This column is not for you. This column is for me.
Usually as all my faithful readers (and by faithful I mean 4 other people and my mom) know that I don't like to write on the hot topic du jour in sports. There's plenty of reactionary material out and people rushing to judgement and I usually want no part in that.
However, I'm a huge LeBron James fan. Have been since high school. And although I'm not always apt to defend anyone for anything, I feel a lot of the criticism he has received these past few days has been undue. So I'm gonna say my piece in response to that I've heard. If you want to comment on here, feel free.
If your comment is well constructed, I'll answer it. If your comment is some variation of "LeBron sucks and so do you!" I will not. I would honestly encourage you not to read this because there is already enough material out there on this subject. Again, I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing this for me.
Criticism 1: The TV Show "The Decision" was a complete train wreck.
People seem to be bothered the most not by his actual decision (although many are and we'll get to that) but how it was handled. The common theme was ESPN was not hard enough on him in the interviews; the charity thing was a farce; he sold the sponsors too much or was just too robotic in general.
First of all, this was probably the toughest decision of LeBron's life. At least his adult life. And in making that, he probably didn't want to answer any difficult questions afterwards. Would you? I proposed to my fiancee over a year ago. If I then had to sit down on live television and be bombarded with questions like: "You could've dated so-and-so instead. Why didn't you do that and do you think that will come back to haunt you?"...I mean who wants that?
I kept hearing this was a show of extreme egotism and megalomania. Perhaps egotism, but what other athlete would be good enough to procure something like this? We all wanted to know anyway and he gave us a definite time, date, and place and gave the money to charity. ESPN milked it for all they were worth. That was a drag but that's common practice of ESPN. They have to put on a show and they did.
People acting like LeBron or any other professional athlete owe us something big. Like they owe us baring their souls to us or telling us all their darkest secrets. We do not know these people personally. It's dangerous when that line gets crossed. LeBron James does not owe us a bleeping bleep thing. And if you think buying his jersey or going to see him live entitles you to something else, than you need to look in the mirror.
Criticism 2: He screwed the Cavs, and by proxy the city of Cleveland over.
I feel for Cleveland fans. I really do. And to be honest, outside of Cleveland, no one can understand what they are feeling right now.
Nevertheless, LeBron said from the beginning that this was a business decision. And to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh over going back to Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas...I'm sorry Cleveland. I can't blame him for that.
And I do have to say that never in my life have I seen a billionaire try to paint himself as a victim like Daniel Gilbert did in his ridiculous letter. Before writing that letter, I'm sure Gilbert counted all the money LeBron had made for his franchise last year.
He was also deflecting the blame of what happened off of himself. Gilbert is given the crown jewel of the NBA and he surrounds him with an in-over-his-head coach and two bad GMs. The fault lies just as much with him.
People are all ecstatic that Kevin Durant just re-upped with the Oklahoma City Thunder. "Well done!" "He is loyal unlike that LeBron! " It also helps for Kevin Durant that the Thunder have one of the best GMs in the game in Sam Presti and a great young line-up (Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook) that he could grow old with.
The Cavaliers never did this. Their goal was to get LeBron a title by bringing in as many over-the-hill vets and random pieces that would fit. The fact that people argue "LeBron left the team that had the best record in the NBA the past two years...what a joke" is pedantic. They had the best record the past two years because of him. With a decent small forward this year, Cleveland will be lucky to make the playoffs.
Criticism 3: He signed with the Heat, Dwyane Wade's team, so he is such a follower!
How many athletes, in the absolute prime of their careers when they are the undisputed best, would take less money for a chance at a title? Moreover, not just a title, but a chance to be a historically special team? LeBron is 25. His 5 greatest years are ahead of him. He could've been the man on another team, yet wanted a chance to win.
Because he sacrificed money and ego to do this...he is a jerk.
LeBron said from the beginning this would be a business decision and his goal was to win titles. He didn't go to the team offering the most money (Cleveland). He didn't go to the one offering the most marketing appeal (New York). He didn't even go to the one with the best fan support (anywhere but Miami). LeBron wants his rings and he wants a chance to play with Wade and Chris Bosh. And the problem with that would be?
Its surprising to me that so many middle-aged sports writers are pillaring LeBron for sacrificing money for rings. Usually they whine about athletes going for the cash. I guess I shouldn't still be surprised when journalists have double standards but that's just me.
Michael Shur is a guy who I respect a lot. Co-creator of my favorite TV show (Parks and Recreation) and author of my favorite blog (firejoemorgan.com), I usually read anything he writes. His blog was one that combated hyperbole and reactionary journalism.
I was very disappointed to read on his twitter page that he had re-tweeted SI writer Richard Deitsch's post saying: "Not trying to be alarmist or hyperbolic: I honestly believe the Miami Heat are now the most hated team in professional sports."
Really, guys? Three guys who give up money for a chance at a ring are that spiteful? LeBron's existence causes more angst than the past 90 years of Yankee hegemony? Dwyane Wade is really more obnoxious than the Boston Red Sox, their arrogant price gouging and sense of self entitlement? Chris Bosh is worse than Kobe peddling his wife and kids around like props? Worse than Belichick and the Patriots or Jerry Jones, the Cowboys and their spaceship scoreboard?
To me, that very criticism sounds alarmist and hyperbolic.
Bottom line, the whole situation could have been handled better. In the end, this was LeBron's choice and he made it. I think it's silly to continue to drag him through the mud because some people don't like how it was done. This column wasn't written to change your mind or start a debate with you. It was written for me to get a lot off my chest and that's what I did. Disagree at your heart's desire, but this was for me.