LeBron James was and is in a no-win situation surrounding his free agency decision. James had been rumored to be a member of six NBA teams during the last few months.
Experts pointed out he would be hated by the other five and hurt his image around the league. The other five knew going into the summer that James could only pick one team. He’s not allowed to play for all six. The Knicks, Nets, Bulls, and Clippers all played the game and lost. They have no right to be offended.
The Cavaliers, well, it looks like they’re going back to the days of being the Cavaliers again. It hurts, but James made his decision. He left his hometown out in the cold on a quest for rings.
And I can’t blame him. […]
If he stayed in Cleveland, he would have proven his loyalty and looked like a great guy. But that warm sentiment would have lasted for about a day and then, the questions about winning championships would have replaced all the good stuff. And if he hadn’t won a championship in Cleveland, he would be called a failure by all.
So, James decided to join Olympic teammates and friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat to form the newest “Big Three” in the NBA. The criticisms are still there. James is taking the easy way out by signing on with the best players. Wade will take the pressure off him and they will win many titles. But will any of them be “his?”
In sports, we complain about prima donna athletes who talk about winning titles, but always take care of their bank account first. James is showing he’s all about winning now.
He was tempted by the Russian’s plans to give him the world. He could have been a billionaire. But James said no.
Similarly, he could have been the King of New York and ruled from his palace in Madison Square Garden. The money, recognition and star power would have reached new heights for the 25-year-old. But again, he said no.
Chicago offered him another large market and the chance to resurrect the franchise Michael Jordan built. He could have joined his Airness in the pantheon of Chicago sports legends with a ready-made team consisting of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and Carlos Boozer. His answer remained no.
His answer remained Miami, the best situation for winning now and deep into the future. Despite some questionable tactics during the process, LeBron James earned my respect.
James proved winning was his first concern. And playing with Wade who is the second-biggest star to James in the league is a great way to win. Chris Bosh is a top big man who averages over 20 points and 10 rebounds. All three are in their prime. They’re friends and developed chemistry on the Redeem Team when this master plan may have taken flight. The Heat need to fill out their roster, but that shouldn’t be a problem with the “Big Three” in town. Pat Riley will get the job done in the front office and Miami will be far better than Chicago.
The “Big Three” is good for basketball. It shows players are still about winning in this hyperreality created by the media, marketing, and money.
The game is still what it’s all about. LeBron loves attention and money and New York City. But deep in his heart, he loves basketball more. He is a basketball player and competitor. Not an entertainer or a clothing line. And as a basketball player, his legacy and success will be measured by winning. By rings.
James should be lauded for his decision.
But he’ll be questioned and mocked. By signing with Miami, he’s showing weakness. Magic and Bird never would have done this. Kobe is laughing. And Jordan – well, he’s always laughing.
But the truth is, LeBron is just doing what all of them would have done for their careers – if they didn’t already have it.
Magic and Bird saved basketball. They are two of the greatest players to ever play the game. Legends who would have done anything to win. And win, they did. Magic won five titles while leading the Showtime Lakers. Bird won three with the scrappy Celtics. Boston and L.A. had some epic battles to highlight the players’ greatness every year. From 1980-1988, the Lakers or Celtics won the championship in every year except one when the Sixers broke through to beat L.A. in 1983.
There’s no question, Magic and Bird were the best.
What everyone forgets when lamenting the past, though, is that they played on some of the greatest teams ever assembled. Magic and Bird were awesome. But they certainly didn’t do it alone.
And they certainly didn’t do it with Mo Williams, J.J. Hickson, Anthony Parker, and Anderson Varejao.
No, Magic did it with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and the greatest center of his era. Without his skyhook, Magic would have been hard-pressed to win one championship. Add Worthy to the mix and tell me Magic didn’t play on a “Big Three.” He played with two other Hall of Famers, but the story always says Magic did it all.
Just remember that the next time you start talking about the legends of the past.
Remember that before you start bashing LeBron for needing help. Chris Bosh is half the player Abdul-Jabbar was. He doesn’t have a go-to move and hasn’t been in a high-pressure situation ever. If LeBron can win with him as Kareem and Wade as Worthy, he’ll be greater than Magic ever was.
For fun, let’s breakdown Larry Legend’s squads. During his time in Boston, he played with Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Dennis Johnson. All three are Hall of Famers. Bird played on a team with a “Big Four.” Parish was solid in the paint and tougher than Bosh. McHale was a crafty scorer and fierce competitor – just ask Kurt Rambis. And DJ was the defensive stopper and a clutch offensive player who perfectly rounded out the group.
But it’s Larry Bird who gets all the glory all these years later. Books have been written about Johnson and Bird. Countless interviews and specials revolve around their rivalry and greatness. Greatness that was enhanced by the great players surrounding him.
LeBron just wants the same chance.
Even Kobe had Shaq. And not the Shaq Versus version. He had Shaq, the most dominant center since Wilt Chamberlain. The Superman Shaq who could go for 40 any night and owned the paint against inferior opponents. Kobe never felt LeBron’s pain. He won his first championship when he was 21. After the ugly break-up, Kobe looked more like LeBron has in Cleveland. He had no chance to win another ring in Los Angeles with the teams he had in the middle of the decade, but he filled the stat sheet every night. It wasn’t until he got Pau Gasol in a robbery of the Memphis Grizzlies that Kobe had another chance.
Kobe hasn’t ever done it alone. Neither did Michael despite the brainwashed hopes of his biggest Chicago fans. Why should LeBron be expected to win by himself?
He has every right to play with some superstars in Miami.
And when he starts winning championships, we better watch in awe and respect what he gave up to reach the top of the hill.