[youtube]3P-ujsmJaNg[/youtube] It didn’t really hit me until Friday morning that all hope may be lost. After all, the Cavs’ elimination from the NBA playoffs Thursday night is something we sorry Cleveland sports fans should be used to by now. We have endured the Curse of Rocky Calavito for the past 50 years. We watched in horror as Jordan outmaneuvered Ehlo and sank “The Shot.” “The Fumble,” “The Drive” and “Red Right 88” are forever burned into our minds. No Cleveland sports franchise has been able to deliver a championship since Jim Brown led our beloved Brownies to the NFL title in 1964. And, over the years, we’ve reluctantly accepted that. So, hearing rabid Celtic fans chant “New York Knicks” while LeBron shot his free throws shouldn’t have bothered me. But, it did. A million repeats of the image of him (perhaps symbolically) tearing off his jersey as he walked into the bowels of TD Garden shouldn’t have made me sick to my stomach. But, it did. It felt like the sky had started to fall Friday morning. This miserable, decades-long drought was supposed to end. It had been different these last seven years…we had the best player in basketball. “Wait ’til next year” didn’t seem as bad as it had in previous years because we kept telling ourselves: “At least we’ll still have the King next year. He’ll get shit done!” Sorry to say it folks, but we may have deluded ourselves with this notion. Thanks to the devastating Game 6 loss in Beantown, the “LeBron James era” in Cleveland may very well end in less than 45 days. As we (and the entire world) know, James will be eligible for free agency on July 1 and the chances of him staying with the Cavs dramatically decreased with Thursday night’s elimination. The two-time NBA MVP said in a post-game press conference that, at this time, he “has no plans” regarding his future – another in a long line of vague statements made by James in recent years. He continued by saying he just wants to focus on winning a title – something that, to us fans, seems impossible. And, after coming oh-so-close oh-so-many-times, James might just be thinking the same thing. And the ramifications of his leaving could reach far beyond the basketball court. Without question James has played a vital role in revitalizing Northeast Ohio. Since he was drafted in 2003, the Cavaliers’ net worth has doubled and the city of Cleveland has seen an economic boom. He helped put Akron back on the map – becoming perhaps our biggest export since rubber. Unfortunately, however, the allure of other teams may be hard to resist. The Bulls have an excellent crop of young players led by Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, one of the best markets in sports and a real chance of being a legitimate contender (not to mention President Obama’s letting the world know how much he’d love to see LeBron in the red and black). The Heat have Dwyane Wade (that is if he does not opt out of his contract this summer) and the 2006 NBA Championship. The Clippers have the Hollywood appeal. The laughable Nets have Jay-Z, a new, filthy rich owner and a move to Brooklyn in the future. And the entire city of New York has been creaming their panties at the thought of LBJ in Knicks uniform. The Cavaliers may have to do something huge to get LeBron to remain in Cleveland – I’m talking like Phil Jackson, Chris Bosh or D. Wade huge. But, we may be getting ahead of ourselves. LeBron wants to win and the Knicks, Nets and Clippers have not been doing much of that lately. Granted, even if one of these teams builds around James, it will still be years before they are championship-caliber franchises. And while the Bulls and Heat have the potential, there is still LeBron’s love of Northeast Ohio. Cleveland sports fans are a harsh and unforgiving people. If he leaves, he might just become the most hated ex-Cleveland sports figure since Art the Fart. But, personally, I can’t be mad at him if he does skip town. He won’t be leaving for the money – the Cavs have the option to pay him $125.5 million over the next six years. No other team can match that (the max would be $96 million over five years). But, he wants a ring and probably shares our frustration at the Cavs’ inability to accomplish that. And that’s what really scares me.