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LeBron James = Alex Rodriguez

Everyone used to like A-Rod.

It was a long time ago, but it is true.

A lot of you probably don’t remember, but Alex Rodriguez use to play for the Seattle Mariners.  That is where he started his career way back in 1994.

Doesn’t seem like it has been 16 years, but it has.

A-Rod was a phenom, very similar to Ken Griffey, Jr.; he was can’t miss prospect that was going to change the game of baseball.

A-Rod wasn’t just good — he was really good.

In 1996, when he was just 20 years old, check out these numbers:

Batting Average: .358
Home Runs: 36
RBIs: 123

He was beloved by everyone and then he became a “free agent,” took the money, and ran to Texas.  Interesting thing is, when he was a Ranger he became a one man show, but even as a one man team he produced.

Here are his 2002 numbers with the Rangers:

Batting Average: .300
Home Runs: 57
RBIs: 142

Around this time, though, is when the critics started to come out.  A-Rod had great numbers, but they weren’t translating into “championships.” There were also whispers that he wasn’t the “Golden Boy” he appeared to be, that he was a bit of an egomaniac and that his persona was more fantasy than reality.

The burden of his contract and the high expectations were becoming too much for him, and with the Rangers trying to get out from under his contract, A-Rod had a decision to make since the Rangers were willing to trade him.

He could have gone to the Red Sox and been “The Guy” or he could go to the Yankees and always play second fiddle to Derek Jeter, even though physically he was a better player.

He gambled on the Yankees because he wanted a “ring” more than he wanted to be “The Man.” For the first few years it didn’t work out too well, and Rodriguez took the brunt of disgust from Yankees fans and national media for not being “clutch.”

This brings us to LeBron James.

LeBron had a decision to make, and it was a fairly simply one.

He could be the undisputed leader on any team of his choosing (Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Cavs, or Clippers) … or he could chase “rings” by being a co-star with Dwyane Wade.

The most interesting thing about LeBron’s decision to me is that it appears the Bulls were never a serious contender.  This tells me two things:

1- He wanted no part of competing with Jordan’s legacy.
2- No matter how talented the team was, he was tired of being “The Man.”

As I mentioned on Twitter, after 7 years of carrying a team and a city on his back, he wanted to breathe.  He didn’t want that responsibility of being the sole reason a team won or lost.  He didn’t want to be in a position where the only way for his team to win was by him being the leading scorer, rebounder, assist/steals/blocks guy every single night.  He was tired of trying to make the Mo Williams of the world into All-Stars.  He wanted to be a big fish in an ocean, not a fishbowl.

I hope he understands that if the Heat don’t win a championship they aren’t going to blame D-Wade and they aren’t going to blame Chris Bosh.  They are going to blame the self-proclaimed King.

A lot of people have problems with the move because they believe if you are having an hourlong special on ESPN, you should want to be The Man on your own team — not riding the coattails of someone else’s team.

I think they aren’t seeing the bigger picture.

Deep down in LeBron’s basketball DNA, he wasn’t built to be a Michael Jordan type.  That was a mistake the Cavaliers made from day one.  They were so excited to get their “Basketball God” that they just gave him the ball and said “Go play.”  Whereas if they weren’t bowing down to him, they would have seen that LeBron’s greatest strength can also be perceived as his greatest weakness.

He is egoless on the court.

He is more comfortable passing than shooting.

The problem has always been the way the Cavs were constructed; the players he was passing to could not be counted on, so he was forced to do something he wasn’t comfortable doing: being a Serial Killer.

LeBron is the guy who organizes the bank robbery, but guys like Kobe are the ones who go in with the double-barrel shotgun.

LeBron said several times that he wanted to pick a place that would make him “happy.” A lot of people took that to mean off the court, but I think it had more to do with on the court.

With the Heat, he can play the way he always wanted to play and how I always envisioned him playing — like a new-age Magic Johnson.

In the end, A-Rod, not burdened with being the savior and being vilified to the point he adopted a “screw you” attitude, had his best post season and led the Yankees to a World Series victory.

The strange thing about it was even though he got his ring, people still speak of Jeter with reverence and A-Rod with disdain.

LeBron James is only 25 years old, he has plenty of time left in his career, but he has made a decision that will affect his legacy for better or worse.

Which one?

Only time will tell.