LeBron James: Of Duties, Decisions and Dynasties
Disclaimer: If you're a sentimental or angry sports fan from Ohio then QUIT READING NOW
Here's what I'm going to do.
I'm going to put you in LeBron's shoes and ask you to decide where you want to go.
Then, I'll somehow prove to you why Lebron James needed the biggest audience he could possibly get to announce his "Decision."
Meanwhile, you've got time to crucify the King. Strip him bare and perform a self-antagonizing exercise endlessly dwelling on his ego-manic obsession for importance.
Convince yourself that if you had been in his shoes, you would have never left Cleveland. That you would have sacrificed your entire career to try to win a championship for the city and take the risk of ending up five years later with bad knees and no title.
And if you failed?
No big deal. You'd have tried at least.
Career over. No titles. No rings. No big deal.
Right. And pigs will wear tutus and fly.
For the layman reading this, let me summarily offer some background as succinctly as possible. The NBA has a yearly draft where the top college players are picked by the worst NBA teams. This ensures parity in the league constantly. Furthermore, the existence of the salary cap ensures that it's difficult to have two superstars on the same team. Three is impossible .
In 2003 (one of the greatest top-heavy drafts in NBA history), Lebron James was the top pick drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chris Bosh went to Toronto at number four while Dwayne Wade went to Miami one pick later. Seven years henceforth with 17 All-Star selections, two MVPs (James), and one title (Wade) the three faced expiring contracts and a chance to somehow play together.
The top three players in the NBA today are James, Kobe Bryant, and Wade with the first two as interchangeable as possible. Bosh is the ultimate wingman and one of the league's top power forwards.
Now let me break down the math to you. The league salary cap is $58.04 million. Based on their time in the league (seven seasons), all three command the same maximum salary—$16.5 million. That leaves about $8 million to spend on nine players! It just doesn't work!
Only this time it apparently did. After announcing his decision to "take his talents to South Beach," James clearly stated that all three would have to take a pay cut in order to fill out the rest of the roster. Here's what the selfish, egoistical LeBron James sacrificed to be able to play in Miami:
1) He left money on the table. To the average critic, the argument is that a few million dollars is nothing to a multi-millionaire but some might beg to differ. In leaving Cleveland and not even initiating a sign-and-trade, James left an additional guaranteed $30 million based on his team's ability under the rules to offer him another year of a max contract. Furthermore, James will not get a max contract by any means in Miami. If he was after money, he would have stayed in Cleveland or gone to Madison Square Garden.
This was not about money!
2) He invited the wrath of every sports fan in Ohio. For a city that hasn't won a major sporting championship since 1964 and has been victim to The Drive, The Shot, and Art Modell's maneuver among others, the average sports fan in Ohio is a spoilt, disgruntled child that somehow feels a divine right of entitlement by virtue of an imaginary silver spoon in his/her mouth instead of being grateful for what he/she has. The warped and misguided Cleveland thought process is that since LeBron grew up in Akron, he belongs to the city and cannot leave it.
Newsflash: LeBron James can go anywhere he wants. Burn his jersey some more. I guarantee you that for every jersey you burn, 10 more will be bought!
3) Most importantly, in the world's premier capitalist country where I, Me and Myself course through the blood in so many veins, LeBron James's decision was a refreshing change from the American superstar athlete's desire to be the alpha dog.
In basketball itself, Michael Jordan wanted to be the alpha male and he ensured that every Bull including Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman knew it. Kobe Bryant, all too aware of Shaquille O'Neal's three Finals MVPs knew that the stage had to be his.
This obsessive compulsive desire to satisfy the ego and remain singularly focused on Self is almost disgusting in a team sport and yet it is celebrated as one of the most desirable traits in a superstar.
It wasn't just James who bucked this trend and transcended the sporting ego. The Miami Heat were Wade's team and he could have easily told management that he didn't want another star to steal his spotlight.
Instead, he did the opposite and welcomed Bosh and James with open arms—ready to share the thunder. James didn't just sacrifice the attention that he would get by being the only superstar on a team. He may have sacrificed four or five more MVP awards by agreeing to share the court with Wade and Bosh.
What was that about his ego again?
In all of my emphasis on a crystal clear elucidation of points, I somehow forgot about Dan Gilbert! Pardon me for reneging on my promise, I'll more than make up for it now.
In reaction to LeBron's announcement, Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert posted a letter to all fans on the Internet.
Caustic, distasteful, and pathetic at best, Gilbert cast himself as a villain when he could have been the man people felt sympathetic towards.
All he had to say was, "LeBron at the end of the day is a 25-year-old basketball player with titles to win. We had him for seven years and failed to surround him with the necessary requisites to win a championship. I would have loved for him to stay but I respect his decision and wish him all the best."
Instead, the Quicken Loans boss took the more easily traveled path. He stated, "I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE"
I'd love to reproduce other excerpts but you can just read the entire thing here.
Furthermore, he added that "you can take it to the bank."
Sorry Mr. Gilbert, but if I'm going to the bank I'm not going with Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Delonte West, and the other disappearing acts you surrounded James with.
I'm not going to the bank with them even if I have the key to the safe.
Somehow, Jamison will drop the key or Mo Williams will break it when the time comes to open the vault.
When you have a transcendent talent like LeBron James fall into your lap through a lottery as an 18-year-old, don't you dare surround him with Donyell Marshall, Drew Gooden, and Sasha Pavlovic! That's disrespecting him and sending him a clear message that we don't care enough about you to try our best and help you win a championship.
Be a man!
What LeBron owed you he gave you that and more in the form of a Finals appearance, numerous magical nights, two MVPs and back-to-back best records in the league. He gave you revenue the likes of which you could have never mentioned and brought your sorry franchise back on the NBA map of respectability.
Furthermore, as a free agent he owed you nothing! The decision was his and he did it his way. It was a difficult decision and he made it, so the last thing he needs is you telling him that "he wants to go to heaven without dying for it."
If Cleveland ever left a bad taste in the mouth, Dan Gilbert just added his own crass concoction. It seems that somewhere there's a parallel universe in his mind if he doesn't realize that the Cavaliers without James are a lottery team. Tragic!
The argument is that it's not who he chose but how he chose them—the drama of being courted by six teams flying in to Ohio and then scheduling an hour long special on national television. Fair enough. He could have quietly called a press conference and announced his decision but he didn't do it.
James is smart. He knew everyone would watch and he knew that leaving Cleveland was a monumental decision. He would have never asked for an hour on ESPN to announce that he was staying put. That would have been egoistic.
No. LeBron James simply wanted an opportunity on the biggest stage to explain why he was leaving and in doing so, further feed into his iconic image as the NBA's biggest brand. Fault him for it but fault him only to a certain extent. That's the way I see it.
You can call LeBron James selfish but let's face it, the loyalty trick doesn't work here.
As J.A. Adande puts it, just imagine a reunion 25 years down the line of all the NBA greats after LeBron had spent a title-less career in Cleveland. The tea time gossip would go like this:
"Oh look, it's Tim Duncan the four time champion!"
"Check out Kobe with a ring on each finger! "
"Hey! There's LeBron! He was...he was loyal."
That singular scenario is the scariest peek LeBron could ever get of his basketball future.
If he wanted money he could have gone to the New York Knicks under the blinding moneyed lights of Madison Square Garden.
If he wanted to be the star running his own show with faithful sidekicks ala His Airness Jordan then he could have gone to Chicago where he had a franchise point guard waiting with an explosive big man and a seasoned power forward.
He did neither.
All the Chosen One wanted was a chance to win titles and enjoy doing it.
He didn't care that he might not drop 30 points a night and record near triple-doubles every time.
He didn't care about not being the only superstar on his team grabbing all the attention and getting all the credit for every possible future championship.
All he cared about was himself and he had every right to.
In doing so, he reminded everyone of one very important fact—He's LeBron James and we're not.
Here's to Miami, here's to a dynasty.
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