CLEVELAND — For four years now, LeBron James has faced brutal June math.
If the man from Akron fails to go galactic in even a single game, if he misses those fallaway jumpers that make defenders close their eyes and shake their heads, if he fails to barrel to the hoop like a B.&O. freight train, if he has trouble levitating to swat away shots, if he is merely human, the Cleveland Cavaliers lose.
Ever since Ohio’s native son wandered back from his Miami Beach idyll in 2014, he has, in the N.B.A. championship round, faced the Golden State Warriors, a team that gets more talented each year. James has dragged the weakest Cavaliers team yet to this year’s showdown with the Warriors, and now it is perched at the edge of defeat’s abyss, down, three games to none.
His fans, which is to say a generous portion of the population of Ohio, have a sense of time fleeting.
James will become a free agent, and in his 34th summer, he could well leave for a better-crafted team in another city. Rumors have him going to Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia or San Antonio. In 2010, when he left for the Miami Heat, the citizens of Ohio erupted in a collective and pained tantrum, as fans burned his No. 23 jersey and the team’s billionaire owner indulged in inane talk of treachery and betrayal.