My what a difference a year makes. The Cavs have now lost 24 games in a row, tying the NBA record for the most consecutive losses. Given that Dallas is next on the schedule, they will most likely break the record.
Since last year, the Cavs have lost their superstar to the Miami Heat, who are now title contenders themselves. The loss of LeBron was especially painful for Cavs fans, who were disgusted by the way he publicized his exit to the world. Then, there was the outburst of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who called James a quitter and said that James had engaged in a "cowardly betrayal" of his city.
Gilbert's tirade should have been translated to "Do you know how much money we lost when LeBron left the team!" According to Forbes.com, LeBron's presence boosted the value of the Cleveland Cavaliers by an amount somewhere between $58 and $100 million dollars. In fact, Forbes makes note of the fact that the Cavs' financial valuation far exceeded the size of their market. The small number of NBA teams with higher valuations than the Cavs were in large markets like Los Angeles and New York. All of this was due to the LeBron Effect, which Cav's owners didn't quite seem to be able to appreciate. I'm sure they appreciate it now, since their value has likely hit rock bottom after James' exit and this dubious losing streak.
Most laughably, Gilbert publicly vowed that his team would win an NBA Championship before LeBron James. Apparently, Gilbert underestimated just how hard it would be to replace LeBron. Well, the message is likely loud and clear, as Gilbert has now watched his team sink to the depths of legendary loss production. I actually feel sorry for Gilbert just a bit, and I feel especially bad for loyal Cleveland fans who've been dissed by their superstar and embarrassed by their owner. This is a bad day for the city of Cleveland.
The transition of LeBron James out of Cleveland and into Miami serves as a valuable lesson on brand management, sports team valuation, and the racially-charged imagery of the black male athlete. Because LeBron stomped out of Cleveland, rather than tip-toe, he went from being the NBA golden boy to being characterized as another arrogant black male athlete. Morality judgements are typically thrust on black athletes, as sports writers love to say "He's really talented, but he doesn't have good values." Personally, such paternalistic evaluations make me sick, and it's not a coincidence that there is usually at least one black male athlete every year year who is thrust to the American people are public enemy number one.
LeBron didn't deserve the treatment he received from the American public. But Cleveland fans didn't deserve to have their open wound salted with LeBron's ill-advised made-for-tv debacle. Perhaps if LeBron had better advisors around him, this mess would never have been as sloppy as it was. But if America were not such a racist society, LeBron wouldn't have been treated like a runaway slave. There were multiple culprits in the big Cleveland-LeBron James circus.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.