Again, I know I don’t usually post on sports, but as a sports fan, how could I not post on this?
I have mixed feelings being from Ohio and a James fan. Part of me is upset that he left his hometown, and showed that maybe he wasn’t as loyal as some thought. On the other hand, he showed that in fact, winning means more to him than money. He is losing a ton of money by going to Miami. The Cavs could have given him about 125 million over 6 years. He won’t be able to sign a max contract in South Beach due to Wade and Bosh, and they can’t max out the salary cap with those three because they only have 4 other players on contract, and two are draftees. So it wasn’t about money for him, but about winning. This was certainly his best shot at winning multiple championships.
And for those who think 1 championship in Cleveland for LeBron is worth more than 6 someplace else, what planet are you from? If Michael had won just 1 in Chicago, is he who he is today? They didn’t have a major history of championships in Chicago, just like Cleveland. Baseball, football, basketball all were struggling to get there. LeBron needs 7 or 8 rings to show that he’s better than MJ, otherwise, he’s still in MJ’s shadow.
And for those who think that if he wins a handful in Miami, the superstar trio takes away from it… nonsense. Magic had a Hall of Fame roster in LA, same for Isaiah Thomas, Larry Bird, hell, Jordan had quite a team too, so much so, that they couldn’t afford to keep them all together because they got so big individually. LeBron went through a list of the teams to win multiple titles, and all of them had 3 or 4 star players on them. He understands that championships are about the team and depth. He carried the Cavs by himself for 7 years and Cleveland and always fell short. Yes, Jordan didn’t win it all for a while, but he won in his 7th year, LeBron didn’t. And it didn’t seem like the Cavs would be adding any players to the mix, and none of the ones they had were up and coming, like the Bulls had in Horace Grant and Pippen, notably. So LeBron would have had to wait for jamison, Williams, Verajao, etc. contracts to expire since they were overpaid and limited cap space tremendously, which is another 3-4 years. That’s now 11 years and no rings for LeBron if he stays, where Jordan had 5 by then and on his way to a 6th if you don’t include his first year of retirement. LeBron had to do something now if he was going to make a run at surpassing Jordan’s legacy, and this was the right move for him. Obviously not for Cleveland, not for his fans, but for him. It was his decision, and it was about making him happy and realizing his goals, and not about what any fan wanted him to do.
If LeBron wins a few here in the next 4 or 5 years, we should be happy for him, because his decision will have paid off, even if that meant that Cleveland was left heartbroken.
On another note, talk about “fair weather” people in Cleveland. Gilbert really ripped “his” former star after he made his decision. If my biggest fans were going to turn on me as soon as I put winning at the forefront of my career, staying would have been a big mistake. Cleveland fans have a right to be sad, yes. Very sad indeed. They weren’t able to keep the most amazing physical specimen the NBA has ever seen in his hometown, with no fault due to themselves. Rather, it was the management who decided to overpay good, but not great players, good, but on the decline players, rather than chasing young, developing talent, or true seconds. Did you notice how Gilbert said that their motivation and determination which reach new heights now? That means that they WERE NOT trying as hard as they could have to bring a championship to Cleveland with LeBron as they claimed. Maybe if he had said this 3 years ago, it would have happened. Or if he had said this after the loss in the Conference semis, LeBron may have stayed. But he announces it after LeBron leaves, not a smart move. It proves to LeBron that he was right to leave, that Gilbert wasn’t really going for a championship, but was taking his King for granted, and was worried about filling seats. Cleveland fans should be mad at the front office for not doing their job and simply hoping LeBron could do it on his own. That’s the saddest part about this whole thing. LeBron wanted to stay, but how could he if his front office was half-assing it, and not as focused on his goal as he was. I found it interesting that even in one of his answers last night, he said that a championship was only reached when everybody, from the fans, to the coaches, to the players on the court, to the front office, to the ticket salesmen, to the custodians all had that as their goal. I think this was him saying that no matter how much he and his teammates wanted the ring, it wasn’t going to happen because a link or two was missing.
But let’s get this straight, Cleveland fans have no right to be angry at HIM. Not for wanting to win a title, which he so much deserves for having flipped that town upside-down. Which he so much deserves for renewing the interest in the NBA since his rookie season. Which he so much deserves for being LeBron, and MVP’s, and putting Cleveland on the map, and making Mike Brown look so good. Not for wanting to be a part of something bigger than himself, which was all he was in Cleveland. Not for wanting to change the face of basketball like MJ did. Not for wanting to surpass MJ’s accomplishments, and place himself at the helm of the NBA’s greatest. In fact, for a true basketball or simply a true sports fan, one wishes him the best, and does not wish him to limit is potential if by doing so means he stays in his hometown. If they are going to be angry, it should be at Gilbert and the front office for waiting until AFTER James was gone to become so focused on a championship. His letter should have read, “We did our very best, not just to keep him here, but to win a championship for Cleveland. Unfortunately, it was not enough, and we will have to find another way to bring one to this city.” Instead, he threw the hometown hero under the bus, taking no blame upon himself, and telling Cleveland fans that they deserve better. But let’s get something right, Cleveland fans have, for the most part, only been fans for 7 years. Cleveland basketball was nothing before LeBron. If anybody deserves a championship, its the Chicago Cubs. Try over 100 years of loyal support and no ring. Boston was the same way until a few years ago. But Cleveland? Really? The fans there are only fans if the team is good, which wasn’t very often in any sport. So to say that they “deserve” better is truly funny. Really, LeBron and his teammates deserved better. Better treatment from the front office, and clearly, better treatment than the fans, as a true fan would not go burning his team’s savior’s jersey even if he went to another team. Cleveland should be thankful for the time that they had with LeBron, and not upset. If he had retired in Cleveland without a ring, would they be upset for him retiring? Or would they feel stupid for making him think that he had to stay at all costs, even if that meant never realizing his ultimate goal?
I am a huge Griffey fan, and he played here in Cincinnati for 8 years, and while I was sad to see him get traded to the White Sox, I was also glad to see him have a shot at a ring, something that did not look promising here at the time. This is a similar situation. Sometimes, we have to be big people, grown ups, and make decisions that are about us for a change, and not about others. Griffey stayed in Cincinnati through some bad years, even when fans turned on him! That’s loyalty. So was he betraying the city of Cincinnati by leaving? Of course not, he was pursuing his dream. The fans in Cleveland loved LeBron. He was the hometown kid, just like Griffey. he was expected to be the missing piece, just like Griffey. It didn’t work out, so should we hate him for leaving and trying his hand elsewhere? Again, no.
At least he didn’t pull a Joe Johnson, and take the money to lose out on a chance to win. At least he didn’t go to New York, where Amare was all they had to offer him. At least he didn’t go to Chicago, where he would always be in MJ’s city, in MJ’s shadow, literally, as he walked past the Jordan statue on his way to and from every game. At least he didn’t go to Kobe’s city, where the Clippers would have pulled him down like they did every other star to go there. At least he didn’t go to the Nets for a part owner friend in Jay-Z, and no team. Rather, he went to the team that truly gave him the best chance to win now, and in the future.
But now the pressure is on, right? He has to win 3 in the next 4 years, or this was a failed move, right? It’s all on him, now, to make good on this decision, right? Well, maybe not. He has two other options now. Two helpers. Hence, the trio. He has help, somebody, to be exact, who can help him carry the pressure. The added pressure is on the Heat as a team, not LeBron himself. This is an open relief for him. The weight on his shoulders has been lessened.
WIll he have to share the ball a bit more? Yes. So he could now legitimately average a triple-double this year. Will he score a little less? Yes, so he won’t win a scoring title this year, but I bet he takes a ring over that any day. Will he have to heave up ridiculous shots while doubled teamed and falling out of bounds to keep his team in the game? No, he can dish it off. Let’s look at it this way. If there is one team you don’t want to have to play in the finals in 2011, who is it? It’s the heat. You don’t want to have to hope that all 3 hit a slump for 7 games. You don’t have 8 defenders to double team each one and guard the other two men on the court. You don’t want to not have a clue whose hand the ball will be in the closing moments of a game. You don’t want to have 3 major scorers, rebounders, and defenders to worry about and know where they are on the court the whole game.
We thought the mid 90’s Bulls were possibly the greatest team ever, right? They had Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman at their core. How about a bigger, stronger, faster Jordan, a taller, more athletic, higher scoring Rodman, and a faster, better passer, higher flying Pippen? Does that sound ok to you? Throw in Pat Riley to rival Phil Jackson, and we have an eerily similar team, if not better team, will we get an eerily similar, if not better result? Only time will tell. But keep your eye on this team for the next 6 or 7 years. If they sign 5 year deals, 4 or 5 titles in a row may not be out of the question. And without a mid-career, in his prime retirement, with LeBron deciding to try his hand at wide receiver in the NFL, he could catch up the Jordan and Kobe in a hurry. And then who would question this decision?