I need to write this column, but what angle can I take? We all know LeBron James was theoretically the savior of Cleveland if he stayed, but now he is the Anti-Christ. We know that he wants to win titles. He is the most selfish man ever, he's not going to be in the record books, he cant win by himself, old white owners hate him and write hastily written essays about how terrible a human being he is (which sadly, comes off more like a letter you would write to your girlfriend 3 seconds after she tells you she banged the entire roster of the Boston Celtics - including Brian Scalabrine.)All of these are currently running 24/7 on ESPN and major news outlets, so we know them to be true right?
Wrong. I really like LeBron James the person AND I love LeBron James the player. I have been to one LeBron game in person and I remember him being mediocre the entire game, I was not impressed. Then, at the end of the game, I look up at the scoreboard - LeBron's line: 25 Points, 6 Rebounds, 4 Assists. Not an amazing game for him by his standard, but that's the point. LeBron's 2nd worst game of the regular season (according to basketball-reference.com's "GameScore") still produced a great stat line. For comparison: Carmelo Anthony's 2010 season average was 28, 6, and 3 (yes, they play the same position and are the same age, and Anthony is a top 5 SF in the league).
Just think about that, LeBron is so far and away better than other top 5 players that his worst games are comparable to their SEASON averages.
It's a necessity that I bring personal experience into this because it proves (to me at least) how important and special of a player he is to the NBA and, on a greater scale, pop culture. The man is an economic force, in and of himself, and should be able to do whatever he wants, wherever he wants to do it. We should not punish him for giving 7 years of his life to his hometown, carrying a TERRIBLE team for 6 out of the 7 years and then deciding he wants to win championships, so he takes a pay cut.
Another writer of this site brought up Kevin Durant and how respectable it was for him to quietly sign an extension with his team through 2016 and dedicate himself to that city, and it was. But let's not forget LeBron re-upped with the Cavs in 2007, he gave that city another chance to win, and the Cavs still couldn't put pieces around him (no, the Ghost of Antwan Jamison and Shaq just playing the role of "Kazaam" all season doesn't count.)
I cannot believe some of the reactions to his leaving - this is the best athlete (certainly the most famous) in the entire world and he chose WINNING over Money. Any major star do that recently? Anyone? Bueller? Yes, of course he is still making between 15-20 million a year, but he left at least an extra $30 million on the table to WIN now. And EVERYONE I've talked to thus far feels that he is coping out or tarnishing his legacy because he is joining two other all stars. Would we do this for anyone else? Let's take the NFL for example - the best RB in the league is currently holding out from his team (with whom he signed a contract with in 2008) because the contract ONLY pays him 12 million over the 5 year period. JAMES FULFILLED HIS CONTRACT. TWICE.
People side with this RB (Chris Johnson), people say "oh yes, he's the best he deserves more, Tennessee needs to pay him. He outplayed his contract." In James, we have a player who is far and away the best young player in the league and he decides "no, I don't need the money, I want to win." Shame on anyone that can chastise that (no matter what the circumstances are.)
I believe that trumps everything. In sports, winning is everything, and when a superstar picks winning above all, that has to be acknowledged above everything else.
So let's touch on all the other elements of this saga:
The Decision - While many people kill James for his decision to televise the revolution, let's not over look the fact that he made over $6 million dollars to donate to the Boys and Girls club. Yes there is a ton of narcissism in this, being the first pro athlete to televise his decision, live in prime time, but he still was doing good (A LOT of good) for others. If nothing else, we get a seminal pop culture moment out of this. You will always remember where you were, when you heard that LeBron was going to Miami. This is the first of it's kind and I'm glad to be alive to witness it.
Cleveland Fans - Where do I begin. This is an athlete, a local, homegrown boy, that stuck around in your piece of shit city (I've heard their main export is crippling depression) while playing with a bunch of nobodies (he had 1 all star teammate in 7 years.) It's incredibly selfish of Cleveland fans to expect him to stay in a terrible city with a terrible team and waste away the best years of his career because they need something to keep their city afloat. He's only 25! I'm almost 25 and you know what I did yesterday? I mailed a letter. AT THE POST OFFICE. (And I almost passed out due to the pressure.) I can't even imagine trying to carry a city. You have the right to be sad, but your owner didn't do enough to keep him around and so he left. Burning jerseys, really? He didn't have sex with your mom (well some of your moms, probably, but they threw themselves at him.)
Cleveland Sports Writers - This completely boggles my mind. Maybe they are going to lose their jobs once James leaves and that's why they are angry. But they are sports writers, they are supposed to be a little objective in their reporting. I heard the beat writer from the Cleveland newspaper on ESPN today and it literally sounded like he was about to cry. When asked "Where does Cleveland go from here?" He sighed and said "I don't even know." You know why you don't know? BECAUSE THE CAVALIERS HAVE NO PLAN, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO OTHER PLAYERS. THIS IS YOUR OWNER'S FAULT. The rage and venom coming from the Cleveland sports writers is just bizarre and reeks of adolescence ("You don't want to hang out with me anymore? FINE I HATE YOU. ANDERSON VAREJO HAS BETTER HAIR PRODUCTS ANYWAY.")
Note: It was also weird because this sports writer also clearly blamed James for the economic crash about to happen. He said "All the businesses around Quicken Loans Arena are going to take a huge hit." Again, this is not James' fault, it's the Cavs fault for having no back up plan and having no other players that will possibly draw fans. It's weird that you can be mad at LeBron because the downtown Cleveland Quiznos wont have as many customers next November.
The Owner: Wow. That letter (a lot like this column) seemed to be written out of sheer passion (and hatred, a lot of hatred.) Gilbert comes off like a girl that begged for years to keep her boyfriend, but refused to give him blow jobs (yeah, you gotta try a LITTLE harder than that) and now he's going somewhere else and she is confused why. The man is the owner of an NBA franchise and someone allowed him to write and RELEASE this letter? Do the Cavs not pay for Public Relations people? How does he guarantee a championship when his starting lineup next year looks like this: C Anderson Varejao, PF Antwan Jamison, SF Jamario Moon, SG Delonte West, PG Mo Williams. That's not even a playoff team in the east! And who is going to want to come to Cleveland now that they know the owner is off the rails and doesn't get players to win (and don't forget, players need to voluntarily want to come to Cleveland.)
The Legend: This is the one that angers me the most. People that claim LeBron's legacy will be tarnished because he is now on "Wade's Team." No one knows how the experiment will shake out, no one knows who the alpha dog will be. It's completely ridiculous to say that he can't win on his own - Jordan did't win on his own, he had a top 50 ALL TIME PLAYER in Scottie Pippen. LeBron had (at best) a Horace Grant in Cleveland. Jordan isn't winning with just Horace Grant. The fact that LeBron can suck in his ego and play with 2 other all stars to try to win is admirable I think. His image has obviously already taken a hit, but what happens if this team rips off 4 championships in a row, unless Wade is MUCH MUCH better, James is still going to be the cover boy. He will have the best selling jersey in Miami (and possibly the world). He will still have the endorsement deal with Nike. He is still the biggest athlete in the world.
Note: Any of this nonsense about James not being Magic or Jordan now that he has Wade is garbage. A list of teams that had tons of stars:
the 87 Lakers (NBA Champs) had: Kareem, Magic and Worthy. The 83 Sixers had Moses Malone and Julius Erving. The 86 Celtics had Bird, McHale, Parish and Walton.
ALL of these players were on the NBA TOP 50 All Time team. No one discredits Bird for playing with 3 top 50 ALL TIME players. The argument is ridiculous.
So to sum up: Lebron (arguably the best player alive right now and definitely the most famous in the world) took less money to try to win. In the process, he created a media frenzy, revived Jim Gray's broadcasting career, transcended sports news to become CNN headline fodder, created a seminal pop culture moment in history with his "The Decision" TV special, earned $6 million for charity and will play on a team that will probably dominate the next decade, re-invigorate interest in Miami basketball and win at least 3 titles (yea, I said it). So, why is he a bad guy?