Cavs Held Hostage By LeBron James

Jeremy WContributor IJuly 16, 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
First, I personally did not see Dan Gilbert’s letter to LeBron as personifying him as a slave. If LeBron James was a slave to Dan Gilbert, where do I sign up to take his place, collect the millions, and let him pay all my friends to hang out with me? To me it was more as if he was a pissed off manager mad the star of his group is leaving the rest behind to “take his talents to South Beach” or some other perceivably better opportunity. Especially with no heads up before his big announcement that he would leave Cleveland, many others, me included assumed he must have been staying because no way he goes on TV to divorce them in front of 10 million people. This is where I think most of the venom in the letter came from. LeBron James had for lack of a better word, held the franchise “hostage” for the past few years since he signed his 3-year contract with player option for the fourth year.
There has been a lot of talk in defending LeBron that the Cavs failed to build a championship team around him. I will get back to that unproven statement later because the fact is we do not know if they did or not, and now we never will. However, LeBron refusing to commit past 2010 and constantly talking over the past 3 years of how this summer was going to be big, he never really seemed focused on the task at hand and the team he was currently playing for. LeBron refused to commit so what free agent wants to come there knowing they could be playing in a wasteland if LeBron does not re-up after 2010. Every free agent that thought about it that did not is now justified and satisfied in their decisions to do so because he did indeed end up leaving. If LeBron was committed to the Cavs he could have shown that commitment through signing a longer contract or at least making known his intentions to stay in Cleveland. Then Cleveland would have had a better team, as who wouldn’t want to play with LeBron and become a part of the Dynasty we all thought it was just a matter of time before Cleveland became. Also had he made known his intentions to stay he could have recruited stars to his team the same way Wade recruited him and Bosh. He wouldn’t have the splendor of South Beach to offer, but the chance to play with King James is one many stars would have taken. And the ones who didn’t he should have made regret it every year after.
Another way he held the franchise hostage was in constantly wanting the roster to change when things went wrong. So guys did not get a chance to gel together and learn to play great together. Which brings us back to the statement that the Cavs “never built a championship caliber team” around LeBron. Two things immediately pop into mind, the first being that had LeBron put on some Jordan-esque or even Kobe-esque performances in the playoffs the past couple of years this may have been a championship caliber team already. Second is that you can put together all the pieces and still not have things go your way at first. Kobe and Pau didn’t win together right away but they have figured it out to the tune of  the past 2 NBA Championships. A more fitting parallel for LeBron is Peyton Manning.  They are both considered  among the single most talented players in their respective leagues and the most important player to their teams by far.  All the Cavs had was LeBron and a bunch of guys. All the Colts have is Peyton and a bunch of guys. They had a championship caliber team last year but still did not win the Super Bowl That is just how it goes in sports. You can have a championship caliber team and not win the championship because guess what? Other teams are championship caliber too.
I fully believed this Cavs team, whether they added another bona fide superstar or not would have broken through and turned into a dynasty, winning multiple championships and competing for them every year. Now that LeBron has gone to Miami, I see that never would have happened. He did not have the resolve and the will to win in Cleveland that was needed for him to win there. He was never held accountable for losses due to the fans and ownership not wanting to step on his toes. The headline was never “LeBron Chokes” it was more “Cavs let LeBron Down.” LeBron as the star and leader of the team should have done whatever it took to win, whether it be tearing his teammates a new one ala Jordan/Kobe style or scoring 50, 60 points (also Kobe/Jordan style coincidentally) if that’s what it takes to win. LeBron did not have that attitude while playing in Cleveland and no one there apparently could bring it out of him. It’s most evident in the fact that he went and joined Chris Bosh, after Bosh spurned a chance to come to Cleveland for max money. Jordan/Kobe would have resolved to never let the Heat out of the Eastern Conference Finals and make Bosh wish he had played for Cleveland instead. Alas, LeBron did not have that kind of fire inside of him and now playing with the perfect second fiddle in Bosh and an assassin like Wade, it likely never will be.