LeBron James fooled everyone into believing he was his own person, his own entity, and the "King." What Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and NBA commissioner David Stern created is much more foolish.
Gilbert had been put in charge of the dubious task of keeping James happy while he was a member of the Cavs. He did that very well, and that could be what led to the departure of Cleveland's native son.
Former GM Danny Ferry and former head coach Mike Brown warned Gilbert that leaving the leash this long for LeBron would never keep him happy or around. Friends and family were hired to work for the organization, allowed to play in the summer league, and given the opportunity to sit with James on team flights. At no point during James's tenure was there any structure set to let him know who was still in charge.
No structure, no control, no reason to stay.
LeBron got a good general manager and head coach fired, got Gilbert to run rampant trying to get pieces for the LeBron puzzle, and left feeling no remorse because he is a taker. Gilbert was the enabler, and no one could convince him that James would keep taking before he actually gave back.
The only thing given to Cleveland in this situation was LeBron giving up in the second round of the playoffs this season and never looking back.
Stern has spearheaded the ego-maniacal league called the NBA. Since his reign began in February 1984, Stern put into motion the notion that basketball would become a player's league, and not a team league.
Which did you find more appealing: Kobe and Shaq and the revival of showtime in L.A., Or the Rings won by the San Antonio Spurs and their team play?
No other league pushes individual development as hard as Stern's NBA. The NBA is not run by owners and GMs. It is controlled by player contracts and the next player who can compare to Michael Jordan.
James was the latest and greatest to be thrown into that argument. Stern knew the publicity and revenue James would bring into the league, and made sure he would become one of the faces of the league. At the time of James' arrival, only Kobe was as popular or had more expectations put upon him. Not much has changed since then.
James may have thought that he would never be "the one," or never do it in Cleveland. At this point, he wanted his rings. He knew he needed them to be in the category of the greatest players of all time. He may win his fair share in Miami, but he can kiss being considered one of the best ever goodbye.
All of this individual and peer pressure has pushed a number of players into mediocrity and meltdowns, all thanks to the commish. If Stern was smart enough to push a team and developmental league, guys like LeBron may have never left for concern of their legacy. It is funny to think that because LeBron left to win and now his legacy may never be the same, let alone positive, again.
LeBron had to push his brand so hard that he believed "The Decision" was a good thing. Hmm, let's take a one sentence decision, stretch it out over an and give some cash to charity all so James can get his one shining moment. What kind of influence is that for kids? A special thanks goes out to Maverick Carter for helping James dig his ditch with that idea.
Next time, hold a press conference, say your peace, and write a check to the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of your choice.
Look at all three hard and good. Stern, Gilbert, and LeBron are three of the reasons players run franchises, fans become disloyal, players get bad reputations for being divas, and decisions like the one made yesterday are made.