In My Ohio

​On What Lebron Needs to Hear

Darren C. Demaree
​(written to the Explosions in the Sky album “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place”)
To Lebron James, young Ohioan –
I’m sure even with eight days off between the conference championship and the beginning of tonight’s NBA Finals that you are still tired and that there are both explainable and unexplainable pains in your body right now. That sort of pain carries a weight with it, and it has to be nearly impossible to play a sport that involves near flight and actual flight when you’re carrying that sort of weight around with you.
I know that is not the only weight you’re carrying right now either. Your championship-caliber team is missing some pieces, and some of the pieces available to you are not whole. Kevin Love is out, physically and emotionally, he’s not there. Kyrie Irving is playing gutsy on one knee that isn’t going to be any better until next season. Iman Shumpert has been dealing with a groin issue. The rest of the talented players on your team are pretty young, and they are not use to playing a hundred-game season, so they’re pretty damn exhausted. You are the best player in the world, you’re being asked to carry your team now, and that (on any given night) can be too much weight.
Then, of course there is Ohio. You wrote that letter when you came back to Cleveland, and the sincerity and understanding you showed there meant something to us. Cleveland sports fans are pretty desperate to celebrate something right now. There is the history of near misses, of failing in a tortuous fashion, and you know about that. There is also a great civil unrest in Cleveland right now and just maybe, basketball is the best distraction at the best time for the City of Cleveland, and you know that as well. To toil for where you come from, contributing to your home, trying to elevate it to new heights is a goal worthy of any great man, and you have done that no matter what happens in the next week or so, but to win, to incite joy in the hearts of your brothers and sisters, that is an achievement very few can claim.
So, with the knowledge we have about you, your intelligence and heart, I know there is nothing you are unaware of or unprepared for in regards to the next four to seven basketball games, but please allow one of the proudest men from your home, a poet and beloved Cleveland fan a few more words…
You are Lebron James. You are the greatest athlete Ohio has known since Jesse Owens, and he was able to win Olympic gold and embarrass the hell out of Adolf Hitler. You are the world’s greatest basketball player, and nobody in the national media thinks you can pull this off. They’re all saying Warriors in six. They say you would have to play otherworldly for six or even seven games to give us a chance to win the series. I say you are Lebron James and you can do that. You are an Ohioan, and that carries with it the likes of John Glenn and John D. Rockefeller, of eight presidents, and innumerable artistic talents. You are Lebron James and what is in front of you is the cosmos of athletic achievement, and if you want to become a constellation you’re going to have to play in a way that would inspire an entire state of people.
I am great in effort only, and rarely when my name is spoken does it inspire any curiosity outside of the very small poetry community. I am a young Ohioan, slightly older than you, and I’m going to keep my son up for the beginning of each game and point at the television to tell him that the best man on the court is from Ohio. He’s not quite three, but he will know that just by watching the pride in which you move with. My son won’t understand why I’m celebrating at the end of this series, but that won’t matter much.
You are Lebron James, and you can do this. You are Lebron fucking James, and you can do this. When you defy gravity or hit a step-back three, I yell, “Because he’s Lebron James!” You are Lebron James, and you will do this because you can, because you’re an Ohioan, because it is your turn to redefine once again (like Glenn and Rockefeller) what it means to be from Ohio. It means that greatness was always a possibility, and now it is a reality.