LeBron James Goes and Dan Gilbert Blows His Top

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IJuly 9, 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

Well, the LeBron James free agency saga is officially over.

The 25 year old superstar is headed to Miami to join forces with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

In a ridiculously hyped-up press conference prominently featured on a one hour ESPN special, James opted to leave the only city and franchise he has known in his seven year career. 

Needless to say, the city of Cleveland was none too pleased.

Clips of rejoicing fans in downtown Miami were simultaneously met with images of LeBron James jerseys being burned in the streets of Ohio.

The city of Cleveland has every right to be upset, especially considering a history of heartbreak that has plagued the city for over half a century.

This may very well go down as the most devastating event in a long line of pitfalls in Cleveland sports history.

Many now believe James has sacrificed his individual legacy in order to win championships with the help of other superstars because he couldn't do it himself.  That could certainly be true.

But, why is that James' fault?

Why should he have to win it all by himself?

Michael Jordan was, and will always be, the greatest individual player in the history of the game, but the man didn't do it alone.  Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant stepped up to the plate and created a three-headed monster that was virtually unbeatable. Dennis Rodman joined Jordan and Pippen a few years later and helped keep the championships coming.

Wilt Chamberlin, one of the first great superstars in the league, was aided by Jerry West and Gall Goodrich in a three year span that ended with three NBA Finals appearances and an eventual victory in 1972.

Kobe Bryant, perhaps the best game-changer the league has seen since Jordan, has won five titles since 2000.  However, he had Shaq by his side for three of them and Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Derek Fisher(who was also part of the Kobe-Shaq team) available for the other two.

Paul Pierce couldn't make the Celtics a winner on his own. Add Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and all of a sudden you have a championship a year later.

The interesting thing is that during last night's press conference, James acknowledged the very same facts.  He understands that being a superstar can only get you so far when the supporting cast isn't consistent. 

In the Cavaliers' defense, they did their best the past few seasons to arm LeBron with a solid supporting cast.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had been the face of the franchise long before Lebron arrived, and he developed into one of the best centers in the eastern conference. 

Anderson Varejao has always been a solid post player, whether in the starting line-up or coming off the bench.

In 2007, then-rookie Daniel Gibson had a fantastic playoff series against the Detroit Pistons with his lights-out three point shooting.

Delonte West, in two seasons in Cleveland, has been a solid perimeter player, rotating between point and shooting guard.

In 2008, Cleveland acquired point guard Mo Williams in a three team trade.  Williams would make an All-Star appearance while providing the Cavs with a true point guard and outside shooting threat.

This season, the Cavs brought in the 38 year old Shaq to help control the paint and, for the most part, he played well considering his 18 years of mileage.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the Cav's roster was the acquisition of star forward Antawn Jamison from Washington at the trade deadline.  Jamison gave Cleveland a versatile inside-outside forward who could stretch defenses and create mismatches to be taken advantage of by his teammates.

This was a very, very good team when all cylinders were humming.  Heck, they had the best record in the NBA, held the number one seed in the east, and were basically a unanimous pick to make a finals appearance.

James, the league MVP, had the supporting cast he needed to win it all.  

But, when game five against the Boston Celtics in the semifinals rolled around, something happened that couldn't quite be explained.  The aging Celtics marched into Cleveland, with the series tied at two a piece, and proceeded to pummel the Cavaliers, 120-88.

It may very well have been one of the most shocking outcomes for a playoff game of this magnitude in some time simply because James and the Cavaliers, the darlings of the NBA, were utterly torn asunder.

For the first time in a long time, boos rang down from the Cleveland fans, and they weren't all intended for the victorious Celtics.

The city of Cleveland began to wonder if LeBron James had given up (James posted 15 points, six rebounds, and seven assists).  I must admit, that possibility is not completely out of the question.

But, where was the rest of the team?

Sure, Shaq put up a nice 21 points, but that was after the Celtics had already driven the stake into the heart of the Cavaliers.

Antwan Jamison, the one many thought would prove to be a perfect wing-man to LeBron, ended the game with nine points, hitting only 4-10 shots.  Mo Williams wasn't any better, going 3-8 for for nine points.

Anthony Parker stepped up with 14 points, but when he's your most productive player (next to 38 year old Shaq) in a pivotal playoff game, you have problems.

Why is all of this relevant?

Well, when Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert released a note to Cleveland fans following Lebron's decision to head to Miami, he stated his belief that LeBron "quit" on his team in game five of the Boston series.

Gilbert went on to say that, "Lebron James needs to go to another team with two superstars already so he can win a championship."

I can understand the feeling of betrayal to a degree.  If I were a Cavaliers fan, I'd probably have many of the same feelings those fans do, but they wouldn't last.

If LeBron truly did quit, it was because he knew no one else on his team was willing to step up.

Did James quit in game two when he scored 24 points in the loss to Boston?

No, but Williams, Parker, and Shaq sure as heck didn't show up, going 7-26 from the field combined.

How about game six with his triple-double?

Sure, the game wasn't close until late, but he was the only reason the Cavs had any chance to stay close at the end.

The weight of an entire city has been on Lebron James' shoulders since he was 18 years old and, if I'm not mistaken, the man has done very little, other than not winning the big prize, that would give Cleveland fans reason to grimace.

As for Dan Gilbert, that was a brilliant Al Davis impression you just brought out.

"The self-proclaimed former 'King'" you refer to gave you seven years of some of the most amazing basketball in recent history."

You lifted him up and promoted him as a "King".  You were perfectly content with LeBron for all these years filling your seats and racking in millions of advertising dollars.  Then, when the opportunity to finally join players who could give him a great chance to win a championship comes along, you act as if you knew all along that he was some horrible person with no sense of loyalty or commitment.

If Lebron had opted to stay, would you have disclosed all of the things you just so eloquently expressed?

The truth is, LeBron James does have a sense of ethics.  He loves Cleveland, but as he so perfectly described during his press conference, this is all still a business and, to succeed, sometimes you have to make the unpopular choice.

What's even more interesting is that James proved his dedication to the game by taking a dramatic pay cut in order to make the move to Miami.  He could have had his max deal in Cleveland, but the man understands that to win a championship you need real support from the players around you.

Jordan will tell you that; Magic will tell you that; and Kobe will tell you that.

LeBron James is sacrificing the chance to be the individual icon that Michael Jordan was, but he's buying into the team mentality.  In the end, it will pay dividends for him.

If the Cavaliers had brought in Amare' Stoudamire at mid-season last year, or if they had done a better job of courting Chris Bosh just days ago, LeBron would still be in Cleveland.

The city of Cleveland was spoiled for seven years.  So, while it's disappointing they didn't win a championship, you can't deny that LeBron James served up some of the greatest moments in Cleveland sports history.

As a final statement, Mr. Gilbert "{Guaranteed} that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former 'King' wins one."

He even went as far as to claim that James will carry a "curse" with him to Miami that will plague him forever.

While the formula of James, Wade, and Bosh may not push Miami to the top in year one, it's hard to believe they won't be able to at least match the success of Cleveland. Pat Reilly is a magician and will eventually make this squad the perfect combatant to Kobe's Lakers for NBA supremacy.

As for the "curse" Gilbert  placed on his deposed King, I think the real curse will be on him as he tries to build a team capable of even sniffing a title without LeBron James at the helm.

Unless, he holds to the belief that the cast he put around James the last few years was talented enough to win a title.  If that's the case, they should have no problem in thumbing their noses at their former King in the coming years...


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