Lebron’s Choice – The Effects of “The Decision”
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 the pros and cons of this decision?
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 “What the hell? What a cop-out, is this dude serious?” and while those feelings might still be in my mind, after a couple of days of thought, I understand why Lebron did what he did, sort of.
Keep in mind that I am in no way a Lebron James fan. 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 may never develop a jump-shot that will make him a threat to score when his explosiveness is gone. But, this is a special situation and not a time to make rash judgments, which everyone seems to have been doing the past couple of days.
So what exactly are the pros of this decision for James?
Well, the first thing that comes to mind 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. Basketball-wise, 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 it fills 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 were off the Cavs were just an average team, and the wear and tear from a season of having to be great could be seen once the playoffs came around, which lead to recent earlier-than-expected exits.
Thirdly, Lebron will get to go back to his high-school days in a sense. 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. He is a guy who is loyal to his friends through and through, even if means he is being loyal to a fault. With Wade and Bosh, Lebron will be playing with two of his best friends in the league and get to have that fun factor 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 is 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 became a burden, not a game he could play, and this undoubtedly played into James decision to flee for the bright lights of Miami.
Now, Lebron can play his game and enjoy himself, while being able to be around not only talented players capable of leading when he is off, but guys that for once, he can lean on to carry the load. To an extent, it seems that James is thinking that basketball will be fun again now that he is playing with his friends.
But that exact point is what leads us into some of the cons about Bron choosing to play for the Heat. Yeah, James will get to spend the next six years playing with his buddies in South Beach, possibly winning multiple championships and becoming the greatest trio to ever play the game, but what is it going to cost his legacy? And an even more important question, does Lebron even care? If his choice was any indication, not in the least bit. I’ve been saying for weeks that the way to become one of the greatest ever is to consistently beat your top rivals.
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? My main sticking point in any Kobe/Bron argument 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? Sure maybe it was cool to make the comparisons for a year or two, but Kobe blew them out of the water, and it was because he knew they were his biggest rivals. Can we ever legitemately make the Lebron-Kobe comparison again after James move to Miami?
There’s a reason that a video of Jordan recently popped up saying that Kobe was the best player in the NBA and not James, and it’s not because Kobe has more talent than Lebron, it’s because he wants to lead his team to the top of the mountain by beating every great player in his way, not by teaming up with them.
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, but the fact of the matter there is no doubt he chose the easier route with the Heat. There is no debating that.
No matter how many titles Lebron may win in Miami, he will always be looked at as the Robin to D-Wade’s Batman, and that is not because he is less talented or a worse player, but because the Heat are Wade’s team, and Miami is his city. Wade has the ring, the Finals MVP and the undying loyalty of the fans in Miami, and Lebron knows this. While people in Miami are happy to have James, in the back of their minds there is no doubt skepticism and the question most of us are asking ourselves,
“If he can leave Cleveland behind and act like it has no affect on him, then how long until he bails on Miami when things get rough?”
Just remember, there is an early termination option on his contract, as well as Wade and Bosh’s, after three seasons. Who knows what to expect if we have to go through another Lebron Bonanza.
Like Rob is always telling us on twitter and in articles, 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 (or at least heard before this move) the MJ comparisons is because with his immense talent and unbelievable blend of size, strength and speed, we expected Lebron to become one of the greatest players of all-time and push Jordan as the G.O.A.T. no matter what his skill-set was telling us. But the fact is, whether he played like Magic or MJ, he was expected to be an all-timer who lead his team to titles.
Now that he has decided that he would rather be a part of a great trio of players rather than a great leader on a championship team, James has ensured that he will never be in the conversation of greatest player of all-time. While to him that may not necessarily be a con, to basketball fans all around it is definitely a sad thing. Many of us, myself included, expected to see James lead teams into contention for the rest of his career and looked forward to seeing him go head-to-head with his closest competition for best player in the NBA.
Now that he has teamed up with his closest rival, we won’t see any more great games with Wade and James going at it unlike any two players in the league we’ve seen in a while.
Love him or hate him, Lebron has always been a great player to watch because of the way he dominated games from start to finish. Now that he has “joined forces” as he termed it, with Wade and Bosh, those dominating performances will be much harder to come by. To him, that is a huge pro, to us NBA fans it is definitely a con. But if this situation has taught us anything it is that players don’t necessarily care what fans want.
To be blunt, James didn’t really give a damn what any fan thought when he made his decision to go to Miami, nor should he have because once again it is his decision. But players seem to under-estimate how much of an effect they have on people nation-wide when they make these decisions. It is definitely something that seemed to have slipped by James as he was telling Mike Wilbon all the great things he did for the Cavs while completely ignoring everything the organization and fans did for him.
Which takes me to the last, and perhaps biggest con of this whole situation for James. The fact that Lebron left the Cavs, while shocking, was not something that was unexpected from Cavs fans. They have some of the worst luck in the NBA, and all of sports for that matter, and seemed to be expecting the worst from this whole situation. What has caught the ire of most fans and turned James into possibly the most hated player in the league is the way he left the entire state of Ohio.
Again, there is nothing wrong with Lebron leaving the Cavs for the Heat, that is his choice and for the tenth time I nor anyone else can tell a man what he thought was best for himself and his family was the wrong decision. What is wrong however, is to not give the organization that has paid him for the past seven years, that has listened to every demand and suggestion he has made, and helped to brand him as the star he is today, any type of indication that he was leaving before he announced it on national television.
Sure, his camp tried leaking reports that Lebron “100% wasn’t returning to the Cavs” and that he was “leaning towards signing with the Heat”, but he never outright told the Cavaliers organization he was going to leave. Until the words came out of his mouth, it was all speculation similar to what we had been hearing for weeks. The Cavs didn’t find out Lebron was gone at the exact same second that you, me and everyone else found out he was gone. And after waiting hand and foot on Lebron’s every demand and desire, the Cavs deserved better than that.
Nearly every player who leaves a team to sign with another let’s his former team know before announcing it to the public. Lebron decided that he didn’t want to do that, and in the process spit on the entire Cavaliers organization, every one of his fans in Cleveland and the state of Ohio all at the same time, and in prime-time on ESPN of all places. It’s hard to explain the equivalent of this to Cavs fans, most of us will never understand what it’s like to lose our best player in his prime. Even more importantly, most of us will never know what it’s like to lose the only hope our city has had at a championship in the past 50 years. While Lebron had every right to leave, he could and should have shown more class in doing so.
Instead his free agency turned into a show unlike anything we have seen. And in his haste to be the center of everyone’s attention, Lebron lost his charm and loveable nature that made him the most popular player in the NBA. By allowing his “team” as he called them so many times to control every aspect of his free agency, Lebron lost himself.
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. Go look at the video, there is definitely a moment of awkwardness after that because so many people were shocked by the decision.
Even during his me-first, Cleveland-last interview with Wilbon and crew immediately after, you could see a look of pain on James face for a split-second when 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