With the re-arrival of Big Z, the Cavaliers have officially returned from the land of bad karma. That is, if you believe in the idea of karma. Lebron certainly does:
“As you can probably tell by now, I look for karma. I believe that things happen for a reason or don’t happen for a reason.” –From Shooting Stars.
This reversal of fortune of Z coming back to the team after being traded causes me to reflect on if the Cleveland Indians could have gotten back Rocky Colavito through some trade loophole. Can a possible curse be reversed? Or has the damage been done?
Z is still, ever since he was drafted in 1996, one of my favorite players to watch. He’s unassuming, modest, and easy to like. My wife and I call him ‘Relaxed Guy’, because no matter the situation, his face never contorts into someone of great suffering. Of course, there are rare, awesome moments, such as his epic, tall white-dude fight with Greg Ostertag (50 seconds into the video) that remind me how passionate he is about the game.
Z doesn’t jump when he shoots. When he’s interviewed, he shrugs off any kind of compliment. He is the definition of humility, and players like that (unless you’re a 7’3’’ sweet-shooting center) almost never make it to the NBA.
I don’t think it can be overstated enough how much it means to Lebron that Z is back on the team. Think about Z’s career arc. Foot surgeries, the star player on several coma-inducing teams, and yet he has remained a Cavalier. His example has to be something Lebron considers, especially this summer, when he will choose whether to reinvent himself with another team or establish his identity as a life-long Cavalier. The fact that Z was traded without a doubt reminded Lebron how the NBA is just a business, and that loyalty is seasonal. Yet, with Z back in the locker room, Lebron can now again see how much fans can truly love someone.
Although Cavs fans love Lebron and respect his abilities, Z, at least to me, is on a higher wavelength of admiration. When Z comes back in his first home game since being traded (Sunday against the Kings), I’m going to get goose bumps. The fact that he wasn’t offended by the trade enough to return, that he loved Cleveland enough to return, says so much about him as a person. Heck, maybe Dan Gilbert should pass out bald caps to all the fans and set a new record for ‘largest crowd pretending to be bald’…or perhaps that would look a bit too ‘Alien Nation’.
And, while I sit in awe every game watching Lebron play, he is still flirting with the idea of leaving. His reasons are of course rational, professional, and justified, but he is years away from getting the ovation Z will get on Sunday. At the moment, Lebron actually has two mirrors in the locker room, two possible career arcs. He can be like Z, who has been through so much, yet is worshipped by one city, or he can go the way of Shaq, who is well-liked by America but, at the moment, is worshipped (and when I mean worshipped, I mean ‘part of a family’) by no one.
Perhaps to Lebron, Z’s situation is a kind of karma. Whether the trade loophole absolves the Cavaliers from any wrongdoing, or ‘curse’, can only be determined in time. Coming from a fan who has watched Z his entire career, there’s one thing I know for sure: He deserves a championship.