It has taken me a few days to sort out in my mind the tremendous spectacle that is NBA superstar LeBron James' transition from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat. This story is so mulitfaceted, I am not sure I can get it all covered...but we'll give it a shot. Anyone who has been watching sports news for the past few months is aware of the fact that this has been LeBron's free agent year, so he could leave his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers and go to the team of his choosing...if he would choose to do so. There was a significant, sensationalized build-up over the past few weeks that could only be rivaled by the twists and turns of Brett Favre.
Much of the difficulty has been related to the fact that LeBron is from NE Ohio, so he has been seen as the local youth who made it big in his home area...in Cleveland. Like Kobe Bryant and a few others, LeBron didn't even play college basketball, but was deemed to have so much talent that he would just jump to the NBA...which he did. One of the difficulties for me, is the proportion of fame that has been granted to LeBron by the American public and the media. To hear everyone talk, you would think that Elvis should be carrying his coat. LeBron has been in the NBA for seven years, playing for the Cavaliers, but has yet to win a championship ring. Granted, he has done a good job getting the Cavs to the playoffs...and as the second coming of Micahel Jordan (supposedly)...he was supposed to be the savior, not only for Cleveland, but for the NBA. Maybe I am missing something, but the second coming of MJ would seem to be in Los Angeles, as Kobe (unfortunately) has won five rings with Phil Jackson and the Lakers.
So...LeBron had a choice to make this week, and despite otherworldly pressure to stay in Cleveland, he chose to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, two other stars in Miami and will play for the Heat. This was a big coup for Heat President, Pat Riley, as he looks to be setting himself up to square off with rival Jackson and the Lakers next year. Imagine...LeBron, Bosh, Wade vs. Kobe, Gasol and company in the Final...'twill be exciting for enthusiasts, as the NBA continues to allow itself to be set up for such rivalries.
Then...came the expected backlash. LeBron was in a no-win situation -- if he stayed in Cleveland...he would be labled a homer and a coward for not being willing to step out and explore free agency...and if he left, he was going to be a traitor, betrayer to everything hometown Cleveland. LeBron wanted to make a public announcement, and ESPN chose to broadcast it. (LeBron and ESPN have been universally criticized for their decision to air his "announcement," by the way). Lost in all of the criticism is the fact that LeBron would give all proceeds from his public "announcement"...$1 million...to the Boys and Girls clubs, which was a very generous donation. Yet, all of this would appear to be moot, because many would say...LeBron is a egomaniac, fool, and things much worse. Yet, then, for all the world to hear, LeBron would make his choice...he would choose Miami...and the city of Cleveland went ballistic! I have never heard such demonization of a person in my life. Even Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, launched into a scathing tirade against LeBron.
Last I checked, we live in a free market system. LeBron gave Cleveland seven years of his life, and it didn't work out for a championship...so, now Cleveland seethes and mourns. He could have chosen to stay at home for more money, but even LeBron has come to understand that opportunity is more valuable than money. I cannot and do not blame LeBron at all for joining two of his friends in order to seek to win multiple championships...in fact, I wish him well and that he beats Kobe and company. Of course, this is all a bit overdone for me, as I really don't have that much invested in basketball, but I know it means something to many people who are bigger basketball fans than myself. Truly, if I have anything to say about the NBA, it is -- good luck with the owner lockout next year...and if they get through it -- go Kevin Durant and the Thunder. :-)