Why LeBron James Free Agency Decision Was A Bad Move Part 2
How Cleveland Handled It Wrong
I understand why fans are upset about this, but shouldn’t it be more disappointment rather than bitterness and ultimately, hatred towards the man?
There is something to be said about loyalty. The greats all stayed. It shows the competitive fire in you- the willingness to win- the drive and determination to reaching a goal. The locale of a championship does matter and it stings when a player doesn’t understand that or bring that to fruition. Bringing a championship to Cleveland would be an insurmountable accomplishment to match. Sticking it out, regardless of the bad hand dealt, so to speak, is something we admire.
However, it should be revered and honored. Thereby how can it be said that not staying should cause hatred?
If a person gives a bum on the street $100 every day out of his own self righteousness, does the day he doesn’t give that charitable donation turn him into a heartless person? Absolutely not. This is a very similar situation. Not only did Lebron play out his term to the best of his ability, he did wonders for that team and for the city. He revamped the team to be a perennial contender, he brought national media coverage to the city, and revived the city economically. You love him for what he did during his tenure, but hate him because he’s not continuing to do what he did in the past. Is that fair?
The fans of Cleveland are taking this the wrong way and taking it as a personal attack. Clearly it is not. He is a free agent. Keyword- FREE. He is free to do whatever he wants. He is not indebted to anyone. He played out his term and even signed a contract extension when he could have bailed years ago.
Would the Cleveland fans hate Delonte West if he were to leave Cleveland? Of course not, but why is it any different? Why are you mad at one person for leaving, but are indifferent for another, when they left on the same terms. One guy sucked for your team and the other guy actually made you relevant by playing some of the best basketball we’ve ever witnessed. Lebron gave his heart and soul for you fans every night, yet your hatred signifies thanklessness for the 7 years of service he provided you with.
A free agent is not indebted to anyone. A contract is developed to keep you there only as long as you sign it for. That’s why contracts exist in the first place. They allow flexibility for market fluctuations in prices. If a team becomes bad, they can dump a player who costs too much for his value to the team. If a player deserves more money based on his performance, then he should be accordingly compensated. You play out the contract’s term to the best of your ability and then you either stay or you move on when not satisfied. Lebron did just that.
Furthermore, to say he dogged it during the playoffs is pathetic. The man was double and triple teamed by the Celtics, because the Cavs had absolutely no one step up throughout that series. It’s pretty easy to figure out how to stop a team when one guy is the difference maker and guys like Mo Williams or Antoine Jamison can’t hit a shot for the life of them. So why should you hate Lebron who played his heart out for you? What more did he have to give to you. Just because you draft him, doesn’t mean he has to stay with that team forever. That’s unfair. You can question his competitiveness for choosing Miami over Cleveland, but you can’t hate him for making the decision to leave. Similar to how a team gets rid of a player who creates no value to the team after the contract expires, a player is free to “get rid” of the organization who creates no value to him by transferring to a different team (this isn’t to suggest that I think there was no value in staying in Cleveland- only that there was an overwhelming opportunistic cost in James’ mind to stay).
Dan Gilbert’s Classless Act
Although he showed passion and commitment to his team, the letter Gilbert wrote is an embarrassment to all professional owners (because they are not all like this). He is truly a classless owner and person for letting his emotions get the best of him and saying these words out in public. If he felt betrayed by Lebron leaving him in the dark for longer than he should have, Gilbert should have spoken to him in private like a normal human being. Dan should have told him that it was irresponsible of James to not let them know the reasons for wanting to leave in person so they could make the proper offseason moves to position themselves a little better than when all free agents are taken up. However, Dan, you made the wrong move. You don’t lash out one of your former players in public when all he did was make your team a perennial contender. Without him, your team is disastrous (which you will see very shortly), so you thank him for the years of service, you move on, and you look to make some new offseason moves to make you a championship contender. While you said that Lebron’s act is not something kids should emulate, should they look to you as a leader? Should they emulate your actions of lashing someone in public?
Like aforementioned, Lebron was never indebted to you. He is not a slave and isn’t responsible for saving the city or your team. You gave him a contract of 7 years that expires after 7 years of service. If he quits within that tenure, you have reason to be mad. But to think that he is expected to stay after he fulfilled that role to the best of his ability (which was a spectacular performance every night), is shortsighted, irresponsible, and just plain wishful thinking.
It’s all too easy to hate, but the truly great ones in this world find the ability to embrace even in the worst of times. If we don’t show our own good qualities even when bad is lashed out against us, what makes us different from the bad ones?
How New York Handled It Wrong
Although New Yorkers didn’t handle it quite like Clevelanders did, New Yorkers were upset thinking they had some sense of entitlement to Lebron. Lebron never tipped his hand in showing that he was coming to New York. Spare me the tormenting with the Yankees cap and his Madison Square Garden speech about how it’s humbling to have fans in New York.
It would have been awesome to see him in a Knicks uniform and in the biggest city in the world, but he never gave reason for anyone to get their hopes up. He never toyed with New Yorkers. The Knicks tried creating enough cap room for him only because it was the right thing to do (Even if it came at the expense of 2 losing seasons). It was only hype created by the New York fans and media, never Lebron. Lebron never reached out to the Knicks or the fans saying do X and I’ll come. He never said clear the cap to cover 2 Max Contracts and I’ll come. There was no sense of entitlement here and you can never feel betrayed by him.
How the NBA is Going to Look Moving Forward With This
The landscape of the NBA has certainly changed from all of this.
The Cavs are now done and the Heat have now emerged as an immediate contender with this super trio.
Is it for the better?
I think a pairing like this creates bad, uninteresting basketball. The reason why football is the most watched sport in this country is mainly because of the parity in the league. Teams in the NFL go from good to bad so quickly and each game is so exciting because it’s so hard to predict the outcome. Parity creates excitement. Therefore, dominance creates disinterest.
If it results in domination from the trio in the East, I doubt there will be continued excitement and buzz that flows around the league’s fans apart from South Beach.
If you look at when basketball was at its peak, it was when there are good rivalries. The ratings for this NBA Finals were better than ever simply because everyone wanted to see this classic rivalry matchup between these two past-time teams of the Lakers and Celtics. The reason why the Jordan era was so exciting was because every round in the playoffs was so good to watch.
Jordan and Pippen with the Bulls, Ewing and Starks with the Knicks, Reggie and Jackson with the Pacers, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning with the Hornets, Barkley with the Suns, Drexler with the Blazers, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars with the Pistons, Tim Hardaway and Mourning with the Heat, and Malone and Stockton with the Jazz.
All the big powers were separated and that’s what made it so special.
Imagine this scenario: If Lebron and Stoudemire on the Knicks with some decent role players went up against Wade and Bosh with some decent role players, battling it out every year in the East.
The Knicks-Heat-Bulls rivalry would have just amplified. Wouldn’t that be more exciting for the NBA than this “Hollywood” spectacle? You’d have the 90’s era rivalries in the present of the Bulls, Heat, Knicks, Hawks rivalries competing for titles in the East every year along with the newly formed Magic and Celtics. Wouldn’t that drive ticket sales, apparel, and ultimately, buzz from the fans. Maybe we’d continue to talk about NBA in July for years to come, but I don’t think that will be the case for very long with a super trio that will most likely be rarely contested until they get to the Eastern Conference Finals for years to come.
How Kobe Benefits In All This
Let’s just say Kobe is just sitting back and licking his chops in all this. He is a competitor and is under the old school theory (apparently not new school): “If you can’t join them, beat them”.
All the great players in history got it done with their original team. Michael Jordan would be licking his chops at the opportunity to beat Dwyane Wade, because it presents opportunity. It presents more opportunity to beat them than winning with them presents. Proving to the world that you beat the best is what defines yourself as a person. Joining them only diminishes that. Jordan would do whatever it took to win. He didn’t want to just beat the person he was guarding or team he played, but he wanted to humiliate them at all costs; and he wanted to do it alone. He wanted the ball at the end of the game. He wanted the last shot. Although he got the help he needed to produce multiple championships, he didn’t cry out for it and certainly didn’t go looking for it. Competitiveness and the desire to win is revered for all of the right reasons. That’s why we love Michael Jordan. That’s why we honor Dr. J, Larry Bird, Hakeem, and the others. That’s why the Black Mamba has won over our hearts in all of this.
Even when times got rough for Kobe and he acted immature at times, he never bailed. He never jumped ship in pursuit of a better situation. He stuck it out with the Lakers and they accommodated his needs with great surrounding players. Kobe’s a competitor and that seems even more evident now than ever. He’s a true leader, a fiery competitor, and cares more about obtaining earned-for championships.
He can’t wait to take this trio on and stick it right to them. That’s what great competitors like Kobe and Michael do. They create their legacy by winning on the basketball court, but not by joining a dream team to do it. Instead, they look to beat one.
Kobe’s going to look to beat this team and will have his team prepared to do so. If the Heat dominate the East next year, Kobe will be in the same breath as Michael if he pulls out a series win against them for his 2nd Three-Peat. Mark my words.
That’s why we can reflect upon this situation and perceive Kobe Bryant as being the hero in today’s league; because he didn’t choose to join them, he’s going to embrace the opportunity of beating them.
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