When Lebron James officially made “The Decision”, my first impulse was to write an article blasting “King” James for copping out and taking what seems like a short-cut in a career that many expect to be one of the greatest of all-time.
However, out of respect for my readers and knowing that you were about to get 654 articles like that on Friday, I decided to sit back for the weekend and fully analyze the ramifications of what had just happened. I truly wanted to sit back and figure out exactly why Lebron chose Miami, why he chose to announce his “Decision” the way he did, and why exactly the reaction outside of South Beach was so harsh to James.
Like every decision any human being makes, there are pros and cons to what James did. We know one of the biggest pros is playing with Wade/Bosh and competing for titles the rest of the decade. We also know one of the biggest cons is that James will probably never peacefully return to Cleveland and instantly became one of, if not the most, hated players in the league. But what other factors play into this?
First, let me start this off by saying that I completely agree 100% that every player has the right to sign a contract wherever he wants, and that Lebron signing with Miami, while being controversial, is in no way wrong. He went where he thought that he could win the most championships and was still able to get a lot of money and he will be happy in Miami. That was his decision and I will in no way bash him doing what he thinks is best for himself and his family.
That being said, like everyone else I was shocked by his choice of the Heat. Sure, we had heard sources for days saying that James was leaning towards signing with Miami, that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and that the choice of the Heat was imminent, but “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” was still one of the most shocking moments in recent sports memory.
My immediate reaction was one of shock like most people, surprised that James chose the easiest path to success that had been placed in front of him. However, after a few of days of thought, I understand why Lebron did what he did, I think.
While I think he is one of the most physically gifted players we have ever seen, I still believe he is a work in progress who must develop a jumper and post game if he wants to continue dominating when his explosiveness is gone. This is a very unique situation that will take years to judge correctly.
So what exactly are the pros of this decision for James?
Well, first is the fact that James will now be playing on a sure-fire title contender for at least the length of his contract with Miami. Despite his brilliance on the Cavs, that’s not something you could say he would have done in Cleveland, especially with a deteriorating supporting cast around him. Purely in terms of basketball, the decision makes a lot of sense because there is no way the Cavs could have provided him with a supporting cast as good as the one he will have in Miami once the Heat fill their roster out.
Secondly, James will no longer need to be perfect for his team to have a chance at winning. While he did have talent around him during his tenure in Cleveland, the fact of the matter is Bron needed to average a 30-8-7 for the Cavs to compete. Guys like Mo Williams and Andersen Varejao are great role players, but they aren’t exactly championship-caliber guys. Nights when Lebron was off the Cavs were just an average team, and the wear and tear from a season of having to be great really set in once the playoffs roll around and teams really take their games to the next level.
Another important factor to consider is that in a way, Lebron is getting a chance to go back to the atmosphere he had in high school. Anyone who has seen the documentary, “More Than a Game”, which follows James and his high school best-friends/teammates as they grow up and become national champions, knows that there is nothing more important to James than being a part of something special with friends. He is a guy who is loyal through and through, even to a fault. By joining Wade and Bosh, Lebron will be playing with two of his best friends in the league and in his mind get back the fun that he had in high-school once again, albeit this time with much wealthier, more talented friends.
You can’t underestimate the effect this had on James choosing the Heat over the Cavs or Knicks or Bulls or any other team pursuing him. Whether we want to accept it or not, Lebron may be more concerned with enjoying himself while playing basketball than he is with becoming the great player we all expect him to be. For the past seven years, he has been the franchise savior who was expected to lead the Cavs back to relevance. Basketball may have become a burden, not a game he could just play, and this undoubtedly played into James decision to head south.
Now, not only can Lebron play his game and enjoy himself, he has teammates he can lean on during an off-night.
But that exact point is what leads us into some of the cons about Bron choosing to play for the Heat. James will get to spend up to the next six years (assuming he doesn’t opt out in four seasons) playing with his buddies in South Beach, possibly winning multiple championships and becoming one of the greatest trios to ever play the game, but what is it going to cost his legacy? And an even more important question, does Lebron even care?
Magic Johnson became legendary not just for his passing skills and unbelievable talent or even his five championship rings, but also because he had a rivalry with two of his best friends in Larry Bird and Isaiah Thomas that was as competitive as anything we’ve ever seen. Would we look at Magic the same way if he had left the Lakers to team up with Bird for a chance at some rings?
We all know that Michael Jordan would have preferred to play basketball after lighting himself on fire before he would have signed with his biggest rivals, no matter how good of friends they were. Do you think Jordan ever would have signed with the Spurs to chase one or two more rings at the end of his career?
Or what about the man we compare to James the most, two-time defending and five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant? A main sticking point in any Kobe/Bron argument up to this point has always been that no matter how much more talent Lebron has than Kobe, he will never match his competitive nature or his work ethic.
Kobe not only wants to destroy everyone who is compared to him, he wants to make sure that when we all look back on comparisons we wonder how we ever made them to begin with. Remember when Kobe was first compared to Vince Carter? Or what about Tracy McGrady? Kobe eventually blew those discussions out of the water, and it was because he knew they were his biggest rivals.
While I can’t say I agree with his tactics (or font choice) following Lebron’s departure, one thing that stood out to me in Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s letter to Cavs fans was the quote, “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.”
You can argue all you want about whether or not Lebron should have gone to Miami, and in the end it’s not our place to say he was right or wrong. To some Lebron chose the easiest opportunity available, to others he chose the smartest.
Can Lebron do in Miami what he did in Cleveland? He is heading to a team that is undoubtedly Wade’s at the moment. For the Heat to be successful, they will have to transform into Lebron’s team. Will Wade be okay with settling in as a side-kick? And will Bosh be okay as the third banana? These are some very serious questions facing the Heat.
Just remember, there is an early termination option on his contract, as well as Wade and Bosh’s, after four seasons. Who knows what to expect if we have to go through another Lebron Bonanza.
Lebron fits the Magic Johnson mold much more than he fits the Michael Jordan mold, and that fact should be on full display in Miami. But the reason that you hear the MJ comparisons is because with his immense talent and unbelievable blend of size, strength and speed, Lebron has always been looked at as a player expected to become one of the greatest players of all-time, eventually pushing Jordan in the greatest player of all-time argument.
While the free agency of such a unique talent is something we should celebrate, “The Decision” instead turned the proceedings into a show unlike anything we have seen. And in doing so, it cost Lebron his charm and loveable nature which had made him the most popular player in the NBA.
You could see doubt in his face at times during “The Decision” that not many people are used to seeing. When James announced he would be “taking my talents to South Beach” he had a smile on his face, until he realized that nobody in the crowd was cheering his decision.
You could see a look of pain on James face for a split-second when Mike Wilbon showed him video of Cavs fans burning his jersey. Although he was able to catch himself and regain composure, for that one second all of us saw exactly the kind of pain that we wanted Lebron to express from the beginning. Yes, it was a tough decision. Yes, you had to do what was best for you and your family. But the fans that have supported you in Cleveland deserved more than they were given when you unceremoniously left town.
And while James may win rings for the next decade and retire as one of the best to ever do it, nobody will ever forget what happened on July 8, 2010. That night, James re-energized a dwindling fan base in Miami, at the expense of a legacy he had created in Cleveland since he was a middle-school kid just playing ball with his friends. Now that James has chosen playing ball with his friends again, he has gone from savior and fan-favorite to public enemy number one. For Lebrons sake, I hope the reward is worth the risk.
Belal Abdelfattah is BSO’s newest writer and comes from a long background in sports writing at the Sports Authority Blog and The Block Radio. You can follow Belal on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/belal_a