LeBron James made the right decision in going to the Miami Heat. If his heart was no longer in Cleveland, he shouldn’t have stayed there, end of story. While it would have been nice to see him stay in one place, like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, and see if the team could be built up around him to become a championship contender, similar to what Oklahoma City is doing with Kevin Durant, he clearly did not want to go that route and we can’t hold that against him. He made the decision that he felt was best for him. However, the choice has raised some questions about what it will mean for his legacy, the Heat and the NBA as a whole.
Questions have been raised this summer about whether LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces will be good or bad for the team and the league. Some have argued that, with the salaries these men are getting, there is no way the Heat will be able to give them a good enough supporting cast. That without multiple championships this will have been a failed experiment for the franchise. Nonsense.
There is no possible way this will turn out poorly for the Heat organization. Regardless of how many titles these three men win together, every game played in Miami will be sold out, likely for the entirety of their contracts. They will be on national television every time a network has the opportunity to showcase them. They will be both the most loved and most hated team in professional basketball. They will be, along with the LA Lakers so long as Kobe is there, the most visible team in the league. How is any of this not great for the franchise?
For better or worse, professional sports exist for the purpose of making money. Sure the players, coaches and executives want to win. They wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t. At the end of the day though, for the organizations and leagues, it’s all about the green. And Miami is going to make an unfathomable amount of it during this period.
As far as the NBA as a whole is concerned, this is also a no-lose situation for them. When was the last time the league was talked about this much once the Finals ended? Has there been a season this looked forward to in recent memory? The NBA has been waiting for this type of publicity since Jordan’s reign with the Bulls ended and they have finally found it.
It has been said that a mass collection of talent on a few teams, which we may be headed to with Chris Paul (I don’t care what he says, he wants out) and Carmelo Anthony wanting to be relocated, would be the downfall of the league. Again, nonsense.
Sports needs rivalries and the NBA will particularly need a team in the East that can be a rival to the Heat. The NFL and MLB have benefited from the Patriots/Colts and Yankees/Red Sox rivalries, and the NBA would love to see another team gather some superstar players together to contend with Miami year in and year out. The Celtics have one more year with their group, then we will need to see what happens with Paul and Anthony. Carmelo could be on his way to a new team any day now and Paul will probably be moved before the 2011 season starts. It would not be at all shocking for them to find a way to play together as was intimated by Paul at Anthony’s wedding.
And now for LeBron James. This is where this situation gets a little sticky. It wasn’t his choice that got people so riled up so much as the way he carried it out. Whoever he was listening to when he decided to do “The Decision” gave him some very bad advice. The fan and media reaction to it has been fierce and the groans in the background after he told us where he was taking his talents could not have been what he had in mind when he pitched it to ESPN.
James also has it working against him that the Heat will always be viewed as Dwyane Wade’s team. Wade won a championship without LeBron, he brought James in simply to help him win more. LeBron’s reputation as a singularly great player may never materialize because he will be viewed as a sidekick, fair or not.
Here’s the thing about that, though: he doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe he doesn’t care about being the alpha-male and winning is all that matters to him. In actuality, that is what team sports are supposed to be about. If he had shown a little more class and maturity in making the announcement, like having a regular old-fashioned press conference instead of going WWE on all of us, the backlash would have been nowhere near this intense aside from the fans in Cleveland.
And, if the team does win several championships and James is able to average a triple-double, which he is surely capable of, he’ll still go down as an all-time great. Besides, winning does cure all when it comes to public perception. Just ask Kobe.
The bottom line is this. There will always be people who will never let go of the fact that LeBron left he Cavs and joined an already established superstar, along with a player a notch below them, on another team. Some will forever hold that against him. However, winning a few championships and putting up some monster numbers will also endear him to a new generation of fans just getting into basketball, whether they view him as Wade’s helper or his own man.
LeBron’s image will be just fine so long as he wins. If he doesn’t, at least he’s living a tax-free life on South Beach with his pals. Hopefully for him, that will be enough.
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