Thank You LeBron: The End of an Unforgettable Era

Workers begin to take down the iconic LeBron James banner from the Sherwin Williams building on July 3. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Four years ago, when LeBron James announced his return to the Cavaliers in an essay in Sports Illustrated, he made his goal clear: to bring the city of Cleveland their first championship since 1964. Two years later, he delivered on that promise with arguably the greatest comeback in NBA history. Now, almost four years later LeBron James has left the Cavs for the second time in his career, this time to join the Los Angeles Lakers. No, there is not the level of vitriol that was present when James “took his talents to South Beach” in 2010, but there is a wide sense of disappointment amongst Cavs fans. In his essay he wrote “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when.” And a few weeks later he would say “I don’t plan on going nowhere. I don’t have the energy to do it again.” As emotional as the essay was, it now looks like a brilliant PR move than a love letter to Cleveland. But even though LeBron has departed for a second time, Cavalier fans should still feel great appreciation for a man who came home and kept his promise of bringing us a title.

This past season was perhaps the most tumultuous in Cavaliers history. It started with Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert and general manager, David Griffin mutually parting ways, followed by star point guard, Kyrie Irving’s trade request. The two decisions proved to hang over the team for the entire season and may continue to do so for years to come. The arrivals of Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and injured point guard Isaiah Thomas culminated in an explosive team meeting in January. Then there was the total roster reshaping done by first year GM, Koby Altman on trade deadline day swapping out six players and adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson. The moves reinvigorated LeBron after he slowed his effort down on the court for the good part of a month in protest to the team’s disfunction. The Cavaliers would finish as the four seed in the Eastern Conference and what followed would end up being a magical farewell tour to Cavalier fans from King James.

LeBron had the best statistical regular season of his career this past season averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and a career-high 9.1 assists. He finished as the runner-up to James Harden in the MVP voting. His postseason performance was the most dominant and arguably the most memorable of his 15 year career. He averaged 34 points, 9.1 boards, 9 assists per game. James scored over 40 points eight times in the playoffs including a 51 point master piece in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He had two iconic buzzer beaters: a game winning three pointer over Thaddeus Young in Game 5 of the first round against the Indiana Pacers and a running one-handed bank shot against the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. LeBron celebrated both buzzer beaters by standing on the scorers table at half-court and pounding his chest. These displays of emotion were the first time that James had ever shown this kind of acknowledgement and passion towards his hometown fans. Looking back on it now it was poetic and a way to say goodbye to the Cavalier faithful.

Yes, LeBron has left Cleveland for the second time and it is extremely bittersweet. As I look back and reflect on having the privilege to watch him over his 11 seasons in a Cavaliers uniform, I feel a sense of pride and gratitude to have witnessed the brilliance of the greatest basketball player of my generation. I was fortunate enough to be present for 3 of his 5 buzzer beaters with the Cavs and to experience a number of NBA Finals games. Because of LeBron returning home, I was able to experience a championship with my dad, a lifelong and die-hard Cleveland sports fan, before he passed away. The 11 seasons LeBron James spent in Cleveland are filled with memories I will never forget and will share with my children one day. So as “The Kid from Akron” heads to Hollywood, all I can say is Thank You LeBron for making good on your promise and giving me the best sports years of my young life.

Blues Traveler: How Dion Nesmith’s long road through the NCAA brought him to Hofstra

Editors Note-In honor of tonight’s National Championship game I would like to share a piece I did for my sportswriting class. The assignment was to write a feature on a Hofstra athlete. Enjoy!

The college career of Hofstra senior, Dion Nesmith, has been a long, but rewarding journey. Nesmith’s college athletics career spans three universities and two different sports. The loss of one sport rekindled the love of another for the graduate student.

Hofstra Senior, Dion Nesmith, brings the ball up court in 2014 CAA Quarterfinals against Delaware. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Hofstra Senior, Dion Nesmith, brings the ball up court in 2014 CAA Quarterfinals against Delaware. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Nesmith began his college career in 2009 at Northeastern University as a redshirt freshman on the football team. He accepted a scholarship with the Huskies after being a standout on the football and basketball team at his hometown high school in Union, New Jersey. Nesmith also played baseball during his freshmen year of high school, but eventually focused on just two sports. When contemplating where he would attend college, he was faced with a tough decision. “Looking forward, Northeastern was probably the best academic school to offer me a scholarship so I took it and ran with it,” says Nesmith.

On November 22, 2009, just one day after the Huskies won their final game of the season, the University announced that it was dropping the football program after 74 years because it was too expensive to maintain. Faced with uncertainty about his athletics career, Nesmith had another tough decision to make. “The months leading after it were tough because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, if I wanted to keep playing football or play basketball or just go to school,” says Nesmith. “It’s tough you know, you’re eighteen years old and you have to make a decision for the rest of your life.” He was recruited by multiple schools for football and even took a visit to Central Connecticut State. In the end, he went back to his first love and accepted a basketball scholarship at Monmouth University.

Nesmith sat out his first season at Monmouth due to NCAA transfer rules. In two seasons with the Hawks, he averaged 13.3 points per game and started 88 of 93 games. He graduated from Monmouth in the spring of 2013 with a degree in finance, but he still had two years of eligibility as a graduate athlete remaining. Nesmith decided to transfer once again and finish his athletic career on the Hofstra University basketball team “I thought it was better for me to go someplace else and maybe expand my game a little bit and Hofstra was the right place for that,” says Nesmith.

Nesmith joined a rebuilding Pride squad that had lost five players to criminal activity and had just fired its head coach. Nesmith was ready for the challenge of leading a young team and playing under new head coach, Joe Mihalich. “I thought it was a fun role making a good change at place like Hofstra, where good things usually happen,” says Nesmith. In his first year with the Blue and Gold, Nesmith averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 assists. This past season, he proved once again to be a key member of the team by averaging 11.1 points per game and helping to lead Hofstra to their best season since 2010-2011. The Pride had a 20-12 record, which included an appearance in the CAA Semifinals, and bid to the College Basketball Invitational. “Dion gave us a lot of experience,” says Hofstra guard/forward, Ameen Tanksley. “He showed us the will to win and how to pull tight games through.”

Looking back on the many changes that have occurred during his college career, Nesmith says that he has no regrets about how things played out. “I wouldn’t be in the place I am now and the position I am to do things going forward in my life if those events didn’t happen and I’m not upset with any of them,” says Nesmith. Now that his college playing days have come to an end, Nesmith has begun to look towards the future. He will graduate from Hofstra in May with a MBA degree with a concentration in business analytics. “Right now I am trying to pick an agent so I can go overseas to play basketball, but I am also weighing my options back home maybe getting a job with my MBA,” says Nesmith. After a long, but successful journey in the world of college sports, it is safe to say that Nesmith will excel in whatever path he chooses.