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Friday, December 3, 2010
LeBron James' return? No big deal!

By Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com

Game over.

Heat win.

The world didn't do a "2012" and cave in, unemployment is still too high, and Oprah still isn't married.

Now can we go back to our normal lives?

LeBron James
LeBron played well. Just another day at the office.

The game itself in the grand scheme was anything but meaningful: Just an early regular-season meeting between a sub-.500 team (the Cavs) and a team that so far only wins when it plays against clubs with sub-.500 records. The Heat are 11-1 versus teams under .500, 1-7 versus teams above .500. And if the game didn't much matter, all the hype leading up to it was even more pointless. Yet it carried a label as "the most anticipated game of the NBA season."

Really? For what reason? A single player's unwelcome homecoming? Because for one night, LeBron James was taking his talents back to the Lion's Den? Back to Cleveland for the first time?

Has it really come to this?

Nothing was ever going to come of this game. Nothing learned, nothing proved.

What did Miami's win show us? Did it show us that LeBron made the right decision? No.

Had the Cavs won, what would that have proved? That they are better off without LeBron? No.

This game doesn't even prove that the Heat can rally around LeBron to show that they'll have his back when it counts. We all woke up Friday morning unaffected by what happened in the game. Going in, it wasn't a statement game. And afterward? Today, next week, at the end of the season … was any statement actually made?

"This proves that when he wants to [play], LeBron can't be stopped by anyone," a friend told me over the phone during the third quarter. To which another friend on the other line responded, "Wanna impress me? Lemme see him and Miami do this against Boston. In May!"

The fact is this is just one of many times LeBron will appear in Quicken Loans Arena. That's it. He'll be back once more this season (March 29) and possibly up to a dozen more times before he leaves Miami and (as my life-goes-full-circle/God-has-a-wicked-sense-of-humor mind suspects he will) comes back to play for the Cavs. So, again, in the grand scheme, Thursday night was minimal.

Yet, we (the media) treated this game as if professional basketball's landscape was going to be altered by the outcome. When the hype machine goes into overdrive like this, the game should mean something. At the least, it should have possible playoff implications or potentially be the genesis of a new rivalry.

Real talk: The matchup that followed the Heat-Cavs game (did anyone else notice how conveniently the NBA schedule worked out in such a way that only one other game was played on the night of LeBron's return to Cleveland?) between the Suns and Warriors had more significance. At least that game meant something. Divisional rivalry, early jockeying for position in the playoff hierarchy, Part 2 of a 133-130 classic just a few weeks ago.

LeBron James
Same old same old (powder and all), except LeBron wore a different jersey.

Instead, we got caught up in the sexy story line. We fell for the cover instead of the book. A game of this "magnitude" shouldn't leave us with this emptiness. But there it is.

So in the end, LeBron silenced the crowd. So what? So he put on a show that Cleveland won't forget anytime soon. So what? So he even third-personed his own "greatness" in a postgame interview with Craig Sager and refused to apologize to anyone for anything, throwing acid into the his ex-home's wounds.

So what?

Dropping 38 points in just three quarters, looking eerily like Jordan used to look when he played the Cavs back in the day. Memories of Ehlo. "The Shot." So what? Those were playoff games, games between teams fighting each other for something. This was … what? A game about a guy coming back to play his old team. It was about history, but nothing historic. Yet, we all were led to believe -- and we all fooled ourselves into believing -- that it was so much bigger than that. When it really wasn't even close.

So what does it all mean? We all learned nothing, nothing's changed, no one proved himself right or wrong. Dan Gilbert is still a hero in Cleveland. "Quitness" T-shirts remain on sale. LeBron will still be the sport's newly crowned version of Kanye West.

Now that there's (hopefully) been closure, now that we're past a game that everyone (including self) began circling on their calendars on August 10th when the NBA schedule was released, I only wish for two things moving forward.

One, that we all get back to only putting our lives on pause for "must-win" games that have true meaning and significance. And two, we never have to go through this again.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.

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