Politicians honoring successful sports teams is nothing new but the Ohio's governor decision to heap praise on the new NBA champs, from Texas, is sure to draw notice for the not-too-subtle jab taken at the basketball star who fled the Buckeye State leaving millions of his fans steamed.
While running for office, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich had a clear position on LeBron James. Last June, Kasich told Alan Colmes' Fox Radio Show, "We've lost 400,000 jobs out here and the last guy I worry about is LeBron James."
A month later the NBA All-Star announced he was "taking his talents" to Miami, shunning his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers who drafted the Ohio native out of high school. The move broke the hearts of many Cleveland sports fans, who saw James as the key to ending a long running major sports championship drought. The last Cleveland team to win a title was the Cleveland Browns which brought home the (pre-Super Bowl era) NFL title in 1964.
But LeBron moved on...and Kasich won the gubernatorial race.
Then, Sunday night, the James-led Miami Heat lost the NBA title to the Dallas Mavericks. In the next day's Cleveland Plain-Dealer, above the fold, above the masthead was a post-game picture of James solemn-faced, with the headline: "Dallas Leaves LeBron Ringless"
Perhaps all this inspired Kasich to revisit his ‘LeBron policy'. Monday, the governor's office announced a proclamation bestowing honorary Ohio citizenship to the entire Dallas Mavericks team. The document also noted a decision by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki:
WHEREAS, NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Dirk Nowitzki chose to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2010, forgoing free agency and keeping his talents in Dallas, thus remaining loyal to the team, city and fans for whom he played his entire career.
There was no mention of James, but the praise for Nowitzki certainly underscores a contrast with the decision James made. The proclamation continued:
WHEREAS, the proud city of Cleveland and the entire state of Ohio share in the excitement of Dallas Mavericks fans everywhere.
Officially, there was no mention of James in the document. However, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols says, "I don't think you have to be the most intuitive person to figure out what the intent here is."
Nichols says the proclamation idea was being kicked around in the governor's office earlier in the NBA Finals when, as Nichols says, "The Dallas Mavericks decided they weren't going to roll over and play dead for Miami."
Was the Governor smiling when he signed the proclamation? "Yeah," confirms Nichols
Likely, so were some other Ohioans on the day after the 2010-2011 NBA season ended.
Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.