The NBA has become too complacent.
Ever since the famed Malice at the Palace, every NBA player has been on relatively good behaviour. It came to its climax upon the Lakers game winning put back by non-other than Ron Artest, the ultimate bad boy in today’s NBA.
And how did he react? By blubbering and praising the Lord while displaying his softer side that has been nonexistent since that frightful night in Detroit.
Now the world has come full circle. There is no longer that antagonist that is so needed in order to keep viewers hooked. No player to enrage the fans, to draw such emotion of pure hatred from the crowd.
Sure there have been some incidences, such as Gilbert Arenas bringing guns to the locker room, but he goes about his business in an aloof sort of way that it doesn’t come across as him being a bad guy.
It simply gets played off that he is just too goofy, too immature to be really taken seriously. Same goes for other so-called “bad boys” such as Stephen Jackson and Allen Iverson. They’re not really bad, just goofy. More Diva then Dark.
Rasheed Wallace is retiring. Kevin Garnett's not getting any younger. There needs to be a new villain, someone for everyone to collectively despise. Someone young, who can carry the torch for years to come.
Enter LeBron James.
Either LeBron James is the most egotistical player the NBA has ever seen (quite possibly), or the NBA has a panel of script writers to help shape the inner workings professional basketball. It only makes sense.
How can a low-level team like the Timberwolves not only strike out on free agency (I get the fact that no one wants to play in the cold), but also fail to win a draft lottery when they are constantly a bottom dweller in the standings is beyond me.
How can a team like Boston go from 25 wins one year to pulling off two epic trades and being crowned NBA champions without having to go through the hardships of rebuilding? Sacramento and Indiana are still trying to recapture the success they held in the early years of this millennium.
And of course there are the Lakers, who had the steal of the century when they landed a top 3 big man in Pau Gasol for relatively spare parts. Post Gasol has garnered them three NBA finals appearances and two titles.
But back to LeBron.
LeBron was the NBA’s poster child. In many ways, he WAS the NBA. Clean cut, well spoken, marketable. Everything that has been missing from basketball since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers.
An unstoppable force on the offensive end, with the athletic ability to do the impossible. He is a walking triple-double. As close to Magic Johnson as we may ever get.
And yet, he lacks that killer instinct to but himself right beside Jordan.
So he gave up. By signing with the Miami Heat, he has gone from Prince to Pauper overnight. There is no doubt that every Miami game, either home or away, will be a sell-out, but not for fans going and cheering for their fallen Prince.
LeBron took the easy way out. He couldn’t man up and live up to the hype. He simply didn’t have the ability to be like Jordan, like Kobe. He was scared.
With the talent he has, with the back-to-back MVP awards, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that his name would be enshrined up there with the all-time greats... once he won a few rings.
And he didn’t think he could do it on his own. He couldn’t be the man. By going to Miami, he is now the No. 2 guy. Not on the court, not in the media’s eye. But in the eyes of the Miami faithful, who love Dwyane Wade as a prodigal son.
And with that pressure off of him from the hometown media, he is now free to defer to Wade, because that is what his fans want.
Chicago scared him off because he could never live up to Jordan’s standards. The Clippers are still the Clippers. And Cleveland is heartbroken, and he can almost certainly assume he is no longer welcome back.
So overnight, LeBron went from the toast of the town to the least welcome player in the most marketable cities in professional basketball.
And this is exactly what the NBA wanted.
Because now people will watch, and prey, and band together, for one simple purpose.
To watch LeBron fail.
When the Heat visit the Cavaliers, the media attention will be insurmountable. Ditto that for New York and Chicago.
A number of anti-James websites have opened overnight, and we’ve all seen the now famous letter to Cleveland from owner Dan Gilbert in order to rally his fans in their time of need.
The new bad boy of the NBA has been born. Or simply recast. Now, it’s up to the “Miami Thrice” to seize the NBA buy the throat and make us truly despise them.
To show that it is possible to buy a winning team as opposed to drafting the stars of tomorrow (as we've seen time and time again).
It is dramatic TV at its finest. I’m sure the pay cuts that these three took paid the writers to make this all happen.