screen that encircles the arena.

Ah yes, we thought. That's home.


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