I was mildly intrigued by where LeBron James would sign. As a Laker fan, I didn’t think anywhere he’d land would have an enormous impact on the Purple and Gold’s chances to three-peat next season. I have always liked watching LeBron James play basketball, however, and I was curious to see if he’d stay put or leave. When I heard that he’d be hosting an hour long special on ESPN to tell us about eight seconds of information, I tried to put it into perspective.
Why would he need an hour? Why not just call a presser like Kobe did after his flirtation with leaving the Lakers? Just come up, say what the deal is, peace out, count some money. My best guess after hearing that Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade would be playing for the Miami Heat next season was that LeBron wanted the forum to really, really let the Cleveland fans know he cared even if he was leaving. I figured he’d tell them that he’d played his ass for them for seven years (true, except in that last Celtics series), he’d tell them as an Ohio native that his heart would always be there and that in the end of the day, this was just too good to pass up. Surely, everyone would understand a guy wanting to move to Miami to work with two of his best friends. We get that.
But that had nothing to do with what went down.
Never in my life have I seen a more popular player polarize the United States like LeBron did yesterday. The telecast of “The Decision” hooked ESPN with over a 7.0 rating. To put that in perspective, when Tiger had a press conference to apologize for banging half of the western seaboard, it drew a 0.4. This was an “event” and what we got was a joke. Let me clarify, a joke in poor taste that no one found funny.
First, you get Jim Gray doing the interview asking awkward questions like “do you still bite your fingernails?” Besides looking like a man who guards the gates of a cemetery, Jim Gray’s so-proud-to-be-here questioning was the second most disgusting part of the evening. The first? Everything that LeBron said.
There was no real apology to Cleveland. There was no real hello to Miami. There was nothing but a poorly-coached 25 year old sitting on stage referring to himself in the 3rd person. I really kept waiting for the “point” of the hour long schmaltz-fest until it dawned on me. This wasn’t to reveal any insight into LeBron. This wasn’t a way to ease the blow to the tough-luck fans of Cleveland who now have nothing to be proud of except Iron Chef Michael Symon. The point of this was simply to let people know that LeBron James is an egomaniac who felt like simply hearing where he was going was enough to warrant the media circus. It was like Kim Kardashian holding a press conference to let the world know she has a big ass. No big reveal, just restating the obvious in a gross, overblown fashion that made you hate LeBron, hate the Miami Heat, hate ESPN and hate yourself for tuning in.
Some pundits defend the Miami Thrice (as some are calling them) for taking “pay cuts” to all play together. Each player could have had a max contract worth a total of 126 million. Instead, they will get closer to 100 million. If settling for 100 million makes you unselfish, consider me Motherfucking Theresa. Give me a break basketball pundits.
Now the owner of the Cavs went absolutely buckwild in a statement he put out where he clearly drank a bottle of scotch and decided to write in ALL CAPS something to the effect of “the Cavs will win a title before LeBron does” and I think even he knew that was hilarious. Cleveland does suck. They have bad luck. It is an ugly city. Their football team is named after the color of feces. They have the single most racist logo in all of sports for the Cleveland Indians (although they’ve gone away from it). That said, their owner had their back and despite a few #23 jerseys being burned, it was peaceful, which is way more than us Angelenos can say about when the Lakers win (or lose).
The real story here is LeBron and his legacy. Jordan lost to the Pistons three times before his legend began. He stayed with the Bulls and got it done. Kobe had 3 rings by the time he was Lebron’s age and when people said he couldn’t do it without Shaq, you know what he did? He got charged with raping a girl and demanded a trade. That said, you know what he did when the charges were dropped and cooler heads prevailed? He said “I’m a Laker” and he won 2 titles, even beating the Celtics for revenge. In an individual sport, LeBron leaving was an admission of defeat. He said it simply that he was not going to be the man himself. He said I need to have two other all-stars with me to form a team that can win.
That’s fine. I get it. Just remember when Jordan hung up his shoes, he’d won 6 titles with the team that drafted him. If Kobe quit tomorrow, he’d have hung up 5. LeBron was not able to win with his first team, he was not willing to stay there through his prime to give it another go. He waved the white flag, peaced out of Cleveland, flipped his game of Halo onto Easy mode and said, let’s get some rings.
To comment on the new “super team”, who just added sharpshooting Wookie Mike Miller, they look great. All four of the guys they have signed. Doing the math, they are going to have to sign some serious garbage to fill out that roster. Guys like White Chocolate, and that is a best case scenario. If Bosh hurts his knee and you have to sit LeBron to catch some air, who will be on the court? Lamar Odom does not even start for the Lakers. Also, who is going to run the point? In the playoffs, you need toughness and a good point guard to keep it together. Look at the Celtics (check). Even the Lakers got by with Fisher, a savvy veteran and the high flying, bad-in-a-dunk-contest man with a girl’s name Shannon Brown. I have serious, serious concerns the Heat will be thin, not tough and very susceptible to physical teams.
That and Kobe is probably doing coke and roids dreaming about beating the Heat and sleeping with LeBron’s mother just like Delonte West did all last year… By the way, how is that story/rumor not getting more play all the time? How did no one on ESPN, who gave “Le Decision” Hurricane Katrina Obama Inauguration coverage and never mentioned the slight possibility that one of LBJ’s teammates (potentially) poinking his mother repeatedly had a smidgen to do with him peacing out? I thought Skip Bayless at least would jump on that or Stewart Scott would say it was “whack” or just something. Anyway, Black Mamba is definitely coming for your mother LeBron. Better hope Bosh can guard the paint, brah.
In the end, LeBron had every right to go to Miami and get down with his friends. His style of dropping the news, publicly stating he hadn’t informed his old team, holding his former city hostage instead of being kind and open, it all just felt ugly. I’d have loved it if he just told Cleveland he was out, thanked the fans, jumped on a plane to Miami and celebrated. Making them wait was like your girlfriend saying “we need to talk”, then making you watch her give a press conference to your high school stating that she had found a guy who was better in bed and she was out. The news sucks in and of itself, but it is nice to know before the rest of the world so you can brace for the ugliness.
There is a joy in this story. The first is having New York finally realize that it is just another city. I was so tired of people saying NY would make LeBron a bigger star. Than what? Betelgeuse? The guy played for a team in Cleveland and the whole world shit a brick because he was announcing where he was going to play next. We have the internet, New York. The world is global. You are just a big city with a lot of restaurants, no college sports and a song by Jay Z about you. The Knicks are not special, Madison Square Garden is just another old stadium and Spike Lee is not as cool as Jack Nicholson. I think even Spike knows that. I got so much pleasure that in one weekend the Yankees got burned by Cliff Lee and the Knicks got “burned” by LeBron. I use quotations because I don’t think he ever wanted to be a Knick, and why should he? The Knicks are clown shoes and maybe now my friends in NYC will admit that unless we’re talking about the salary-capless world of baseball, playing in New York doesn’t mean very much when all is said and done. It’s about the fact the Yankees and Mets overpay, not that New York is the coolest. I’ve seen plenty of folks take paycuts to be a Laker, Celtic and now a “Heat” (Heater?). You can’t pay people enough to be a Knick. Own that feeling. Taste it like a delicious NYC bagel. Or slice of pizza.
In the words of my hero Hunter S. Thompson, relax New York. Learn to enjoy losing.