Last night, “King James” announced that he was leaving his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to join Miami Heat as a free agent. The announcement was met with anger, and the burning of replica James shirts on the streets of Ohio.
If we forget the reasoning behind his departure from Cleveland, there is a lot more to be angry about in the eyes of his once-loyal fans.
James made "The Decision" live on ESPN last night and emotions immediately ran high in Cleveland. Elsewhere in the world, the feeling was a little different.
In Miami there was understandably excitement. Pat Riley had secured arguably the greatest free-agent acquisition in the history of the NBA, and partnered him with two of the NBA’s top players; Dwyane Wade, and the incoming Chris Bosh.
However, LeBron upset a lot of people last night. Accepting James’ decision was one thing, but understanding the manner in which it came is completely different. It could all have been very different, but James went about announcing his choice in completely the wrong way.
Let’s forget all the reasoning behind his decision. Let’s forget James signed for Miami. Let’s forget who he turned down. Let’s even forget that he left Cleveland.
However, let’s not forget how he left Cleveland.
His hometown team, where he promised to win a championship, were left in the lurch last night following a television announcement that he would not rejoin the Cavaliers.
James felt it unnecessary to inform the owner, management, and staff in Cleveland of his impending departure. James didn’t see the need to say goodbye to his teammates. James didn’t say goodbye to Cleveland, and he didn’t say a personal and heartfelt goodbye to his fans.
Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert appeared to sum up the mood in Cleveland with a vitriolic outburst against James, both for his decision, and the interview.
In an open letter to fans on the Cavaliers’ website, Gilbert wrote that James’ decision “was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment”.
This was simply a Cavalier venting his anger at the move. However, it could have been avoided if James had the decency to tell his previous employer his decision to his face. Man to man. Instead, the man who paid James’ wages for the past five years was left in the same situation as the rest of the world, and there is no doubt that he felt humiliated by LeBron’s actions.
Many expected him to move on and leave the Cavaliers, but even those who did would have struggled not to be disappointed as the watched the self-proclaimed “King” leave Cleveland live on TV.
Obviously, a part of James will always be in Cleveland. Nobody could doubt his strength of feelings for a team he grew up near and began his career at. Nobody should doubt his genuine disappointment at his failure to win the Cavaliers an NBA Championship either.
However, the TV interview was a needless way to announce his departure.
By all means, make a public announcement on your decision, but Cleveland, Miami, and his other potential suitors should have been informed privately providing they could promise confidentiality.
James should also have considered announcing he would leave Cleveland before the interview. That way he could prepare fans for the bad news that was on the horizon, and thank them for all their support. Organising a simple press conference to say a personal thank you to Cleveland shouldn’t be too difficult for one of the greatest sportsmen on earth.
This would have allowed James to leave Cleveland gracefully, while thanking his suitors for their interest and kind (expensive) treatment of him privately. Following this, he could go on ESPN and announce the decision to the world.
James made a mistake in the way his departure was announced. It hurt a lot of people in Cleveland who had worshipped him throughout his career, but it will financially damage a city where James can generate a lot of income and interest in these economically hard times.
They lost their most valuable asset. Bars, hotels, clubs, restaurants, and cafés will no longer be able to attract more custom from using his name or image, and people’s livelihoods depend on it. It’s a big kick in the teeth for the owners of these buildings in Cleveland, and LeBron could have told them their lives were going to be transformed in a much more personal way.
It’s disappointing that James, his agent, and others associated with James failed to notice the effect this interview would have upon the city of Cleveland. Unfortunately James and co. appeared to have looked at the interview option with dollar signs in their eyes.
We all have to make a living, and while he should not be criticised for making money from his position, the failure to take into account all of the above can be chastised. There were clearly better ways of going about his business.
James may think he has made the right decision for his future, but the way he announced it could have been handled in a much more dignified manner.