Why LeBron James Is Only Untouchable Player on Miami Heat
Whether you agree with me or not that the NBA should save itself the formality of giving LeBron James MVP year after year as well as its selection committee any undue guilt of trying to justifiably give it to someone else by simply re-naming it the LeBron James Award, here's what you can agree with me on—strange things tend to happen around the king.
For instance, Sports Illustrated put him on their cover when he was just a 17-year-old, pimply-faced kid who knew more about Carmen Electra's measurements than zone defense.
Teams—plural—willingly tanked their ENTIRE NBA season just to have a shot at drafting him in 2003, even though their odds were no better than 25 percent.
He's the first star player in the NBA since Michael Jordan to NOT be compared to Michael Jordan. Because, you know, he might end up being better.
When he orders food at restaurants, waiters feel obliged to tell him about their wine selection and walk away saying things like, "Very good, sir!" (Technically, this applies to all high status people, but I bet they add a little extra "oomph" when they say it to him.)
Billionaire owners write public letters condemning his character when he decides to play for another team and feel perfectly justified side-stepping any level of self-awareness.
He's cited as the sole cause for why his team lost out on a title in 2011 and is painted as one of the most tragic figures in sports history. And then, only a year later, he's deified as arguably the best basketball player of all time.
All this is to say one thing: It's not that LeBron James is the only untouchable player on the Heat that we may see the day Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh are traded from this team; rather, it's because he is that we may.
Here's why that's sort of a bitter pill to swallow.
The Miami Heat organization has built itself enough of an upstanding reputation over the years that loyalty and good faith have become as synonymous with it as winning. Whether on a plane or in a locker room, Mickey Arison and Pat Riley have always gone to great lengths to keep their players in first class.
Which is to say that nobody expects Bosh, and especially Wade, to get traded anytime soon given the sacrifices they've made for the better of this team.
But here is what we know.
They will both be paid the max for the next three years unless either decides to exercise their player options at the end of next year. And considering the drop-off in their value these days—whether it be because of age, diminishing athleticism or markedly decreased production—don't expect that scenario to happen.
Meanwhile, LeBron continues to do much of the heavy lifting over the course of a full, championship-contending season on a team that is financially handcuffed in its options because of the contracts of his two sidekicks.
But when it comes time for LeBron to sign his next contract—one that will likely take him past his prime and to a point in his career when he will need help on a consistent basis—it will.
Pat Riley has been accused of being loyal to a fault in the past, as critics argued that he held on too long to guys like Voshon Lenard, P.J. Brown and Jamal Mashburn. As a result, the Heat remained a perennial Atlantic Division winner that could never quite get over the hump in the playoffs.
Of course, that team wasn't nearly as dominant or as successful as the team it has now.
Furthermore, many will say that Miami's best case for retaining LeBron at the end of next year will simultaneously come from its ability to retain the title these next two seasons.
History, after all, doesn't carry nearly the same esteem to superstars that father time does.
Sure, the emotional aspect of playing with his good buddies lured James to Miami just as much as the prospects of playing in his hometown kept him in Cleveland past his rookie contract.
But prolonged success was ultimately the driving force that pulled James away from Cleveland.
Now, in the 25-year existence of the Miami Heat franchise, there has always been a token of appreciation in the thin line that separates business and purity in sports. Just take a look at all the retired Heat players that remain an active part of the organization behind the scenes.
And on one side stands Dwyane Wade, who symbolizes the ultimate extension of sacrifice. Someone who Heat fans would never expect to be traded.
But on the other side is LeBron James, who symbolizes all the success and business incentive that comes with it.
Maybe I'm wrong and the Heat will never be forced to choose between the two going forward.
Maybe the Heat will be able to preserve its good reputation and hold onto LeBron at the same time.
If Miami's prospects of re-signing LeBron James comes down to turning its back on Dwyane Wade, should it do it?
Just know, strange things tend to happen around the king.
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