Pros and Cons of LeBron James Calling It Quits with Team USA
When Miami Heat megastar LeBron James plants one foot on a basketball court, his ensuing step leads him right into the hoops history books.
Whether he's dropping 37 points and snagging 12 rebounds in a championship-clinching Game 7 or granting fans in the Philippines with a surprise exhibition appearance, via Camille B. Naredo of ABS-CBN News, basketball fans never miss their chance to witness greatness.
His talents are so tremendous, in fact, that he makes national news without even needing to suit up.
According to what sources told Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, James' Team USA career has likely come to a close. He's bypassing next year's FIBA World Cup in Spain and is "doubtful" to play at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The news shouldn't come entirely as a shock. James skipped out on the last world championship in 2010 and had been noncommittal regarding a possible reunion with his teammates at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Still, there's only a finite number of games in a body even as magnificently sculpted as James', so even his expected absences carry a certain deflating tone.
But there are two sides to every story, pros and cons to tip the scale accordingly.
Pro: James Gets Some Badly Needed Rest
When James made his infamous migration to South Beach in the summer of 2010, his plan was no different from the throngs of snowbirds that flock to the Southeast every winter.
After seven years of lugging around the Cleveland Cavaliers on his shoulders, rest and relaxation were well overdue for the Chosen One. With fellow stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade ready to carry some of the championship burden, James seemed to be strolling along the path to title town.
But while his jewelry collection has grown since joining the Miami Heat, so, too, has the number of chiropractor appointments popping up on his Samsung Galaxy calendar. He finally had the roster built for him to reach the game's greatest summit, but only if he was willing to keep carrying the heaviest of workloads.
He's been fortunate enough to avoid serious injury so far in his career, but each trip across the time line is another tempt of fate.
He's served his civic duty already. Last summer's London excursion was his third appearance on the Olympic stage, he was a member of the 2006 world team and he participated in the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament.
James knows that the game's true kings are crowned only at the NBA Finals, so he's just putting himself in the best possible position to keep stockpiling Larry O'Brien Trophies.
Con: Team USA Loses an Irreplaceable Asset
While Jerry Colangelo has done what he could to keep a cohesive group of the world's best players streaming through the USA Basketball pipeline, there's only one King James.
He's mastered all of the offensive positions and can defend any of the five at the other end. Depending on what Team USA needed on that particular day, James was either its best scorer, distributor, rebounder or defender.
If he needed to do everything, he handled that, too. In a closer-than-it-sounds 119-86 win over Australia last summer, James delivered the first triple-double in U.S. Olympic history with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
Team USA has rapid-scoring microwaves, table-setting creators, glass-eating vacuums and suffocating stoppers.
But it just lost the only player on the roster that could efficiently handle all four roles simultaneously.
Pro: James' Throne Is Vacant
Sure it's only temporary, but who hasn't wanted to be king for a day?
With James out of the picture, there's an immediate leadership void to be filled and a number of recognizable faces to do it.
Maybe this is Kevin Durant's chance to stop being No. 2, to fully reap the benefits of those hellacious workout sessions with James. Perhaps Derrick Rose's triumphant return plays out in the international spotlight. Or Kevin Love seizes his opportunity to finally guide a roster that's built for success.
The bottom line is that Team USA can survive and thrive without James. While he was planning his free-agent future in 2010, the rest of the roster was busy bulldozing its way through the 16-team field at the world championship with four straight double-digit wins.
The game hasn't seen another player with such dominant versatility since the 18-year-old man-child stamped his arrival with 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals in his NBA debut on Oct. 29, 2003.
At some point, though, James will be stripped of his title as the world's greatest. Father Time's record is still unblemished after all.
Maybe this is the chance for his heir apparent to move one step closer toward grabbing the baton.
Con: Fans Are Forced to Accept the King's Mortality
It doesn't seem that long ago when James was just the next wide-eyed, broad-shouldered, can't-miss prospect leaving scouts salivating and analysts pushing his career projections to seemingly insurmountable heights.
Yet here he stands a 10-year NBA veteran with 903 combined regular-season and postseason appearances.
His body looks like it could go for another 20 years, but decisions like this remind us of the fact that his superhuman skill set doesn't actually make him a real-life superhero.
Someday in the not-so-distant future, his post isolations will transform from efficient change-of-pace ploys into necessities. We'll wonder why we caused such a stir over his pregame dunk contests when his in-game slams start coming few and far between.
With four MVPs, two Finals MVPs and the pair of championship banners he raised into the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena, James has somehow scaled that impossible peak.
He's enjoying his stay at the summit for now, but a humbling descent is inevitably in the cards.
James' Team USA Legacy
Although their relationship started off on shaky ground with a bronze in 2004, Team USA witnessed the birth of an all-time great.
During that three-loss performance in Athens, James looked like a 19-year-old that had always been told he could do no wrong. By 2008, he let his play do the talking, and the stat sheets spoke volumes about the development of America's rising star. Still filling box scores in 2012, he took on a more vocal leadership role, elevating his own performances and those of the players surrounding him.
He'll always be weighed against history's biggest stars for his NBA accomplishments. But USA Basketball allowed him to get up close and personal with the current crop of the game's elite and provided the blueprint for him to rise above the rest.
He leaves the program in great hands, but also leaves behind a historically strong imprint for hoops heads to digest.
With this chapter all but officially closed, here's one James debate that can finally be placed in its proper perspective.
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