This summer has been unlike anything else I have ever seen before in the NBA. It all started with the most coveted group of free-agents in league history, most of which in their prime, available to most teams in the NBA.
The most sought out of them all, LeBron James, decided to "take his talents to South Beach" to join up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, generally considered the two other top guys available, to make the Heat into an instant title contender and challenge the Los Angeles Lakers, the reigning champs.
The Heat brass, led by Pat Riley, not only convinced these guys to join forces to win titles, but also convinced them to take less money to do so, with James and Bosh leaving around $15 million apiece on the table and Wade taking a bigger cut, around $18 million, since they were coming to join forces with him.
Sounds like everything that NBA players are accused of not doing, right? Too many waste the prime of their careers on teams that will never win a title in order to cash the biggest paycheck available, and then title hop towards the latter parts of their careers when their skills have detoriated, and winning is now the most important thing.
Instead of James being lauded for a road never before taken, he was criticized for taking the easy way out and becoming a Pippen to Wade's Jordan.
James has been accused of quitting on his Cavalier teammates and the city of Cleveland, received a scathing letter from Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert comparing him to Benedict Arnold, called out by Charles Barkley for not being man enough to go to a team where he would be the unquestioned leader, and had several Hall of Famers' including Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan saying they would not have made the same decision.
Now I do understand the backlash James received from the way he handled "The Decision," however I chalk that up to a 25-year old young man who made a mistake. But to criticize him for putting winning above all else is simply ridiculous.
James has never had a true sidekick to play alongside, much less a cast like the one he now has with the Heat. LeBron responded a couple weeks back to all of the criticism with a tweet that he is taking mental notes of all the people taking shots at him this summer.
That is the type of response James fans have been waiting to hear for years. He has been accused of not having a killer instinct, or caring to much about his image, but now with seemingly all of his supporters now turning into detractors, LeBron seems to be harnessing his inner Michael Jordan, storing the ammunition people are giving him to rip their hearts out with it come May and June.
James is no longer the small town savior, but the big city martyr. I liken this situation to Kobe Bryant circa 2004, when he was perceived for running the lovable Shaquille O' Neal out of town by threatening to leave via his own free agency situation.
Bryant's heart grew colder, and the Black Mamba mentality grew into the full grown beast we see today. James no longer will care about receiving standing ovations in Madison Square Garden, instead focusing on scoring 62 points to make a new Garden record.
James has been a sleeping beast for seven seasons, only reaching about 95% of his full potential that has still led to two MVP's, six All Star games, and countless other awards and stats.
Now that he no longer has questions about an impending free agency hanging over his head and can completely focus on basketball, there is about to be a new chapter written in the King James version, edition 6. I just hope we are ready for the revelation of the coming wrath.
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