In July of 2010, my family was on vacation in Blueridge GA. At the time, I had no real expectation that Lebron James would ever come to Miami. Yet, there we sat on the sofa in our cabin watching "The Decision" like most NBA fans. Only, up until this point, I could not get my two youngest sons (16 and 13 at the time), to really pay attention to Basketball. Then Lebron happened.
I knew this would be a very opportune and special time to learn be a Miami Heat fan and I seized it. I never cared what anyone thought about whether my boys had been "die hard fans" since they were born, or that they were "bandwagoneers" simply because they didn't own a Roy Siekally Jersey. None of that mattered. Now was a perfect time to introduce my sons to the passion of NBA and all the crazy ups and downs and the drama of the playoffs. I had grown up a hard core Rockets fan and remember the rush that came in watching them win two titles. Only, I had never been able to attend games during those seasons in Houston. I swore I would not make the same mistake with this Heat Team. We live three hours from the arena, so getting to games was not a breeze, we did it anyway. My wife and I were able to attend the very first game of the "big three era" and we continued to go to games over the next four years. We watched in horror as Lebron and the Heat fell short against Dallas, (especially since the rest of our family were Mav's fans) and then experienced the playoffs the next year as the Heat battled the Pacers and went on to Beat OKC in the finals. As time went on, our wardrobe in the home began to take on a Black/Red/White theme and was peppered with the free playoff "give away" shirts during the "White Hot" Playoff runs.
We bought tickets to game six of the 2013 finals and nearly sold them a few hours before the game in the hopes that maybe we could hedge our bet and go to game seven. We decided to go to game six, and on the way down while traveling through alligator alley. (I-75) I told my sons (hoping) that this would be a game that they talk about for a long time. With less than 30 seconds to go in the game, that was still certainly going to be true win or lose, but winning in that fashion and being there with my threes sons made that night unforgettable. It was surreal. An incredible moment shared with family that we will never forget. After watching hundreds of games together, and spending thousands of hours discussing strategy and stats with my youngest son and listening to my wife yell at the TV, (at Lebron and Erik Spoelstra to be precise), or telling my other son when it's okay to come in and watch (he likes to wait until we are winning) and even after watching them fall to a much better Spurs team in this year's final's, I can say without any hesitation, it was worth every second. Without a doubt, I know that Lebron James deciding to play in Miami these last four years is largely responsible for all these memories.
I honestly thought that Lebron would have stayed in Miami with very little discussion. He may still be, although that seems less and less likely if you believe the rumor and hype train. I write this in the midst of all the insane "Twitter-verse" drama and speculation about where Lebron will end up next year. I expect by the time some of you are reading this, we will know. Either way, it remains true. This is after all just a sport or "just a game" as they say and to be "angry" at Lebron or anything less than grateful for the last four years of memories and absolute craziness would only diminish my own experience, not the athletes who gave us these moments. I realize that Lebron or these athletes do not "owe" us anything. They come and go, you win and lose and whether we choose to enjoy it or not is entirely up to us as individuals. I chose to enjoy it.
So, Lebron, in then event you leave Miami to go back home to Cleveland, or if you decide to stay in Miami, I would proudly and sincerely say Thank You. Thank you for letting us enjoy four years of fantastic, incredible and fun basketball... and for giving a dad an excuse to drag his family into the crazy world of being passionate NBA fans.
(Grateful dad/Heat fan that never leaves until the clock reads double zeros)