On July 8th, 2010 Lebron James made his historic decision to leave the NBA team he called home for 7 years. The Cleveland Cavaliers. It was one of the most shocking sports spectacles the world had ever seen. Not because of the intent, but the fashion in which it was done. Lebron looked cold, the premise of the decision calculated, the loss of sincerity in his tone, and attitude put people off, embarrassing the people of Ohio. Then the celebration in Miami. He guaranteed not one, not two, not three, but yeah you get the rest. The energy sent out into the collective consciousnesses was deafening. You wondered would it subside. Well not till the season ended several weeks ago has it. Unfortunately, rather than people praise the triumph that the Dallas Mavericks achieved. The fact that after 17 years in the league Jason Kidd has a ring, and Dirk Mr. Swish 41 redeemed himself, but we keep blaming Lebron James instead of praising him for the best season in basketball in a long while. In his mistake, and loss we have a better NBA…Let’s talk.
First, and foremost I didn’t see anything wrong with the decision that Lebron made, or how he made it. If he were the first in sports to make a mistake on grand scale. I’d be right there with the mob asking for blood. Here’s the context though. I’m from New York City, and I’m a Yankee fan. Now are there any Yankee fans who feel the way I do? Nope, and they are part of the reason this post has been written. Lebron came into the league at the age of 19. From the beginning he was both hearlded, and dismissed. Yet, what he did for 7 seasons taking the Cavilers from an oh so ran team to one of the best in the league. He single handidly put the team, and city on his back. Taking them to the NBA finals in 2007 with no help. A feet that those who romance NBA history forget that Michael Jordan did not do. His airness needed help, and basketball is about dynasties. Ask Pat Riley. Lebron went to a team of individuals not just for the help, but to create a new legacy, and dynasty. What pieces did he have in Cleveland? Did they know for years there was a possibility of him leaving? Yes…Many people do understand the circumstances, but again they hated to process. Except there are angles everyone whose emotions have been embedded with Lebron’s decision seems to forget. For the decision Lebron is not the only one responsible. The blame also goes with the global sports culture we live in today, and the idea of branding + big business. Let me explain.
In this day, and age of moguls, players becoming larger than life, big business, and branding. Lebron made his decision to broadcast his choice. He took to a stage placed before him by Nike, Microsoft, ESPN, The Boys, and Girls Club, and the NBA. Even before then the set-up was there. Every team including the Cleveland Cavaliers knew that Lebron would be on the block with his talents to be acquired in free agency. In fact NBA teams were gutting their franchises three years before last year to have a shot. From New York City to Chicago. Every team wanted a shot, making trades, transactions, and doing things that made you scratch your head. They all participated in the decision, but Lebron ultimately pulled the trigger. Therefore he takes the hit. Which is absolutely fine. In knowing this, the information, from YouTube to internet posts out there to back this crime scene up. How do you hate the way Lebron made his decision? Especially when news papers implored mayor’s to aks Lebron to come to their city. We live in a world where kids know more about branding, than they do Shakespeare. Lebron a man-child has been conditioned since childhood to focus on elevating his brand, being media trained to death for a stage he will be king on. From the first cover of him on Slam Magazine to SI. He’s been a product of the very society that is vilifying him for what they taught a 19-year-old who never really had father, who’s mom he became a man for. Some how, some way the confidence that it takes for one to reach his height must be unshakable. In the legacy of sports history it’s not true. Pressure busts pipes, and not everyone is built for the dreams they want. Sad to say, but real to hear. No problem there, but I take issue with Lebron’ s treatment. Is he human, or alien?
The emotional sting to fans is understandable, and I know sports does allow us to be invested. At the same time it does not allow for that at the same time. GM’s and organizations do what they want in sports. Look at the lockouts we are having. Dealing with players however they want. Players are cattle to them. A stud goes, another one comes in to slaughter. Loyalty does not apply. Example, Deron Williams was in his living room, and had to see he got traded to the Nets from Utah. No phone call, no talk with the owners to say goodbye, no time to speak with his wife, and tell his kids…Nothing. He found out like you, and me. On his couch watching Sportscenter. Great example right? How many years did he give the Utah Jazz? What kind of citizen, and NBA ambassador has Deron Williams been? Where’s the uproar Utah Jazz fans, sports critics, cynics? Wait I get it, it does not matter what everyone else does, but the player must be Jesus, and act accordingly right? Makes sense…NOT.
Since Michael Jordan’s ultimate exit we have compared every single potential NBA star to him. People hated Allen Iverson for cracking Jordan’s ankles. They call Kobe a remix of Jordan. Shaq can’t really get his due for being one of the most dominant players in the game. Lebron’s decision on every single level imaginable has resulted in the most growth the NBA has seen since Jordan. From ticket sales, to jersey’s the impact has been nothing but spectacular for a league that couldn’t see itself beyond his Airness. Lebron put down the 23 # for his own #. What I find fair because I love sports, is the fact that all the talk ends when you get on the court. That’s where all the talk gets answered, and you are what your record says you are. With all the animosity Lebron/Heat dealt with. They did their thing last season. Lebron had an MVP’esque season you could say. On a new team with two other great players, a new coach, every team gunning for you. Lebron James, and the Heat over achieved. I know what he did doesn’t count unless he gets a chip? Wrong…We applaud many sports players that have not won one. We say Jordan his the greatest ever, he has 6 rings. Wait though, Bill Russel has 11. How does the praise work again? I never took what Lebron said in his new home stadium, to his new MIAMI FANS to heart. It was like a boxer talking up his game before the fight. It’s what contenders do to get people excited. Ask Mohammed Ali. I can’t co-sign what he said till he does it. So why take it personal? People act like he’s the only one. We hear smatterings, but there are others who are happy Lebron is the donkey to kick. Don’t believe so? Go ask Rex Ryan, and those J.E.T.S… Sports is about coming up in the big moments. Lebron didn’t do that. I, and many kill him for that. Yet, I will not be part of the majority trying to kill his character. Since entering the league Lebron has been a stand up player. He’s never spat on a fan, didn’t end up in a hotel with another women for a sketchy charge, and Lebron has always had a smile being a fun player. At the same time you can’t tell people what to feel, which is the premise of this post. What I will say is feel however you are entitled to, but take a good look again at Lebron. Tell me what a villain looks like, and if you see it in his face. The NBA lives better today than the day before the decision. Thank you Lebron, but I don’t want you to win. Play your game for this new era. You don’t owe anybody, nor does your generation after today. This time is your era. Make it great.