A Farewell to King(s)
Now that the circus that amounted to LeBron James ‘Farewell to Cleveland Tour’ is over, I have to admit that I’m still surprised that James left cash on the table to leave his hometown Cavaliers. Obviously, he believes he’ll make it up in another fashion somewhere down the road in Miami. But what puzzles me more, after all the noise James has made about becoming a “global icon”, is that he would choose to become Scottie Pippen.
There’s nothing wrong with a player sacrificing himself (as if moving from Ohio to Florida and playing for multi-millions can be characterized as ‘sacrifice’) for the sake of winning a championship. Under normal circumstances, most would applaud such a move indicating a player’s overriding desire to win. I don’t doubt James sincerity in wanting to win. But, coming off a less than stellar performance in the Eastern semis against Boston, isn’t James’ defection to Miami essentially an admission that he’s not good enough to carry a team? Somehow I can’t see Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant making the same decision as James has. Hell, Bryant basically drove Shaquille O’Neal out of Los Angeles and still managed to win with a cast of characters that is not much better than what James just left in Cleveland.
James could have gone to New York or Chicago and been “The Man”. Of course, in Chicago he would have had to contend with the specter of Jordan’s legacy but would probably also have had almost as good a chance to win with Derek Rose and Joakim Noah. By selecting Miami, he’ll always be second fiddle to Dwayne Wade. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; Pippen had a Hall of Fame career as Michael Jordan’s sidekick in Chicago. But that isn’t the player that LeBron James and his marketers would have us believe that he is.
Let me also take a minute here to deride the way in which James handled his situation. James’ decision to leave Cleveland was going to be a blow to Cav’s fans no matter what but scheduling an hour long ‘dog & pony show’ on ESPN was just rubbing it in their faces. (Shame on the ’4-Letter’ for sinking to a new low in being a party to this sham.) James said that he made the decision to go to the Heat the morning of the program even though multiple sources have reported it for weeks. In announcing his intentions, James stated that he was “taking his game to South Beach” which makes me further wonder where his priorities really lie.
In the end, I believe James could come to regret his decision. This move only works if it results in a championship(s); something that’s not a given considering that the Heat currently have only 4 players on their official roster with most of their salary cap money already tied up in 3 of them. This isn’t like Oscar Robertson joining the Bucks at the end of his career back in the day or even like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining Paul Pierce in Boston. Supposedly the seed for this “mega-team” was planted when Wade, James and Chris Bosh all played together for the national team in China. It’s one thing for these guys to hold it together for a couple of months while playing for their country. It’s quite another for 3 superstars in the prime of their careers to set aside their egos over the grind of an NBA season. The result may not be what James envisions at this time.
All that remains now is for Heat president Pat Riley to pull a “Van Gundy-esque” move to push current head coach Erik Spoelstra aside in order to return to the bench. No doubt the NBA pundits will install the Heat as the early favorites for next year’s title. But they will also learn that very few people outside of Florida will be rooting for them to succeed.