Cleveland begins cleansing of James

A poster of former Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James ended up head first into a garbage can in a Cleveland restaurant Thursday.

CLEVELAND --- Charred remains of a torched LeBron James jersey were scattered among ashes and 10 spent wooden matchsticks on a sidewalk across the street from Quicken Loans Arena.


Over on Ontario Street, workers prepared to remove a massive 100-foot-high billboard of James, his arms outstretched, that has been a downtown tourist attraction for years.

Now, it's only a painful reminder of another Cleveland sports loss.

"It's a disgrace," Rev. Jesse Harris said, standing with a few onlookers under James' imposing figure. "It's time to bring it down."

One day after James ripped this city's heart out by saying he was leaving for Miami, Cleveland distanced itself from a family member.

James, the schoolboy star from Akron who revived a downtrodden NBA franchise and raised championship hopes for seven seasons with the Cavaliers, is no longer welcome.

By 10 a.m. Friday, every No. 23 jersey bearing James' name inside the Cavaliers' temporary gift shop at the arena had been boxed up and taken away.

Every banner with the MVP's face on it stripped from the walls. Every figurine, T-shirt, coffee mug and pennant associated with James was gone.

Upstairs in the team's offices, employees tossed mementos of James in garbage cans.

This wasn't a cleaning. This was a cleansing.

In a matter of hours, James went from the most-adored athlete in Cleveland history to its most hated. From hero to villain before the sun rose.

The moment he announced on Thursday's nationally televised special that he was leaving to join Olympic teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Cleveland turned on him. Not everyone. Just about everyone. His most loyal fans couldn't understand why he would embarrass Ohio with the world watching.

Cleveland, whose economic woes had been softened by James' arrival and superstar ascension, never saw it coming.

Sure, there were reports he was leaning toward Miami but until James uttered: "I'm taking my talents to South Beach," no one here thought it was possible he had played his last game in a wine-and-gold uniform.

"I understand why he left, but he should have done it on a better note," said Bobby Beese, of Norwalk, Ohio. "It wasn't right."

Even those outside Cleveland felt it was mishandled.

"It seems everybody has a bad taste in their mouth, unless you're in Miami," Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Just the way the whole thing was handled, on TV and everything."

Hawks sign top pick

The Atlanta Hawks have signed first-round draft pick Jordan Crawford.

His agent said Friday the 6-foot-4 guard agreed to a four-year deal that will pay him just over $1 million in his rookie season.

Crawford averaged 20.5 points for Xavier last year.

He was drafted 27th overall by New Jersey. The Hawks traded the No. 24 pick, Damion James, for Crawford and the No. 31 pick, Tibor Pleiss, during the draft. Atlanta sent Pleiss to Oklahoma City for financial considerations.

The Hawks' rookie camp began Friday night and runs through the weekend.

-- Associated Press



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