“You’re Welcome, Cleveland — How I Helped LeBron James Win a Championship and Save a City” by Scott Raab (Harper, 253 pages, $25.99)
The NBA season is winding down. Two remaining teams will battle for a championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping to repeat. Last season they ended decades of frustration for Cleveland sports fans by defeating the favored Golden State Warriors in a thrilling seven-game series.
As the Cavs hoisted their trophy, Scott Raab celebrated. In an interview Raab told me that was the happiest day of his life. He was the epitome of the long-suffering Cleveland rooter. A native of the city, he spent decades carrying around his ticket stub from the previous Cleveland sports triumph, the football championship won by the Cleveland Browns when Raab was 12.
Six years ago, Raab was confident star player LeBron James would lead the Cavs to a championship — he was working on a book about what he felt was inevitable. Then LeBron James obliterated Raab’s fantasy. He announced he was leaving Cleveland to play for Miami. Raab was devastated, flabbergasted, and very, very angry.
In 2012 he published a different book from the one he had intended to write. “The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James” was Raab’s vicious and embittered retort to what the author believed was a dastardly act of betrayal. James grew up in northeast Ohio, and Raab despised how he had abandoned the region.
LeBron won a pair of championships at Miami. Raab stewed. Then the miracle happened. The man who Raab considers to be the greatest NBA player in history decided to return to Cleveland to try to win a ring with the Cavaliers.
Raab, who had a long career writing for magazines like Esquire, was beyond jubilant. As LeBron began the process of leading his team to glory Raab observed with glee and started writing a book which eventually became “You’re Welcome, Cleveland — How I Helped LeBron James Win a Championship and Save a City.”
The book traces the transformation that the team underwent to achieve their goal. Team chemistry had to change. They assembled a supporting cast of players and the coach who ultimately gave LeBron what he needed to win it all. It took a couple of years to get there.
In “You’re Welcome, Cleveland” the author takes us to many games. He describes how when he tried to obtain press credentials his request went nowhere. The organization had not forgotten or forgiven his previous trashing of their star player.
The book ends as Cleveland wins it all. The long-suffering Raab doubted it to the very last instant. He watched LeBron deliver the death blow to Golden State: “If I live a thousand years, I will never see a better play or a better basketball player.”
His book is a love letter to the city of Cleveland and to King James and his Cavaliers. It is also an act of contrition. He’s sorry, LeBron, he truly is.
You can hear my interview with Scott Raab on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3).
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