Thursday, July 8, 2010
Welcome to Miami, Prince James
We just watched LeBron James announce he's joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. He did so in a made-for-TV special that was as contrived as any reality show finale. The difference, of course being that instead on watching the end for many attention-hungry individuals, we had just one who felt it was okay to screw over his hometown team in the most cruel and public way possible. Here's basically how it happened. It's worse than The Fumble, Jose Mesa and The Shot. It's worse than Game 5 of the Celtics series, but it foreshadowed the fact that LeBron quit on Cleveland.
However, I don't want to harp on the this angle or the size of LeBron's ego to go about it this way. For that, read Gregg Doyel's piece, who writes what most of us are thinking. Most people say there's no way you compare him to Jordan, Russell, Bird or Magic. And each of them are right. In fact, now he must worry about competing with Scottie Pippen because he's officially a second banana.
By signing with Wade, James has told everyone that he isn't capable of being a guy you build around to win a title. He's Ewing, Malone, Nowitzki. Nothing wrong with that to be fair, except that each of those players had to settle for being lesser than superstars, whether they wanted to or not and none of those guys left their teams in their primes (includes Dirk for resigning) to make things easier. Dr. J had a span from 1976 (when he was sold to the Sixers) to 1982 where he lost some of his luster because his teams never won. What happened? He waited until Philly added Andrew Toney, and Moses Malone and the Sixers won in 1983. LeBron tonight decided, at the young age of 25 that he can't wait for the Cavs to build the right team.
Now, don't get me wrong, it was fine for LeBron to seek a better situation (not to be a dick and put this decision on TV in a self-serving way). Chicago was perfect, he had the perfect Robin in Derrick Rose, plus Joakim Noah as a relentless defender/rebounder and with Carlos Boozer signing there, LeBron fits like a glove and the Bulls become the favorites in the East, since they have the hig-end players and prerequisite role players you need to have to win (think Horry, Fisher). The Knicks added Amare Stoudemire and actually LeBron could have been the point guard or at least until they see if Chris Paul or Tony Parker comes in. The Nets and Clippers, well, are still the Nets and Clippers (despite the Russian billionaire). He goes anywhere, he's going toe-to-toe with Kobe, Durant, Howard, Wade/Bosh and the Celtics for next year. Instead, he chooses the easy way out and joins Wade/Bosh.
If LeBron was 30 or older, you can understand, the same way you understood why Kevin Garnett had to go the Boston. He spent 12 years in a city, at least in NBA circles, similar to Cleveland (cold weather, no prospect of signing players) and all Garnett did was play hard every game he played for them. He didn't ask out until the T-Wolves shopped him before the '07 Draft. He was screwed over by his management more than LeBron was, with the Joe Smith illegal signing and not taking care of Sprewell and Cassell after the '04 West Finals run. The team was toiling in obscurity and that was the perfect time to put ego aside and win a title. LeBron isn't there yet, he's 25 and should still be trying to beat the best, not join them.
LeBron is a franchise player, a guy you go to war with and have a chance to win a title. Look at the Cavs next season and try to tell me different. He should be competing with likes of Kobe, West, Kareem historically. Instead, it's now Pippen, McHale and Sam Jones for him. It's not a bad thing for Chris Bosh, who isn't a superstar to deal with, but it is for LeBron. It cheats us of watching an all-world talent try to see if he be discussed with Jordan or at least Kobe. He settled for deferring to Dwyane Wade. Oh sure, you're going to hear out of everyone's mouths that they are sharing the team and how this will be like the '08 Olympic Team. They'll be lying.
What happens in the first close game for Miami, who gets the ball. Likely Wade, because it's his team. Then, one of two things happens; either LeBron gets mad like Pippen did when Toni Kukoc took the last shot in Game 3 of the '94 Knicks-Bulls series or accepts it, making him a complementary player. No longer can he potential join Jordan, Magic or Kareem. No longer with Duncan, Kobe or Bird. Neither Olajuwon or Shaq. The best case I'll give you is that he's Elgin Baylor (superior athlete) to Jerry West (more clutch). As far as I'm concerned, LeBron James is fighting to beat out Pippen for best sidekick in NBA history (difficult unless LeBron wins multiple rings) which is a letdown for all our expectations from him.
He wanted us to refer to him as "King James". Kings don't become subjects to others, at least not willingly. Hence, I must agree with Skip Bayless, he will forever be Prince James to me.