I’m not from Cleveland. I split my fandom between my hometown disaster, the Golden State Warriors, and my current town’s team, the Boston Celtics. So for all intents and purposes, I’m a C’s fan.
I’ve never thought LeBron was Kobe Bryant for two patently obvious reasons: psyche and jump shot. But I always thought that James handled his stardom well, particularly given how intense his spotlight was as a teenager.
And then this year happened.
For the entire 2009-10 NBA season, LeBron constantly told us that “he didn’t want to talk about free agency” because he wanted to focus on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season, when he was doing the exact opposite.
Eventually, he announced that Cleveland “had the edge” in the LeBron sweepstakes, when we all can see how much of a lie that was in retrospect.
Next, he totally quit on his team during the 2010 playoffs. What do players with heart do when they are down insurmountable margins in playoff games? You see it every time the Spurs lose. They sprint up the court and take desperation threes. They full-court press or foul from the two-minute mark. What did LeBron do? Walk the ball up the court, barely play defense. It was jaw-dropping.
Sure, his supporting cast may not have included a second legitimate star, but his actions were clearly sticking it to his “incompetent” coach and teammates. Dan Gilbert got it right. He quit.
At the time, I told many of my friends that I would have trouble cheering for the guy after that. Since July 1, he’s pretty much ruled that out for life.
I hope that the guy gets booed in 28 NBA arenas next year (Staples Center times two). I wouldn’t be surprised if that is exactly what will go down.
For a week, arguably a month, LeBron James jet-setted around the world, begging us for attention like Paris Hilton did in the wake of her sex tape. James, one of the few stars who had avoided Twitter, decided that he was missing out on all the fun that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were having and joined the social network at the perfect moment for self-promotion.
He and ESPN decided that James needed a TV special, “The Decision,” to announce his plans.
We thought: “He couldn’t possibly go on national television to rip out the hearts of everybody in his home community, could he?”
The Cavaliers released a legitimately heartfelt viral video of Cavs fans from all over Ohio literally in tears, professing their love for their native son and begging him to stay.
There was no way he could so wholly lack self-awareness and be so callous that he would deliver a soul-crushing blow like that to Cleveland, as the entire city watched in hope. He couldn’t possibly believe that people were so unconditionally in love with him that he could break their hearts and expect people to feel the same way.
Then he said it: “I’m going to bring my talents to South Beach.”
Of any way to announce the decision, why accentuate the two points: (1) You and your “talents” have a huge ego, and (2) you want to party like you’re in a Ja Rule music video.
The guy went on to refer to himself in the third person like Donald Trump, say that his real fans would support him and lied about the fact that he struggled with the decision even the morning of “The Decision.” We may not be able to prove this fact, but it seems pretty obvious that these deals were long in place. As the show progressed, Michael Wilbon looked like he was at a funeral interviewing LeBron. He knew what King James had just done to himself.
If you’re going to leave, why not just release a statement or be respectful at a news conference? A homegrown superstar has only made a move like this once before, and he told the world in such a heartfelt way that he was applauded:
LeBron managed to offend everybody, not just Clevelanders. People in big-city America feel spurned. He had the opportunity to be the greatest Knick ever and turn basketball around in New York City. He had the opportunity to win rings as the clear alpha dog with a great supporting cast in Chicago. He even gave everybody in Los Angeles the chance to say “We told you Kobe wasn’t a bad guy.” America is now rooting for Kobe and the Lakers to dismantle the Heat. How crazy is that?
People in small-town America empathize with Ohio residents. Did LeBron actually think people in the Milwaukees and Salt Lake Citys of the world would approve of a homegrown hero abandoning his roots to “pop bottles” in South Beach?
He could have stood for something if he had stayed with the Cavs. Sure, Danny Ferry had swung and missed on getting him a supporting cast, but he’s LeBron James. Other stars would have come to Cleveland to play with him.
Now, he’s going to Miami to win titles that will be meaningless. That’s D-Wade’s team, and LeBron will never have the opportunity to prove he can carry a franchise.
If I could go inside the mind of King James for a second, I’d expect that he was so unwilling to believe that he was remotely to blame for the Cavs’ failures that he became obsessed with the notion of needing a “supporting cast.” He saw Kobe winning rings and being anointed as “still better than LeBron” and figured that rings and a supporting cast were what mattered. He had no idea what he was doing.
The whole spectacle became even more laughable when he misguidedly tried to buy fans’ good sentiment by donating money to the Boys and Girls Club. That move was transparent and pitiful.
After the fateful press conference in Greenwich, Conn., he went on to appear in an introduction ceremony in Miami in which he entered the building like he was John Cena or Siegfried from Siegfried and Roy. Then, in his “Sunday Conversation” with Rachel Nichols, LeBron decided to explain why he didn’t ask anybody on the Cavs about his decision: “I wanted the day to be about me.” He made it that easy for us to hate him.
So what’s left to say about LeBron? We will never know why he did what he did. Did he not believe he was good enough to carry a team? Did he want to just hang out with his buddies on the beach? Did he believe rings and rings alone defined a legacy?
The only defense I’ve heard of LeBron that makes any sense is that “he had the right to be selfish.”
Congrats, LeBron. Enjoy going with that one.