LeBron James' "Pay Cut" and How to Destroy a Legacy

Greg HuntoonCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2010

GREENWICH, CT - JULY 08:  LeBron James speaks at the LeBron James announcement of his future NBA plans at the Boys & Girls Club of America on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. James announced during a live broadcast on ESPN that he will play for the Miami Heat next season.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Truly, I am sorry to be writing yet another article discussing LeBron James and this ridiculous circus he and our media machines have created. Please don’t hold it against me.

It’s tiring listening to ex-players, analysts, and professional sports writers pat LeBron for making what was sure to be an “incredibly tough decision.” Saying things like “this clearly wasn’t about money, because all three superstars will be taking pay cuts in the tens of millions to play together.” 

That’s a better argument saved for espousing Dwayne Wade as a selfless superstar, as his recent history with persistent injuries suggests that this is probably his last shot at a big payday. 

But saying that “it’s not all about money” for LeBron because he’s taking a pay cut is absolutely inane. 

LeBron James is worth nearly $100 million, he’s only 25 years-old and he's moving from cash poor Ohio to the major market of Miami. That is certainly going to cushion his landing, not to mention the fact that he’ll have at least one more contract to sign in his career.

Along with all of his endorsement deals, LeBron James has no money worries. 

It’s that fact alone that made it possible for him to make this choice—he didn’t have to make money a big piece of the equation.

I’m sure, like any man, it was hard for him to let (potentially) tens of millions of dollars go uncollected, but again, his wallet allows him the luxury of not having to make the decision solely based on financial considerations.

Now, let’s move on to his status as one of the greatest of all-time, as “King” James.

I don’t think he has any business being involved in the same conversation with the likes of Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Larry Bird, Kareem, Wilt, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, and Magic, to name a few. 

Sure, skill-wise, and talent-wise, he’s clearly one of the best to ever play the game. And watching him with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh is undoubtedly going to be fun for Miami fans. But I think LeBron has just locked himself out of the “Greatest NBA Player of All-Time” discussion by agreeing to seek out his championships with two other top-tier talents like D-Wade and Bosh.

He just ruined the potential to build his legacy.

Whatever team they put on the court might find their way into discussions of the greatest teams of all-time, if they're able to string together a series of championships, but he'll always be known as "LeBron James and..." from now on. 

Michael had Pippen, Magic had Cooper, Worthy and Kareem, and Kobe had Shaq and Fish, and then Gasol, Bynum and Fish. All of the supporting players listed were/are great players, but what is brewing in Miami is nothing different than what the Celtics did a few years back bringing in Garnett and Allen, or what the Yankees have done repeatedly over the years.

There’s nothing wrong with teams doing it. There are no laws against it. And in fact, as the Yankees mixed success and the Celtics recent playoff dismissals show, it doesn’t always work out the way they intended.

The Miami Heat and Pat Riley are brilliant for figuring out how to lure the top three free agents of the year—with James being quite possibly the biggest free agent of all-time—to Miami, which required all three to take big pay cuts. This is not to be overlooked. Big kudos to the Miami front office.

Speaking of front offices, I want to throw a special shout-out to Cleveland’s majority owner, Dan Gilbert for his pot-stirring response to LeBron’s announcement.

That is exactly the response and rallying point that the Cleveland fans needed after such devastating news. (Now all he needs to do is lure Kobe and Phil Jackson to Cleveland to make good on his promise that the Cavs will win a trophy before the new Miami Heat does).

The fact that LeBron didn’t have the respect to call the Cavaliers owners and management himself before the decision, goes to show a lack of professionalism and character on James’ part.

When you quit your job, you give your boss two-weeks notice and you do it in person. If you can’t, you certainly do everything you can to communicate appropriately

What LeBron James did last night, is like having a random stranger break up with your high school sweetheart that you’ve been with for seven years via text....or, I guess it’s like telling your boss that you quit via national television with the entire world watching in bore and agony.

He tried to shield himself by making the announcement in a Boys & Girls club in Connecticut, instead of holding the press conference at home in Ohio, as he should’ve done. The delay in announcement, the location, the style, the delivery—it was all just a big spectacle to perpetuate the hype. 

And ESPN gets a big assist on that one. 

With that said, these are just my opinions and musings. I understand that LeBron James is an adult. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. As he said, in the end, it’s only he that needs to live with his decision, so he needs to do what’s best for him. His choice made that brutally clear.

And besides, I needed a team in basketball to hate as much as I do the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. So, thanks LeBron. The Miami Heat will do just fine in that role moving forward.