NEW YORK—A happy, triumphant, and visibly relieved LeBron James accepted the 2009 NBA Championship trophy from commissioner David Stern at a small ceremony in New York Wednesday, just hours after the NBA announced that it would be canceling the remainder of the 2008–2009 season to give itself, and sports fans, a much-needed break.
"On behalf of the Cavaliers, I'm glad I could bring them the title, but mostly I'm just glad I don't have to play all that basketball," said James, who wore street clothes to the 15-minute presentation and left without taking questions. "You have to admit, 80 games is a lot of damn basketball. I'm still tired from last season."
"Cleveland fans are the greatest in the world," James added before leaving for an extended vacation in Costa Rica. "We couldn't have done this without them."
According to Stern, the decision to call off the season was reached by league-wide consensus late last week, when a panel of NBA coaches and front-office executives tasked with investigating professional basketball's recent dip in popularity revealed that the panel members themselves were experiencing general feelings of malaise, mental and emotional fatigue, and overall indifference towards the sport.
"At that point, it seemed prudent to give everyone a rest," Stern said. "We need to get people excited about basketball again, and it's obvious the best way to do that is to stop shoving so much basketball down people's throats all the time. I know that I myself am getting utterly sick of the game."
"And naming the Cavaliers as the champions is just good for the sport, too," Stern added. "I look forward to their title defense in 2009, when they've had time to rest up from this short but frankly exhausting season."
Stern also announced that the WNBA would continue to play its current season, but was reminded by reporters that the WNBA had actually concluded its season on Oct. 5, a fact Stern said "just goes to show you."
News of the NBA's new champion and abbreviated season was met with a combination of acclaim and relief around the basketball world, which has not had any time off from itself since a three-month strike gave everyone a welcome break from the 1998–1999 season.
"I've certainly had enough basketball in the last two weeks to last me a while," said Cleveland fan Andrew Rappman, a regular at the Cav Shack, a Cleveland-area sports bar. "It was really a great season—the Cavs only lost two games, and to see Zydrunas Ilgauskas named as Finals MVP was bittersweet, since he probably would've really had a great Finals if they'd played, and because I'm not sure he'll be back. Or me, either, actually, because I'm taking a break from hoops until March Madness starts."
"I think this is just what basketball needs," said Michele Tafoya, a former basketball reporter for ESPN. "Less basketball. There are still plenty of great stories—Iverson as a Piston, Greg Oden missing another season, the Oklahoma City Thunder winning only one game, and now the Cavaliers' first championship. I don't see how playing a couple thousand games was going to change anything."