“I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach.”
Could the silence have been any louder? Could it have been any more symbolic of the general feeling outside of Miami? LeBron James’ decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was the story of the day. While reporting stories on the largest oil spill in the history of the gulf, in the history of the U.S., the most common conversation I had today was “Where is LeBron going?” That’s what happens when the NBA’s biggest superstar (READ: NOT BEST) announces he’s going to hold an hour-long special about his future plans on primetime television.
But what I found to be the most surprising aspect of his decision, was the silence met by the live audience in attendance. Granted, he was in Connecticut, and a Knicks decision would probably have blown the roof off. A Cavs decision would have easily been the most crowd-pleasing. A decision that would have warranted the devoted, faithful persona James claims to be in his documentary “More Than a Game” (one of the most enjoyable sports docs of all time) and his autobiography “Shooting Stars” (written with Buzz Bissinger, the author of “Friday Night Lights”). I don’t doubt James’ loyalty, but I am disappointed in his treatment of his hometown team.
Organizing this large an event to tell your team, your city, your state, that you no longer want to be a part of them is rather callous. It was cold blooded in the way that Kobe Bryant (and not LeBron) is on the court when there’s 2 minutes left and the game needs to be won. So many fans across the country we’re pulling for that old school team loyalty, that old school hope that you can stay with one team for your whole career and win a championshipi there. That’s a feeling for general fans of the game, nevermind what fans in the state of Ohio are thinking now.
For a man that claims championships mean everything, which I don’t doubt, his manner in obtaining that ring is anything but old school. By joining Wade and Bosh, James is hoping a ring is guaranteed. It seems James no longer wants the challenge of winning a championship. He just wants one. The new trio is hoping to take a page of the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen book. But those guys were in the twilight of their respective careers. They were battle-tested. The three dudes from the 2003 draft are not (Bosh has been to 11 playoff games in 7 years). Evidently, James does not have the patience it takes to lead a team to a championship on his own. By hooking up with this summer’s other top two free agents, he’s hoping that he can lock up an easy championship. Each player will have to sacrifice his game, but is it really for the good of the game? Fans will no longer have the opportunity to watch James or Wade take over a game by themselves and single-handedly will their teams to a win.
James is taking the easy way out. Perhaps concerned he’ll never be considered one of the game’s all-time greatest without a championship, he’s hoping his move to Miami gets him an easy one, or two, or three. Ultimately it will prove harder than necessary as the Heat doesn’t seemingly have enough cap space to provide decent role players. But that is beside the point. Even if he picks up a few rings with Miami, James will have done so with two other stars (Wade being a superstar, Bosh being Staff Sgt. Overrated) in a time when the league is watered down. Oddly enough, rings will not cement James’ legacy as it did with Jordan, Russell, Kobe. That he got them without being his team’s obvious leader, just might.
Soon after James made his decision, ESPN played a highlight montage to the tune of Eminem’s “Not Afraid.” The song was ironically appropriate, because it couldn’t have been further off.