Bob Ryan: ‘Cavs Not Getting Love If They Keep Wiggins’
Bob Ryan fully believed that LeBron James would return for a fifth season in Miami, but last week – slowly but surely – Ryan’s confidence in that prospect eroded.
And now we know why.
Last Friday, in an essay to SI.com, James announced that he would return to Cleveland, the franchise he spurned in 2010. James has signed a two-year, $42.1 million deal with the Cavaliers and intends to commit to them long-term.
“Up until about 48 hours prior to the announcement, I thought he was going to go to Miami,” Ryan said on The John Feinstein Show. “I just thought it was a no-brainer. In the last 48 hours – between Wednesday and Thursday – it became clear that something very seriously was going on in Cleveland. And I thought Michael Wilbon made a good point to me, which was LeBorn’s people could have diffused the thing. They could have tempered the enthusiasm (and curbed) the madness in Northeast Ohio – and they did nothing. They allowed this thing to fester. It seemed more and more unlikely that LeBron (would allow himself) to come off as a villain a second time.”
“So I prepared myself for the idea that he (would return) to Cleveland. But for the entirety of the free-agency period up until that point, I thought he would stay in Miami.”
Now all James has to do is deliver a title to a city that hasn’t won one since 1964. What if he doesn’t? Would he get a pass?
“I think so,” Ryan said. “(Just) how much is going to be determined by history and by the people (in Cleveland). If he had a goal of being viewed as the equal or superior of Michael in the eyes of a majority of American basketball fans or general sports fans, he’s lost that battle. He cannot win it. He’s not going to win six – and even if he were to win six, somebody could say, ‘Michael never even had it go seven games. Michael never lost in the final.’ There’s always going to be a ‘Yeah, but’ attached to the idea of him supplanting Michael.”
“But what he has now done is secured his own niche,” Ryan continued. “He has a wonderful, heartwarming story unique to him – a superstar in a sport going back home after he left under those circumstances. Do we buy (his reasons for returning)? I do. As soon as I read the statement, I said, ‘That is the guy I was introduced to four years ago in the movie More Than a Game,’ the documentary that was made about his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary. Not only was he proud of wining three state titles, but it was the way he did it – with his own friends. It was a neighborhood group. In this day and age, that doesn’t happen. The best prep schools are put together from all over the country and (are) not real high schools. I said, ‘That’s the guy. This is an extension of that guy. That’s the way I read the story.’”
If James is to win a title next year – or at all – in Cleveland, it would sure help having Kevin Love by his side. There are reports that the Cavs might trade rookie Andrew Wiggins for Love – a report that only grew more believable when James made no mention of Wiggins in his essay, despite addressing several other teammates by name.
“It did obviously arch many an eyebrow, and I don’t know what to make of it, frankly,” Ryan said. “Did LeBron know something we don’t know? (It’s) certainly possible. There are fervent denials from the Cavaliers. They say (they’re) keeping Wiggins. Well, if they keep Wiggins, they’re not getting Love. That’s pretty obvious.”