We all know the story: an elite athlete who couldn't make it on his own.
He is one of the best players in his league and one of the best athletes in professional sports, but he couldn't handle being the player other players depended on. He was either unwilling or unable to make the players around him better, so he left the city that drafted him and paid him and made him a star and loved him in search of the opportunity to win somewhere else.
He left the team for another team, someone else's team, where he could quietly do his thing and not have to be the Alpha-Dog. He was content to play second fiddle to an inferior player.
We're talking, of course, about Alex Rodriguez. But are these things we'll one day say about LeBron James?
Like LeBron, A-Rod was the top overall draft pick out of high school by a lowly team hoping he'd turn their fortunes around. In Seattle, A-Rod teamed with Ken Griffey, Jr. and Randy Johnson to form a formidable nucleus of a team that never turned the corner.
Rodriguez, like James, showed a man's talent for a child's game almost immediately. In his first full season, at the age of 20, he won the AL batting title and led the league in runs scored, doubles, and total bases despite playing in only 146 games. He won his first silver slugger, made his first All-Star team, and finished second in the AL MVP voting.
Unfortunately, like Cleveland, Seattle is not a major media market, and the Mariners had a finite window in which to win with their nucleus in place. But despite three trips to the playoffs, the Mariners never got to the World Series in an era dominated by the New York Yankees.
At the age of 24, Alex Rodriguez decided that he couldn't win and, perhaps more importantly, optimize his earning capacity, in Seattle, and so he left for the Texas Rangers. After three years, three home run titles, and three losing records in Texas, A-Rod asked to be traded so that he might have an opportunity to win somewhere else. Again.
And so it was that A-Rod was traded to the New York Yankees. And it was in New York that A-Rod, for the first time, no longer felt the pressure of having to carry the franchise.
The Yankees were loaded with stars, and A-Rod would be just another one. And the Yankees had their beloved star, Derek Jeter, and would not heap pressure-mounting praise upon A-Rod. In fact, A-Rod wouldn't even need to be the best shortstop in the league anymore; shortstop was Jeter's position, and A-Rod was shifted to third base, a position with less glory and a lower profile.
And so it was that Rodriguez won his first championship, not as a leader or as the face of the franchise, but as the second fiddle to a lesser player. Because let there be no mistake: Derek Jeter is a great player, but he is no Alex Rodriguez.
But some guys want to be The Guy, and some guys want to be The Guy That Plays Alongside The Guy. Jeter is the former, and A-Rod is the latter.
But who is LeBron James?
If LeBron James wants to be an NBA legend, wants to be an Alpha-Dog, wants to build a legacy that rivals Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell, then tonight he will announce that he is staying with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Or going to Chicago.
Or to New York.
Or New Jersey.
He has a lot of options.
But if LeBron James gets on prime time television tonight in front of the whole world and announces that he is signing with the Miami Heat to play alongside Dwyane Wade for the team that drafted Wade and has already won an NBA Championship with Wade, this is another thing altogether.
This is a signal to the world that LeBron is no Alpha-Dog, that he is no superstar. This is a signal that he has no interest in being the face of a franchise, in making the players around him better, in becoming an NBA legend. This is a signal that LeBron is going to be content being the Wilt Chamberlain, Dr. J, and Scottie Pippen of his own era in the NBA.
He doesn't want to be The Guy. He wants to be The Guy That Plays Alongside The Guy.
He wants to be the Alex Rodriguez of the NBA, and he wants Dwyane Wade to be Derek Jeter.
Personally, I am hoping this is not what happens.
I am hoping he goes to Chicago to make a run at MJ. I am hoping he goes to New York to make the Knicks great again, something I haven't experienced in my lifetime. I'm hoping he goes to the Nets and makes Brooklyn the funkiest basketball town in the country.
I'm hoping he stays in Cleveland and shows one of the beleaguered cities in the United States—both from a sports perspective as well as an economic one—that he believes in his home state and he is bound and determined to bring a championship to a city that so desperately thirsts for, and deserves, more than a couple.
I'm hoping LeBron James wants to become an NBA legend.
And I don't see that happening in Miami, just like it hasn't happened for Alex Rodriguez playing alongside Derek Jeter with the New York Yankees.
Here's to hoping.