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A huge step in the right direction for the sports world

Over the past decade, since I ceased being a sports writer and focused my efforts on other, tastier things, I’ve divested myself from truly caring about pretty much anything dealing with any kind of high-level college and professional athletics.
The absurdity of it all — the hero worshipping of 18-year-olds who can dribble a basketball, the dirty deals, the intentional tanking of a baseball team just so they could move cities — it all left a sour taste in my mouth. And still does if I’m honest.
But last week while I was on vacation, the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving announced he wanted to leave Cleveland because he was tired of playing Robin to LeBron James’s Batman.
And while the rest of Northeast Ohio seems to have banded together in collective rage that the point guard who hit the game-winner to give Cleveland its only championship in most of our lifetimes wants to leave, I think it’s a huge step in the right direction for the sports world.
Think about it. A professional athlete is actually motivated to achieve greatness by leading his own team. It’s not money. It’s not about getting a better “supporting cast” around him. It’s about being competitive. And real honest-to-goodness competitiveness is something that has been lacking from professional sports in a good, long while.
Remember the NBA in the 1980s back when Bird led the Celtics and Jordan led the Bulls and Magic led the Lakers and Barkley led the Sixers, before superstars decided to get together to form a few super teams? That was old-school, playground sports at its finest. You take a group of the best players, and they lead their collective teams and go at each other’s throats for 82 games, plus playoffs.
The idea of building super teams with “big 3” superstars was unheard of. Sure the Lakers had Worthy and Kareem and Scott around Magic, but that happened organically. The same with Parish and McHale and Johnson around Bird.
Even in more recent years, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were approaching the end of their careers when they joined Paul Pierce and the Celtics as were Karl Malone and Gary Payton when they joined the Lakers.
Regardless of what Clevelanders want to believe, LeBron James started this whole nonsense in 2010 when he teamed up with DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh in the prime of his career and then repeated the process when he returned to Cleveland by hooking Kevin Love to join he and Irving.
And ever since superstars around the league have been rinsing and repeating this process, believing it the only way to win a title.
Given the current climate of sports, I think what Kyrie Irving is doing is noble. I think it’s honest. I think it’s refreshing. In an environment where money stopped being a stumbling block for professional athletes and team owners ages ago, the prospect of a supremely talented individual being motivated to break away from the machine is something we should all feel good about.
If only it wasn’t happening in Cleveland, more folks around here would think so too.

Published: August 2, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170809978