Tonight was supposed to be a big night in the city of Memphis; the self proclaimed “King” of the basketball court was coming to the home of the king of rock and roll. Arguably the most popular athlete in the world was going to be coming to Memphis and we’d been anticipating it for months, heck even the Grizzlies radio commercial this year used Lebron James coming to town as a selling point for tickets. The Grizzlies and Cavaliers only have two games against each other scheduled for the whole season, last night in Cleveland, and tonight in Memphis. Last night after beating us pretty soundly, the Cavs announced that they would be making the trip to Memphis without three of their star players for tonight’s game. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the polarizing, aforementioned Lebron James would be taking the night off, resting up for what the coach deemed more important games, later in the week. Kyrie didn’t play last night because of some leg soreness, so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t make the trip, and Kevin Love was drafted by the Grizzlies and subsequently traded that night, so I get why it is so tough for him to come and play in Memphis and see the great life that could have been, but for Lebron there is no acceptable excuse, at least in the eyes of the hometown fans, and it’s absolutely unfair to him.
Lebron James is the most popular basketball player in the NBA without question, and with that popularity comes the fact that he has fans, lots of them, all over the country, wherever he travels. Not only is he the most popular, but Lebron is also the best player in the game right now, and possibly the greatest ever, so when he comes to town against your favorite team it’s a game you circle on your calendar and plan to attend. It almost feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity where you take the financial hit and buy the expensive tickets, so for the rest of your life you can tell the story about seeing Lebron James play in person, but then a night like this arrives where he’s resting, not even making the trip to your town, and it feels grossly unjust. It sucks for us as fans, but it’s also not easy on the players either. I’m sure Lebron isn’t oblivious to the fact that fans are upset when he sits out a game, but eighty-two games is a lot to play in a season and the biggest superstar in the game needs a rest every once in a while, but no matter what game he sits out, someone will have wasted their hard earned money on a ticket.
A lot of people are looking at the situation in a negative light, yelling from the rooftops how disrespectful it is for Cleveland to bench three of their best players against Memphis, basically saying that the Grizzlies are so bad that they can beat us with their backups. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I like to look at it in a more positive manner. I think Cleveland saw what happened to Golden State on Saturday and realized that this was an un-winnable game for them tonight, and decided that in an effort to save team morale and justify their beat down in Memphis, they decided to leave three players in Cleveland so the media would just chalk the loss up to being without those guys, rather than giving Memphis the respect we deserve. Last night on social media I saw an upset grandfather who’d bought tickets to the game, to see Lebron James, as a christmas gift for his grandson. While it may seem like a negative situation now, it is actually preserving the illusion for the grandchild, the belief that Lebron is a superhuman, because he would undoubtedly struggle, as so many have before him, to get any kind of rhythm going in the Grindhouse and would walk away from the game after being dominated for four quarters, with a stat line that would make a D-league bench player blush. At least your grandkid will still have his illusions intact at the end of the day and have a hero to look up to, and it’s not like there won’t be another chance to see Lebron play in Memphis; he’ll be here for at least two games in June, to lose in the finals.