Its been amusing watching the ESPN hype over LeBron James the previous five years. If you haven't been paying attention, ESPN has projected LBJ as the best player in the league for years. Most everyone else, until this past season, cited Kobe Bryant as the best player in the world.
I always wrote this off to a difference of opinions. Over the last two seasons, the hyperbole surrounding LBJ has mostly come from the ESPN organization. Aside from some game broadcasts and sports updates, does this organization have stock, or a business interest, in the NBA?
Several years ago, the premier star of the league, Kobe Bryant, received some negative publicity about a personal matter. From that point on, it appears that the embarrassed NBA began looking for a replacement as the face of the league.
Recall how we were bombarded with King James commercials, and borderline blasphemous references of LBJ as a type of savior, before he even played one NBA game with the Cavaliers.
It was said in some chat rooms that the NBA was purposely ignoring Kobe’s worth and giving MVP awards to lesser deserving talents. ESPN’s authoritative voice was prematurely proclaiming LBJ the greatest basketball player in the world. The confluence of these two events made it appear that ESPN was leading the charge of marginalizing Kobe for the NBA.
Now we have been subjected to this vapid free agent telecast from ESPN. This broadcast was the most self-serving and blatant attempt at manipulating public opinion I have seen since the last national election.
LBJ appeared to be a nice guy, but he did not demand that kind of attention. I say appeared because he lost that Thursday night. With the stench of media manipulation, collusion by the players, and a demonstrated lack of courage (and common sense) by LBJ, the challenge to Kobe ’s (popularity) has ended for the foreseeable future. Nobody likes a quitter.
Before the comparisons begin for LBJ to Kevin Garnett or Karl Malone...stop. Both KG and Malone played full careers at their original draft cities. Neither player had any hope of returning their respective team to contention before retirement. Their adoring fans knew that also, so these fans supported their stars moving to a contender while they still had a little life left in their careers.
Contrast that with LeBron James who left a team with the best record in the NBA for two consecutive seasons. LBJ left a city that has had so much adversity that they cherished their one bright spot, their superstar and his team. He was a superstar with his prime years still ahead of him and a “homegrown” athletic stud. All they lacked was a playoff coach.
LeBron said that he had to think about what was best for himself. A player wears the name of the city he represents. The residents of that metropolitan area pay the salaries of the members of that organization. Coaches, players, trainers, doctors, and the owner exist because of the goodwill of the local populace.
In return for this financial support we, the fans, get to identify with our chosen team. Fans suffer the losses and experience the successes with emotions as real as the actual athletes with whom they identify.
There is a debt owed by every person who has worn a uniform for his team. These fans are owed honesty and must be allowed to maintain their dignity.
Teams are like parents, they should always be respected, even after you leave home. Ron Artest startled us with his recent understanding of this dynamic. Maybe he should give LeBron a call.
Cavaliers fans spoiled LBJ. He was always given adulation and has shown a lack of understanding for the symbiotic relationship between players and fans. Instead of embracing the challenge, he ran from the responsibility. What a “putz."
Oh, if ESPN hurries, they might be able to start nurturing Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin as the new face of the league somewhere down the road.
Just try not to give the appearance of being sycophants this go 'round.