LeBron James: Future Champion Or Major Choker?
NBA basketball is ordinarily a game that ends in June. The playoffs wind down into the Finals, a champion is born, a Finals MVP has his moment on the stage, and basketball disappears from the conscious of all but the most devoted fans until the fall.
This year was very different. Not only was basketball being discussed in early July, it was the hottest topic of conversation in sports, arguably the hottest conversation period.
What made this year so much different is that it was regarded as the most exciting, highly anticipated free agent market in the history of the NBA, possibly of all sports period. LeBron James--the proclaimed "King", the chosen one, the growing shadow waiting to rise up and overpower his once idol Michael Jordan, arguably the best all around talent in the game today--was finally a free agent. And if that wasn't enough of a big deal, he was joined by one of the other top players in the game--Dwayne Wade, and a handful of other top stars including Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and Amar'e Stoudemire.
The table was set for the most interesting NBA shake-up ever--think Boston Celtics rising from the bowels of the NBA to become instant champions in 2007/2008, only this time it promised to be more than one team with that type of turnaround. We were on the cusp of an entirely new and exciting power structure, a mysteriious new basketball landscape for the 2010/2011 season. Yes it had all the makings of a truly intense, completely engaging show-- even for the most casual of NBA fans.
And a show it was. Only no one was clapping at the end. In the most lame and self-serving fashion, LeBron James revealed to the world that he'd be packing his bags for the greener pastures and sunnier shores of Miami. He made this completely unintriguing reveal on an unprecedented, hour-long special dedicated just to his decision.
Now, I won't even get into the whole "Decision" debacle. There's been plenty of criticism for that already and there are just too many parties involved there--LeBron, LeBron's team of advisors, ESPN, douchey, old Jim Gray, etc. to lambast LeBron for that spine-chilling display of awkwardness.
But I will take a poke at the "decision" itself. LeBron took the easiest possible road out and tarnished his legacy forever. If he ever actually earns a legacy worth tarnishing. LeBron chose to go to Miami a day after Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh announced the same, putting 2 of the top 3 players in the game today on one team, and proving that LeBron just doesn't have the stones to get it done himself.
Any player that can rightfully draw comparison to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and other greats, should be able to get it done himself. Yes, I know, other talent is needed and no one actually does it alone, but a player in that upper tier of NBA history LEADS the team. He's the block that management builds around--not the icing on the cake. He doesn't just throw himself on another superstar's (stars') team and sit back in the victory throne. He puts it on his shoulders and strives for--no, demands victory and championship.
LeBron did none of that, nor has he ever. When he failed to show up in the playoff series against the Boston Celtics, he didn't take responsibility, didn't promise victory. Instead, he blamed the fans for expecting too much of him and whimpered off the scene with no self reflection and no apologies. And after his decision yesterday, one has to believe that instead of reflecting on his failure, LeBron was pondering the easiest way to a championship. That certainly wasn't Cleveland, where he'd been swept out of his only Finals appearance, and spent the past two seasons getting embarrassingly bounced from the second round of the playoffs. No, it would have to be somewhere else.
So while LeBron was shooting bs to the world about how "humbling" the free agent situation was and how Cleveland was his top contender, he was really scheming about how he could take advantage of the situation to not only reap in the most money for himself, but give himself the easiest, cheapest ticket to an NBA ring. Near as I could tell, he schemed this whole thing with Wade and Bosh and let the rest of the NBA and sports world gush about the possibilities while his triumvirate devised their own little team.
And it'll probably pay off. It's hard to think that a team with that ridiculously solid of a core could go anywhere but the Finals.
On the other hand, we all can, will and should hope that they go everywhere but. Frankly, the combination of Wade and James is the most redundant thing since Carmello Anthony and Allen Iverson laced up together for a poor, eight-seed, first-round Denver Nuggets team. What team really needs two guys that drive inside and put up 30 points a night, outside of the overjacked Team USA? Especially when it means the steaming pile of crap that is going to be used to paste together the remainder of the lowly paid Miami roster--something that Team USA doesn't have to deal with.
So there is hope. But one thing's for sure: the intriguing power structure that could have been had LeBron gone anywhere but Miami will never be. It could have been a season overflowing with excitement and intrigue, with the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and possibly a few surprise teams, making the Eastern Conference as a tight a race as the Western Conference was this past season.
Instead, it's looking like the Miami show. Frankly, I don't know that any of those other teams--or the LA Lakers--can contend with the three-headed beast that Miami is unleashing. But I'll still be hoping hard that it will end up like all LeBron's teams have--with a lot of flash throughout the season, but absolutely no substance in the end. The bright spot for Bron Bron if it goes down how we all hope: this time it won't be him making up excuses in the media. It's not his team to speak for.