Keep in mind several things. I'm not a LeBron James apologist. I'm not here to sell the idea that the new "superteam" is actually what's gonna happen. I'm skeptical that any superteam is imminent. And, while I don't think it's impossible (what's really impossible after all?), I also don't think it's a guarantee a lot of things are gonna happen down the road.
So, if you're a LeBron apologist and plan to argue that LeBron is the best player in the NBA, than go for it. However, it's not an argument. Additionally, I'm aware LeBron's numbers are legendary while he was with the Cavs. I'm aware he won 2 MVP's while with the Cavs. I'm aware the players the Cavs had were scrubs that LeBron by himself made Cleveland watchable. (Except for the games he took off.) LeBron made the Cavs a 66 & 61 win team all by himself. And he did this without the help of an ark or a cross. And on the 8th day he rested.
Yet LeBron, besides being a dumb martyr for an entire state like Ohio, will have to live with the consequences of his actions.
So, at the end of the day, if you don't like criticism of LeBron (and you know who you are), don't read it. I didn't watch the LeBron stupidfest on ESPN and that was my choice. (In fact, I stayed off Twitter and my laptop until well after the decision by LeBron James. On purpose.) It can be your choice to ignore what I have to say about LeBron. This is my compromise of sorts. I get to write a big extended hub bub about LeBron James instead of watching his hour of stupidity on ESPN.
If you haven't read John Krolik's before LBJ's decision, you probably should. Read his after piece at Pro Basketball Talk. Henry Abbott had a good piece (pro LeBron) about this. JA Adande has good thoughts. Mitch Lawrence shows the NY Hate (and ego). Mike Vaccaro had a good piece in the Post. David Thorpe opined about the title chances of the Heat (before LBJ's decision but still valid). Nate Silver had a good piece on the move may cost LBJ money. And Silver is not referring to the contract James will sign in Miami. Woj says it more succinctly than I did. The part about Gilbert? Totally true. But, I put too much time and effort to not finish this.
I'm not the biggest fan of LeBron James. (I would have drafted Darko Milicic over LBJ. Also Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. I'm not saying I'm right now. I'm just saying what I thought in 2003.) Never have been. I'm not denying his talent or his abilities to make him a two-time MVP. On the other hand, I watched a young Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony push their teams into the playoffs. I don't ever expect young superstars like Wade/Anthony to do more than they can, but both did everything they could to make their teams better immediately. LeBron James didn't. The Cavs came up 2 games short of the Stephon Marbury led Knicks in 2004. James' Cavaliers then finished tied with the Nets (while having a team that flopped down the stretch) in 2005. Failure. Unfair? For Vince Carter maybe. Not LeBron James. Not when you're compared to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Not when you gloat and soak in all the hype and attention that he had from the time he was 16 years old.
Then, Danny Ferry and Mike Brown were hired. Despite the ugliness of Carlos Boozer leaving the Cavs for the Jazz, and the firing of Paul Silas for Brendan Malone (not sure how much that really affected the Cavs missing the playoffs in 05), LeBron James eventually made the Cavaliers into a 50 win team. And so on & so forth. You know much of the rest. Eventually, James would win 2 MVP awards (well earned) and the Cavaliers would win 66 & 61 games in back to back seasons. Yet, this wasn't enough. And with the King around, it never is.
It wasn't enough they re-signed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (something James pushed for and threatened to not sign an extension over), and it wasn't enough that the Cavs signed Larry Hughes to a 5 year deal that James was happy with. (James was unhappy the Cavs weren't making moves. As it turned out, they ended up making moves. Many moves and none of them were enough.) Then came the Hughes trade for Ben Wallace (something LeBron wanted) and the Shaq trade (also something LeBron wanted). LeBron pushed the Cavs to get Amare Stoudemire (something the Cavs couldn't pull off despite reports they were wary to put in JJ Hickson; the reality is the Cavs didn't have enough assets to snag Amare) and ended up with Antawn Jamison (something LeBron wanted). LeBron wanted to play with his friends and superstars. He tried to have it both ways. But people jump onto a champions lap; you don't set it up that way. I guess LeBron never learned that part.
Then of course the flameout against Orlando in 2009, and against Boston in 2010. It was ugly both times. LeBron James, who shook hands in the previous 2 rounds against Atlanta and Detroit, said he didn't shake hands with the Magic after losing the series because he "couldn't stand losing". Fine. Don't shake hands period then. But of course this is LeBron-land where reality doesn't actually exist. Since LeBron is going to change the world, only losers shake hands. (Which of course excludes the irony of if you're shaking the hands of a loser, how does that not make you a loser? Of course, LeBron isn't smart enough to see lucidity in an argument.)
The ESPN thing last night was over the top, but so has been LeBron mania. New York fans cheered LeBron on while scoring 52 on the Knicks. That was shameful, but so was Isiah Thomas' tenure. Eye for an eye I suppose. Yet, now that LeBron decided to not come to New York (I don't think it mattered where LeBron picked since New York is the only place where LBJ should have ended up), it's also open season on LeBron James. This is the guy who many have killed the crap on the Cavs roster (that he pushed for but that's a slight detail in this age of LeBron defense), but have ignored the same argument with Wade and Bosh. Bosh isn't exactly a world beater. An All-World talent yes, but not a world beater. An alpha dog franchise guy he is not. That's okay, but Bosh leaving Toronto wasn't a surprise. He wanted to pair up with Dwyane Wade. Notice a theme? Bosh and James wanted to pair with Wade. Sounds to me like there's an alpha dog, and since we know that isn't Bosh, and I'm pretty sure that isn't LeBron James, that only leaves 1 fella left. Make no mistake: I've always though Dwyane Wade was a franchise player if his body holds up. That remains the question here: Can Wade's body hold up? Can he ease off enough during the regular season to lead the Heat when it matters most? Wade can do this you know. He's proven that he's a leader. Bosh hasn't proven shit other than putting up stats and underachieving with decent Toronto rosters (you might argue they were better than Cleveland but I wouldn't).
That's the brutal irony here. LeBron James left Cleveland to play with Dwyane Wade. He certainly didn't leave to go play with Chris Bosh. Wherever Wade went was where the other 2 were willing to go. That sounds like great leadership on LeBron James' part.
The Miami Heat is Dwyane Wade's team. Not LeBron James' team, and certainly not Chris Bosh's. (It's funny how much Bosh is an after thought here. Bosh has his own share of detractors on this deal too.) If the Miami Heat win rings, it will because Dwyane Wade led them there. No more or less.
This is probably more about LeBron James' legacy than anything else. As is, James is a fucking judas punk who dumped on his hometown (and former teammates and organization) by announcing that he was leaving via the network who practically squealed at the thought (and had been squealing for nearly 24 hours after it was leaked that James would sign in Miami) of Wade, Bosh and James playing together. It was basketball coverage nirvana for ESPN. Finally the superteam would be built and ESPN would have the "new millenium" dynasty that gave up money and glory to play together. So many storylines would be all there. It was an encompassing story that left the Bulls trading Hinrich (and the pick that ended up being Kevin Seraphin--a mistake on 2 fronts now but probably one worth chasing if you're being honest), and the Nets trading Yi Jianlian (something they probably do anyway). Yet, you already have NY columnists saying that this year was more than LeBron James and the Knicks never promised they'd get LeBron. (I think Donnie Walsh knew. But he also knew that waiting for 2011 wasn't really worth much either. 3 years of bad basketball was too much to be "safe". So the Knicks had to go for it too.) The Clippers believed they had a shot at luring LeBron. (Donald Sterling is a nut but he nearly had Kobe in 2004. Of course, Kobe made the right decision. Kobe makes those most of the time I've found.) The funny thing here is I can say there is life after LeBron for every team involved except the Cavaliers. They're going to have some difficulties and a lot of rebuilding to undertake.
Just click on this. Truly priceless.
I don't like quitters or guys who leave because it got too hard. LeBron's teammates may not have been Wade or Bosh. But they don't suck either. And, how is it possible the Cavs win 60+ games 2 years with most of the same roster and LeBron? I mean, was Lebron playing 1 on 5 all 82 games? Dwyane Wade did that. Chris Bosh kinda sorta showed up for some games and not for others. (Which he'll do in Miami.) Wade didn't quit on Miami. He kept fighting for Miami and believed in Pat Riley's plan. LeBron James pushed Dan Gilbert and Danny Ferry to acknowledge his whims. They did and James' turned around and blamed them. That's leadership. You get your way when you want it for 7 years, and then it doesn't work out and you run. Yeah LeBron, you're aces kid. I'm so glad the Kings couldn't get in touch with you and your out of touch reality. The Kings would be fucked for a long time with your punk cutting and run ass around. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
LeBron James is a guy who is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. A lifelong Akron guy, he's the ultimate frontrunner. And like all frontrunners, he's not all that interesting (as his Mortimer Snerd outfit proved on ESPN), and has no imagination. He wants his cake and to eat it too. I think he thinks that he will be loved throughout the NBA universe. He's going to find out that he's not only not loved, but nearly hated throughout the NBA universe.
I don't have a problem with LeBron James leaving the Cavs in one sense. He wanted to win championships and what not. I don't really have a problem with him taking meetings in Cleveland with teams as that's where he lives (or lives very close by). But, why doesn't 7 years of time and effort spent not count? I mean, it's not the Cavaliers fault that they signed Anderson Varejao to a ridiculous contract that you told them you wanted them to give. (Which Danny Ferry knew was a problem. But whatever.) Dan Gilbert deserved to see the ultimate frontrunning bandwagon baby of all time walk on him. Dan Gilbert never saw LeBron James for what he is and his angry manifesto last night was proof of that. But, this isn't about what the Cavs as an organization didn't do for LeBron James. James could have handled his departure a billion times better. He lured 6 teams with hopes & dreams of signing him. Then he teased them all. While every FA literally was making deals, James had to be the last one to say anything. Even Wade and Bosh made their decision after some time dragged on. Still, neither guy went with the hoopla that James went with. At least they went through their decision with some level of decency. I don't really think what Bosh did on Twitter was that big of a deal, and I'm not really sure why it matters what Bosh told the Raptors or not. It's not like anyone was expecting Bosh to stay in Toronto. But James went on ESPN. He didn't meet with teams in various locales. Bosh did that. Wade did that. Hell, Stoudemire did that. James made the world come to him. And, like a bitch bandwagon front runner punk, he also reveled in the clandestine drama of his decison making process. It was news. As Adrian Wojnarowski shrewdly noted, LeBron won the "championship of me".
You know who the winners of 2010 are? Dwyane Wade for being the real superstar to draw players to come play with him. Even though it's viewed as a 3 part decision that all 3 are taking part of, Wade is still the lead dog in this pack. Not a 2 time MVP, or a 4 time All-Star. Wade. It's Dwyane Wade that pushes this Miami Heat team to championships. Not LeBron James. Not Chris Bosh. Pat Riley is also a major winner for convincing Wade first and then Bosh/James one by one. Machiavelli is not something that Riley is being associated with for nuttin.
ESPN with their wacked out social bullshit programming is another winner here. Talk about a masturbatory exercise of bullshit, ESPN sucked everyone in. In the process, they've also had major storylines (that bores the shit outta me already I gotta tell you) written for the next 5 years all revolving around this trio. All revolving around their portential glory. Every young sportswriter will find an angle in this to get themselves noticed. (Or, if they are already noticed find a way to use it as a selling point on a resume.) The built in numeruos storylines of jealousy (that will almost certainly be written about many teams throughout the NBA), are already being written. The taking sides of LeBron James and his decision to go to Miami is already happening with writers (and good ones at that) like Henry Abbott. John Krolik, all of that ripe age of 21, has shown as much balance and thought towards this process as possible for someone of any age. Like most things though, sometimes you get more than you bargained for. The good is seeing the amount of perspective in this. The bad is alot of everything else.
Stephen A Smith and Alan Hahn are winners for being the first (Smith awhile ago and Hahn last night) for really getting this piece of news out there.
Losers include the Cavaliers for believing James would fulfill his route as an icon of sorts and finish what he started in Cleveland. I can't blame them as they played their only hand after trying to dig themselves out of an early and deep hole. Pat Riley played this well overall, but he didn't ever plan on getting LeBron James until last season. That was all luck really. The biggest loser was Dan Gilbert for not realizing how to run his team appropriately and successfully. He didn't know better, but the consequences are devastating for him and Cleveland. Hopefully the Cavs one day get that championship. It's never over 'till it's over as the saying goes. Maybe LeBron James can appreciate that. Yogi Berra was a Yankee after all.
Losers include WorldWide Wesley for losing out on LeBron James influence. He essentially got shut out of the decision process very late in the game when James' didn't like Wes was suggesting. It never appealed to LeBron James to be the leader of the Bulls' roster. (Something Wes didn't realize. And, Wes was not alone.) I think that was the problem with the Nets too.
Another loser is LeBron James' himself. His legacy, his 2 MVP's, the amazing performances against Detroit, the leading of the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007, and the relationship with fans, not just in NE Ohio and Akron/Cleveland, but all of the world have taken a hit. LeBron James decided to take a run at rings and be a Scottie Pippen to Dwyane Wade's Michael Jordan. Yet, Wade doesn't have 2 MVP's and legendary numbers. Just willing to ride someone else's cape for A LITTLE WHILE shows a tremendous amount of weakness in a player like James'. Certainly not enough to be mentioned with the likes of Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade. They are too good for James now. And mentioning Michael Jordan and LeBron James in the same sentence. In my world? That's heresy. You should shoot yourself for committing such a volatile act of stupidity.
Since this is all about scathing rage for LeBron that I don't really have, and all that, let me put this thing over the top. It's embarrassing that the 2 time MVP went to Miami and quit on his hometown. (If I were Akron, I'd take down the "LeBron James lives here sign" and replace it with "LeBron James was born here" sign. No better way to show that he's dead to you by acting like he's dead 50+ years in advance. Is that mean? Absolutely. But I'm a prick and that's just my opinion.) If You want to put LeBron James in the same conversation as Scottie Pippen, and I mean this wholeheartedly, you're disrespecting basketball. Dwyane Wade doesn't believe that, but Wade didn't quit on his team. James did. I find this quote funny as hell from Dwyane Wade:
In Miami, Wade said he was stunned by Gilbert’s comments. "I think I’m happy that I have the owner that I have here in Miami," Wade told The Associated Press late Thursday night. "I’m happy Micky Arison is my owner. I couldn’t believe it. I’m speechless. It’s very unfortunate and I think it makes LeBron that much better about his decision. "We knew ‘Bron would take some backlash," Wade added in his interview with AP. "I told him he’s a strong man for it."
Wait a minute D-Wade. You find it upsetting that an owner that did everything LeBron James wanted and tried to win a championship in Cleveland is feeling burned and betrayed by LeBron going on national TV and saying he picked Miami? I can see you feel that way, and you're supporting LeBron James here, but I hope you don't get tired of defending LBJ. It's going to be a lot of work for you over the next 5 years. Hope your shoulders aren't tired bud.
George Karl sums up a better sentiment that I feel:
"I’m suspicious," Karl said. "I’m suspicious about the whole system. I think it buried [Cleveland]. It’s going to bury them for a while with the combination of your best player ever [leaving] and then keeping him in the same conference where you got to play him four times."
Anyone who compares James to Pippen is quite missing the point. At least Pippen tried. No, Pippen had plenty of dumb me first dumbshit moments, but he didn't quit on his team. (He was pissed off Phil Jackson didn't want to give him the shot in game 3 of that Chicago-New York series that Kukoc got. That's not the same thing.) This isn't about LeBron passing up Game-Winning shots or anything like that. This is about simple desire to win. Pippen wanted to be the man even if he wasn't the guy who should have been. He didn't run away from a tough playoff series without Jordan around. He wanted the challenge and went after it. LeBron James quit. Michael Jordan, as a 23 year old, went up against one of the greatest playoff teams in the 86 Celtics. He didn't quit, and didn't give in despite having a roster he would have loved to go at those Celtics team with. And, of course, we also have this MJ moment:
You say LeBron did this? Uh, no he did not. Sorry. He didn't drop 63 on all-time great like Dennis Johnson. That's the stuff of legend. LeBron is the stuff of showboating me first crap.
And you know what? That wasn't even Jordan's real playoff legacy. That was the selfish brat where Jordan only cared about making shots and his glory. Where he was a showboating me first image punk who got married to cultivate his image. (That was obviously quite a few years later.) Michael Jordan is no Saint, but he might as well be Saint Michael compared to LeBron James. Jordan, in a losing battle against one of the great teams of All-Time, didn't quit. Against great defenders? Didn't quit. When he wasn't making shots or having a good game? Didn't quit. He would dive after loose balls because he needed to win. I've heard countless stories about Jordan over the years that have made me shake my head. Begrudgingly, and I hated Jordan in his prime (trust me on this), I'll admit Jordan is far & away the best basketball player I've ever seen. Not a close 2nd. I saw Hakeem Olajuwon's prime when he gave up his bitchy me first attitude (probably cuz he converted to Islam), and Dennis Rodman's nonsense with his hair and wedding dress. Those were competitors. Charles Barkley was a competitor. Barkley, and he's admitted that winning a title is not everything (which it isn't), was driven to win titles. Barkley knows he didn't quit on his teams and gave what he had when it counted.
If you want put LeBron James in the hallowed annals of baskeball lore, do so at your own risk. But you might as well not have lore and greatness if you're going to put a me first showboating punk like LeBron James who just shit on his own legacy that he was building in Cleveland to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Barkley didn't do that. Jordan didn't do that. (They also didn't have the opportunity but I'm not sure neither would have chosen to do so. As it was, Jordan had 4 titles and chose to stay in Chicago in 1996 rather than try for a new challenge with the Knicks. Jordan was smart, brutal, and ruthless that way. That, and 63 million dollars is a lot of cheddar to leave on the table.) Jordan didn't always play with Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, or Dennis Rodman. He didn't always have it easy. Like Pippen, MJ was killed in the late 80's for being selfish and not committed to winning. This was from the same press that voted him MVP & Defensive Player of the Year mind you. These were people who saw Jordan as a great player. They saw him as a legendary player who had a chance to cement his legacy by winning titles in Chicago. By coming to the Bulls and winning titles, the Bulls are now a legendary franchise because of Jordan. I'm not sure the Cavs could ever have had that opportunity, but winning 2 or 3 titles in Cleveland would have put LeBron on that stratosphere. He left that because playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is easier than playing with Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao (both players that LeBron James was happy with acquiring). LeBron James wanted to win on his own. When that didn't work out, he's trying a new "different" strategy that will end up making him his own man. But, as Scott Carefoot of the Score noted:
I was talking to a colleague, Aaron King, about LeBron’s imminent decision yesterday and he pointed out that if LeBron joined the Heat, he would be like the "A-Rod" to D-Wade’s "Jeter". Like Alex Rodriguez, LeBron comes off as a soulless mercenary — someone who has become very difficult to admire and very easy for most fans to hate. Yes, I know that "great attracts hate", but you can hate somone like Kobe Bryant and still respect his accomplishments. No matter how many titles LeBron wins in Miami, most people will see him as somebody who tried to take a shortcut to the top rather than trying to create his own legacy.
Players the caliber of James and with his accomplishments don't take this crap. Oh wait, yes they do. Magic Johnson took crap for losing the 84 series to Boston. Larry Bird took it personally that the Celtics lost to LA in 85. Magic Johnson pushed the Lakers into the Finals in 1991. That ranks as one of his greatest accomplishments ever (and there are many). I don't blame LeBron James for not winning titles. I never did. I don't blame LeBron James for not taking Game Winning shots. As many have noted, Michael Jordan didn't take all of them either. But here's the difference: LeBron James has never done the hard thing. He cares about his image more than making the wrong play for the right reasons. Kobe Bryant gets killed for having his best game during the Boston-LA series in game 4. Nevermind that the rest of the Lakers were taking the night off, because that's all Kobe's fault (because no player is responsible except for the star--except LeBron James who had a bad roster), and Kobe kept the Lakers (how I'll never know) in the game with the 3rd quarter explosion. It was ridiculous, and I've seen a lot of that from Kobe Bryant over the years. I've never seen that from LeBron James. Not once. He'll never not go down swinging in a losing cause. (And no not taking shots is not what I'm talking about.)
Michael Jordan was a loser of the highest order. He fucked scores of women (and protected his image by being a "family man"), married for his image and no other reason, and tried to get every player on the Bulls traded at one point. A glorious human being Jordan is not. He's not someone (if I had children) I'd be thrilled to have them meet. Again, I don't admire Jordan as a human being. But as a basketball player, and as someone who was, by many accounts, the best to ever play this game, Jordan always respected the game. He would play hard even if he was 3-20 from the floor. He still thought he could win. I saw a game like this in the 97 or 98 season. Jordan couldn't hit a shot (which was so surprising given he never missed like that) all game long. For some reason, the team playing them (I think it was Houston) couldn't shake the Bulls. Nobody was playing great, but everybody on the team kept getting after it. There wasn't a ton at stake for the Bulls really, it was just another regular season game (the Bulls won 72, 68 & 67 games in their 2nd 3-peat--this was not an irregular practice to win) that they went out after winning. When you're the top dog, and you have someone by the nuts, you don't let go until you can no longer hold on. Even then, when you lose grip you still go down swinging. You're the champion until someone knocks you off. Pippen knew it. Rodman knew it. Kukoc knew it. Jordan knew it. Phil Jackson knew it. The NBA as a league and organization knows it. There is a cost to being on top, and all of those figures at one point or another paid for it. (Even after having won titles.) The next time any of those guys quit on their team in the playoffs, it will be the first.
Am I supposed to applaud LeBron James for leaving the Cavs? I don't care that he did all the bitch boy publicist shit. (I expected it.) I avoided the announcement ), and I figured by the time I saw it on a TV that LBJ had agreed to go to Miami. I had a feeling this was the case well before I knew in part because I saw this guy near the bus stop I was at and he was talking about Dwyane Wade and Chicago. I knew he was not talking about Chris Bosh. LeBron James generates excitement. In Cleveland, he was brilliant for the league as it was the perfect antidote to saying that the league didn't want star players in small markets. (I consider Cleveland, with Ohio as the backdrop, as a mid market myself. 13 million+ people is not a small amount if you ask me.) The point though is that even with all the questions should have the league interfered, it shouldn't have. The NBA can't force legacies upon players, and that's attempting to change history. David Stern knows LeBron James made a bad decision. If LeBron asks him 10 years should he have stayed in Cleveland and won a title or two, or win 4 or 5 in Miami, Stern would likely answer (if it wasn't being made public) that staying in Cleveland would be better for LBJ's legacy. That's just the way this deal works. If James' cares about his legacy, and he clearly does not (which is surprising given how image conscience and brand oriented James is), then he might have recognized that his best shot at being a true icon was to stay in Cleveland. It was a hard decision seeing players he really loved to play with (first sign James is not a legendary icon) going elsewhere. It's tough yes, but it's not like it's the end of the world. Oscar Robertson and Jerry West won 2 titles between them. How often does that come up with discussing either gentleman's legacies? (A Cleveland columnist pointed this out.) It's not about titles, or even how many you win exactly, but now you do it.
Contrary to popular belief, I believe in the best of people. Even in a me-first twat like LeBron James. I'm cynical, no doubt, and I have my doubts about Mickey Mouse campaigns telling me how wondeful life is. I have CNN that contradicts this view quite well. But believing that someone can understand how to make the most of his legacy is something I'll believe in every time. LeBron James just proved to me he's a younger Vince Carter. Which is sad when you think about it. Truly sad. For the NBA, for Cleveland, for LeBron fans (who are in denial), and for the rest of us who have said some of this stuff about LeBron James before. You want to tell me that LeBron James 2 MVP's are that valuable given that he walked away to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? I get that players like to do that stuff, but I'm of the belief that great players believe they can do it on their own. They take the risk and they take the act upon themselves to do things that noone believed except them that they could do. Dwyane Wade has done that for instance. (And well.) If Wade has his way, and stays healthy, he'll almost certainly do so again. Notice, I'm not dissing Dwyane Wade here. Or even Chris Bosh who acted half as badly as James did in this process. I'm focusing mostly on LeBron James. Why? He was the next "insert legend he has no business being mentioned with" and would change the way we thought about basketball. (My opinions have changed a lot in the 7 years, but LeBron James has not convinced me of anything other than he's a me first drama whore.) Here's the problem though: LeBron never sacrificed anything (and wouldn't) to let Cleveland be in the position to have cap space. He wanted Cleveland to sign his friends, have cap space in 2010, and make his decision. You can't have it in both ways in this world and yet LeBron James expected the Cavs to do just that. Just like he was too scared to fail when it came to dunk contests, or anything else, this is just another long line where James is a pretender. He's a mirage of someone sitting on the throne who likes the glory of the attention rather than the work itself. James' isn't interested in becoming a great basketball player, but merely a famous rich basketball player. Except, he's so stupid that he doesn't get Jordan protected his brand at all costs. Jordan was ruthless about that. But Jordan has a love for basketball I'm not sure LeBron has. LeBron uses it for fame and all that. Jordan, though, didn't do that. The game itself, the basketball game, was sacred to Jordan. It's sacred to Kobe Bryant too if you're looking for a modern player.
Sam Smith once told a great story about Jordan that I think succinctly sums up Jordan well. The real essence; not the bullshit media image that LeBron has bought into. (Which is why LeBron thinks his brand will be truly untouched if the Heat wins. He's wrong about that.) There was a guy who once told Jordan that Jordan & 4 guys off the street could win a NBA game. Jordan then challenged the guy in a pickup game. The guy was excited, it's Michael Jordan after all, and Jordan then proceeded to kick the living shit out of the guy. Wouldn't let the guy dribble to where he wanted to go. To even get off a shot. I'm sure the guy learned to not spout that point off after that. (You would hope.) The point is, among other things, is that Jordan knew how difficult it was to attain greatness. That only a handful of players could achieve what he desired, and he went about it in a ruthless conniving fashion that only the great one's can accomplish. Look, I'm not mad because LeBron James left the Cavs. I'm angry because the guy put up stats to say he did. He did so because winning MVP awards is what great players do. He won games in the regular season because that's what you do. He thinks that Jordan winning 6 titles is what truly makes Jordan great. (Or Bryant with 5 titles for that matter.) That isn't really it, and I know that because I've watched Kobe's entire career from the time he was getting dogged for having the temerity to be an 18 year old kid trying to beat the Jazz in a playoff game. Kobe Bryant has always taken his share of shots. He knows it's part of the game. He enjoyed being the sweet smiling superstar in his entire 20's to be reviled and despised worldwide by his mid 20's. (Only person falling faster from grace is LeBron himself. Kinda ironic.) Kobe Bryant was always his own man. (Only Kobe could be criticized for being married too early. And that was from his father no less.) Michael Jordan that he got married and had children just to have a good image. (Like Tiger Woods as well. Except, well, Tiger was supremely stupid and got what he had coming. While I'm not the biggest advocate of blondes, cheating on Elie Woods is plum dumb stupid if you ask me. How do you improve on that?)
This isn't about Kobe Bryant vs LeBron James. While I liked Kobe Bryant much more before the Colorado incident (no I don't think Kobe's guilty; mainly because why would he need to rape a woman?), I'm also not stupid. I'm not giving a pass to Kobe Bryant here for his bad moments. I"m saying it's hypocritical to talk about Kobe in these moments and excuse LeBron James for his lack of class, and not showing up at critical times. Why does LeBron James get this pass? For what? Cuz he's LeBron James? If you're doing this, and I know plenty of LeBron apologists are, alll you're doing is cheating the game and the process. I didn't make the process or the game up; I'm just noting the rules. You don't like it? Don't follow. It's that simple. LeBron wants the glory without the guts. You're going to kill some people, and along the way there's gonna be blood. LeBron James doesn't get that. He thinks he can change the fundamental nature of the NBA? Good luck to James on that, but he's not. The NBA has been around 60 years now. People have been around 7000 years. Yes, we've changed and had new ideas, technology. But people to our basic core? Not changed. It's not likely to happen. It's hard to drastically change the fundamental nature of one's DNA. LeBron James doesn't seem to understand that. Michael Jordan's greatness wasn't that he won 6 titles. His greatness was having to build a title team from scratch (something Larry Bird & Magic Johnson didn't really experience) and building it from there. To knuckle & brawl to the top once he got there after 7 seasons. There was a ton of bloodshed and feelings hurt. LeBron James is supposedly an aficionado of history, but he doesn't understand this. James thinks it's about the 6 titles; it's about the journey Jordan took really. That's the legend; not the results.
LeBron James left his sorrowful band of believers in Cleveland. He has his apologists who are saying that James is getting killed since Cleveland bowed out in May. (Which is true.) Here's the difference between what Kobe Bryant did in 2006 and what LeBron James did in May. Bryant's Lakers were not championship contenders. (Which the Suns were.) They didn't win 61 games during the regular season. Bryant didn't win the MVP award. Kobe Bryant got killed for shooting too much, and got killed for not shooting. He got killed for not achieving perfection. Either way, Bryant was up for criticism. Bryant did ask to be traded. Sure, he did want Jason Kidd. That's not the same thing I'm killing James for. That's the point. James wanted his stars and his friends on the Cavs. It doesn't work that way. He expected the Cavs to go out and get Amare Stoudemire and was disappointed with Antawn Jamison even though he lobbied for him too. That's LeBron James in a nutshell: He expects a trade and unrealistic happenings. The difference is that the Lakers could HAVE DONE a Bynum for Kidd swap. Nothing the Cavs had to trade for Amare Stoudemire was good enough for the Suns to bite. (I'll always contend the Suns made the right decision. The Suns had no 1st round pick after giving it up to the Thunder in the Kurt Thomas deal in 2007. They had nothing to lose by keeping Stoudemire until the end of the season and trying to win in the playoffs. Nothing.)
At the end of the day, I think it comes down to expectation. I expected that LeBron James to continue to hang in games. I expected him to push his teams higher than they could go on natural talents. The great one's do that. I've never felt that LeBron James has really done that as often as he could. Is that a high or impossible standard? Sure. But that standard is applied to Kobe Bryant. Why not apply it to LeBron too? If LeBron is a true icon of the NBA (and to many he is), why not blame him for quitting on his team or not playing well? Isn't that LeBron James job to lead his teams to victories? Shouldn't he accept the bad with the good? Is it all his roster's fault (and I find it amazing Wade couldn't win 50 games with his roster but LeBron could win 60+ games with similar rosters--that isn't all LeBron or Wade IMO), or does LeBron deserve at least AS MUCH of the blame? Dirk Nowitzki lost a 1st round series and then got raked over the coals for winning the MVP and not making it to the 2nd round at least. This is part of the deal. LeBron couldn't handle it. He just couldn't. Am I supposed to respect this? Am I supposed to believe a guy has to LEARN from Kobe Bryant about a work ethic? To me, James screams Vince Carter with more talent. That isn't icon status. That isn't amazing stuff. Carter is an excellent player, and an amazing talent to boot. But Carter has never come close to winning MVP's. He's never really been seriously compared to Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan or any player like that. It's really a dumb and pointless comparison. If someone thinks I'm crazy for thinking LeBron James doesn't belong in the same stratosphere with Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant, well I'm crazy. I can take it. What's new?
The real problem, though, is that criticizing LeBron James will be far & few between. Most know Woj will criticize Bron Bron. I consider him a boring robot with bad taste in clothes. (I can't get over how ugly that getup was. I mean, just dress South Beach if that's what you're doing.) Why is the criticism going to be short? Too much money involved. There are a lot of people who are willing to overlook why LBJ left Cleveland. A lot of people support it, and share the ideal that a legacy is built upon rings. (Again, plenty of players with wonderful legacies with 2 or less rings. I don't need to name them again.) The good news is that hopefully all the young players in the NBA are saying "Wow! I'm not going to do what LeBron did. Even if LeBron is successful. I can't afford this public hit." As I say, hopefully they get that. As sexy as the idea of Wade, James and Bosh is, it's not really as sexy as being the point man for a dynasty. Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Dwight Howard (who already is for the Magic now), Chris Paul and a whole bunch of other players will now be expecting to hook up with other great players. Then, their teams will say why should I give you up for less than premium mucho value? In 2 years, and for the NBA's sake, I hope the prospect of a superteam blows over. Because if it happens, it's going to set the league back at least 5 years if not 10. That's an ugly eyesore to get over when all players have to do is be in the league for 7 years and decide they're going to play together at the most convenient spots for them.
However, as much as Gilbert and LeBron are being blamed, the NBA deserves blame for simply making players like LeBron stars. LeBron James is a great talent, but he's not a great leader. He's not a true icon. He's a mirage of a real icon. To me, Wade is the real icon and replaced James in that vein. (Although it's not like Wade wasn't on his own trac to that anyway.) Not today, and maybe not ever in the mind of the casual bandwagon baby. However, at the end of the day, and despite the greatness of the numbers (which feel very hollow right now), the Gilbert ownership deserves as much blame as LeBron James. Which one more? No clue. It's hard to imagine how either side could have fubar'd this more. Yet, it's really mind boggling that LeBron James didn't consider why he was staying. (Mostly not wanting to leave his home I suspect. The whole legacy thing is something he feels is on the line by staying. Irony is too often funny and just as often cruel it seems.)
The funny thing is that LeBron James, in trying to be everything to everyone, lost anyway. He always was going to lose. Nobody is loved by everyone. Nobody is liked in every way possible. Nothing is perfect. But the difference is that most of us learn to accept that we're flawed and to choose the flaws we can live with and the flaws we can't. I don't think LeBron James made a good decision that was best for HIM, and even though I don't like him and think he's a hoity toity asshole, that doesn't change my view. I won't applaud LeBron for winning rings with the Heat. Others will. Does that make me a knuckleheaded purist? Sure, probably does. But any time you're a player the status of LeBron James and you don't think you can win with anybody on your team, you're not an icon of proportions LeBron James is believed to be. LeBron James had a test about what his ultimate goals are, and the fallout from this will continue to be pretty awful in many ways. It isn't bad for me. I don't care if Miami wins 5 rings or 1 ring or none. I don't win or lose either way. I don't really care. However, I do care that LeBron James will get put in the same group as a Wade, Bryant or Jordan when being discussed as an amazing iconic player. That will feel hollow and Mickey Mouse bullshit to me. Greatness is greatness. LeBron James ain't greatness.
I think I have a pretty good idea of why you don't like Lebron. I think I haven’t been a big fan of him for pretty much the exact same reasons too. He’s an emotionally stunted child in a man’s body whose goal is to be rich and adored by everyone. I just don’t think of him as much of a competitor. That being said, I kind of gave up on trying to like him a long time ago.
Woj called LeBron James a sad lost robot. I'll take it a step further. LBJ is a boring sad lost robot without a real interest in competition. He wants to be the best but skip all the steps to get there. The NBA thrives on the very nature of competition. The chosen one not a real competitor? Sad, but true. I'm not sure at this point if it says more about the NBA that suped up LeBron or LeBron himself that he believes it? Either way, a sad boring robot who was supposed to be the next great one (who supposedly wanted to be that) is no longer that player. He's just, a sad robot who will party a lot. What a pretty dumb ending. Certainly not a fitting ending for one of the greatest talents to ever play in the NBA. Since Woj is the man of the hour (and I'm not the biggest Woj fan I might add), I'll add the end to his piece. Gotta love a follower right?.
For the hand-wringing out of Gilbert and James’ apologists who protected him – and who would still be protecting him had he simply said, "Cleveland," on Thursday night – they need to stop with this nonsense that somehow LeBron James has transformed into someone else. This is him, and it’s always been him. He’s a creation of our times, of an industry and system that wants to manufacture the next M.J. at the expense of a young man having a sense of himself.
So there was LeBron James, the MVP, the man of the hour, sitting in the middle of his own "Truman Show" on Thursday night. His personal network ran his commercials and celebrated his greatness and let him hijack a platform to build his brand and break hearts. He can never go home again now, and he can never completely rebuild what he let his cast of buddies talk him into losing that night. He’s taking his talents to South Beach, and the kid going away for the first time will have some party down there. After all these years, it was clear he had been coddled and protected and ultimately prepared to do one thing: Take the easy way out. Wherever he was going, he looked conflicted, lost and completely confused.
What a spectacle, what a train wreck.
What a shame.