Once upon a time, a LeBron James sidekick had delusions of grandeur. He saw a coin gleaming out of the corner of his eye, and turned his verbal commitment to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers into mere words.
It’s been five years since Carlos Boozer walked out on the Cavs, but if anyone can even properly relate to LeBron on this day, it’s him. Verbal agreements are taken pretty seriously in sports, and the particular nature of Boozer’s betrayal — he convinced the Cavaliers to let him become a restricted free agent in order to sign a long-term deal, which he eventually did…with the Utah Jazz — made him a long-reviled figure in Cleveland sports. Nothing Boozer did or could ever do would match LeBron James’ decision to leave the Cavaliers, mind you, but the insidiousness of Boozer’s dealings make him and LeBron relatives, if only in their reputations within the city limits.
With that in mind, Carlos Boozer was asked to weigh in on LeBron’s situation going into tonight’s game. From Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago:
“It will be tough for him,” Boozer said after Thursday afternoon’s practice. “As a personal friend of his, I know it’s going to be a tough moment because he had a lot of great memories there. I just wish him the best of luck. I know it’s kind of a place he embraces because he built so much there. Coming from there, being from there, giving everything he had for those seven, eight years he was there, I know it will be emotional for him.”
Boozer was drafted by the Cavs in the second round of the 2002 draft. He rose to prominence in two years averaging 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in his second season. Controversy ensued after he became a free agent and backed out of an agreement he had with the Cavs to sign a more lucrative offer with the Utah Jazz, and Boozer was booed in his return to Cleveland. He knows what a difficult night it will be for James to get through, especially given the way the reigning MVP left the team earlier this summer.
“It was the same thing [James will be going through],” Boozer said. “Emotional and tough.”
As I mentioned above, the circumstances regarding the departures of Boozer and James aren’t quite the same, though Booz’s unique perspective on this matter is appreciated nonetheless. In truth, LeBron is on an island tonight. No one can properly relate to where he’ll stand when boos — and hopefully only boos — rain down on him in the Q. This is as unique of a case as we could hope to see in the world of sports, and though we know LeBron will continue to serve as our story’s villain, how exactly that story will proceed from this point is anyone’s guess. The Cleveland fans are a wild card. LeBron’s performance tonight could be anywhere in his spectrum. The Miami Heat could stumble or thrive. This isn’t artificial drama, just a naturally unpredictable event starring the game’s brightest talent and most infamous name.