You might remember this story from the summer, the one which comes to an unofficial end Tuesday night for us NBAniks, as the season begins.
Cleveland-area Cavaliers fans wanted nothing to do with their LeBron James(notes) apparel once the "self-proclaimed King" signed with the Miami Heat, so why not collect the unused gear and ship it down to Miami, for the less fortunate to wear?
Of course, Miami-area politicians weren't exactly receptive to this sort of half-joke/half-gift. But that hasn't stopped Clevelanders from taking their Toyota down to South Beach and handing the stuff out themselves.
One forward-thinking local citizen stepped forward to collect your unwanted jerseys -- and sneakers and T-shirts and everything else LeBron -- and ship it to Miami for distribution to the homeless. In short order, Chris Jungjohann (pronounced "Young John") founded "Break Up With LeBron," a DIY collection using a website and boxes distributed at supermarkets and Yours Truly restaurants around Cleveland. Foolish, he figured, to burn perfectly good clothing that somebody somewhere would gladly wear.
Within weeks, Jungjohann had amassed more than 400 jerseys and other items. The only remaining detail was delivery to those in need. It was simple brilliance, but it was doomed to meet the buzzsaw of south Florida bureaucracy.
The Miami Coalition for the Homeless and several other agencies rejected Jungjohann's bounty. "It's on hold right now," policy director Rita Clark told us, adding that Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was privately against the project, though his spokesperson denied it. "There's a lot of politics around this."
"The general consensus was that it was an attempt to mock the homeless population," explained Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. "The reaction was a tense but pleasant ‘No thanks.'"
Well, yeah. It was meant to mock the homeless, just after the mocking of LeBron James had finished.
At the very least, if the minds behind the idea were in it for solely benevolent reasons, then they would have sent the jerseys to several cities, in amounts predicated on the amount of homeless in that particular urban setting. The fact that the bureaucracy has taken its typical hold within Miami's political scene does nothing to change that. The people stopping the shipment of LeBron James jerseys to Miami's homeless are sniveling, worrisome hand-wringers at this point, but this doesn't do anything to distract from the idea that this was a gimmick, plain and simple.
The homeless need everything they can get, and a jersey (of any origin) would help. But this is still just a basketball jersey, a polyester brand of logo and mesh without any sleeves, and hardly the most comforting style one could bestow on someone who has to live outdoors most every night. If the minds behind this idea were honest about their intentions, they'd pool all this hateful LeBron imagery and sell it online, then take the proceeds and buy a series of shirts, sweaters, hoodies and pants; to then distribute to whatever charitable organization needed it most.
But to send Cleveland Cavalier jerseys with LeBron James' name on the back to Miami is just a bad joke. It was a noble sentiment, until they were offered to Miami-only homeless.
The good thing? The people behind the initial offer are trying to get past the "bad joke" part of it all. This is a redemption story nonpareil, told by fans that were hurt to a degree unseen in the annals of popular sport. I can't even look at a picture of a Cleveland-era LeBron James jersey without shaking my head, and I'm not even a Cavs fan. How these guys do it, and work with this apparel, is beyond me. There is still a lot to argue about, regarding their approach ("wino and gold," in reference to the Cavalier team colors? Not cool), but hopefully some minds can be changed here.
This is truly a great read. Nothing heroic, and certainly nothing satisfying, but well worth your time.