LeBron James, Cleveland, and Why MMA Blows Traditional Sports Away

Thursday night, the infamous LeBron James returned to Cleveland, to the scene of the crime.  If you've been watching repeats of MMA Live instead of Sports Center for the last six months, here's the deal: LeBron is the best basketball player on Earth. A native of Akron, Ohio, he was supposed to lead his home state Cleveland Cavaliers to the basketball promised land. Instead, he hilariously arranged a prime time snuff film to kill Cleveland basketball dead. Rather than stay home and strive for glory, he took the easy route, taking his talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat.

Cleveland fans were, naturally, furious. Thursday was their first chance for revenge. The noise in the building was incredible. The fans had so much pent up emotion, angst, anger, and passion it was a little scary. Too bad their Cavaliers seemed they couldn't care less. No one seemed remotely into the game. Not only did no Cavalier make himself a hero for life in Cleveland by delivering a hard foul on James, they even spent part of the game smoking and joking with their former teammate. As LeBron talked trash to his awe struck former teammates, Miami unleashed hell, winning by a final score of 118-90.

Fans always want to believe that the players care as much as they do. That traditional rivalries mean something. That the guys on the court are living and dying with them, truly feel their pain. The Cleveland Cavaliers killed that belief in their fans Thursday night. All the emotion in the building was in the stands - on the court it might as well have been an intramural scrimmage. And that's why I've stopped watching mainstream sports (with the exception of football) entirely.

In MMA, we don't see pampered millionaires. If a fighter is as disinterested as the Cleveland Cavaliers were Thursday night, he not only gets his ass kicked, he gets unceremoniously cut by a furious Dana White after the contest. There is no choice but to care - your well being and your livelihood depend on it. It's one thing to jog up and down the court and put on a perfunctory effort. Hell, if you're Derrick Coleman, Tim Thomas, or Amar'e Stoudemire you can make tens of millions without ever having to care once. It's not every day that a sporting event paints such a vivid picture. Last night was everything that was wrong with basketball and illustrated everything that is so right about MMA. Whether anyone else recognizes it or not, our sport is something special, something pure. It's sports at its most primal and personal. Nothing is better.

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