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LeBron’s National Ire Continues Unabated

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I continue to read stories from across the nation vilifying LeBron James for his decision. While I tend to try to remain largely objective in my writing, I will offer my own retort.

James has certainly fallen from the greatness upon which he was once bestowed, reduced to the ranks of the most condemned among professional athletes. The events of Thursday will undoubtedly leave him forever mired with infamy.

The method in which he chose to communicate his “Decision” was shockingly cold-blooded and cruel – live and before a televised audience, without so much as a reasonable period of notice, and without a sense of true recognition for what he was doing.In deciding to leave, he had already driven the knife through the collective heart of the city of Cleveland. There was simply no need to twist it from within.

In that respect, Dan Gilbert had it right. This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports, and probably the history of entertainment.

But don’t confuse Gilbert’s anger. His anger is not one of narcissism and self-promotion. James surely did not become a narcissistic self-promoter on Thursday night. It was an attribute that has been ingrained within Gilbert’s former star since an early age. Greatness often breeds arrogance.

While there may have been an air of resentment toward his me-first attitude from around the country over the years (the manner in which he handled his 2009 playoff exit comes to mind), James was widely considered among the best this game has never known, and was largely beloved for it.

So why the sudden change of heart? Why the national hysteria?

I would suggest that the LeBron ire is based upon human emotion, without the benefit of intellect.

Within the state of Ohio, LeBron has been branded a traitor. A Benedict Arnold. A title thrust upon him by an owner once proud to call him an employee. What surprises me is the wild support for its owner garnered by the residents of northeastern Ohio. I find it somewhat ironic, when it is, at least in part, the very situation that Gilbert created that caused its superstar to consider other alternatives.

If Dwyane Wade had left the state of Florida in pursuit of greener pastures, dare I say it, I would surely have felt hurt. Devastated, in fact. But I imagine my anger would be drawn equally as much toward the architect as it would the player.

LeBron has drawn the ire of fellow Clevelanders because he chose a path that diverges from the feel-good story, that of loyalty to your hometown, no matter the personal cost.

It is difficult for me to be objective in the matter. For as much as Clevelanders feel betrayed, I feel elated, as much for the prospect for multiple titles and for the assistance to be afforded to my own hometown hero. But I do not agree that LeBron should be faulted for his departure. He chose to salvage what he could from a career thus far constrained by mismanagement. For that, itself, he should not incur such wrath.

Instead, he’s been labeled a coward and a fraud, no longer deserving of the reputation his seven seasons of unmatched production have earned him.

It’s as if all the good he has done in his life – all the children’s lives he’s touched in one way or another, whether it be through donations of his time, donations of his money, or whatever else, the types of actions that never get reported because no one, selfish as we all are, seems to care – all get tossed aside because of one bad decision. It’s the worst “decision” he’s every made in his life, really – and it was a public relations decision at that, hardly something that warrants such rampant hatred.

But nowhere in the script do I find mention of his own sacrifices. In an era where we complain that athletes only care about the coin, the top player in the game has agreed to take less money to play with his friends and to dominate the league for the foreseeable future, even at the risk of diminishing his own individual greatness.

Any chance that he may have to go down in annals of time as the game’s best may well have just imploded. LeBron knows this. He knew it before he made his decision. Ultimately, he cared more about winning and friendship than money and legacy. Precedent for such magnanimous behavior exists only rarely, particularly amongst those that wield such power. I have yet to see this story written.

Instead, the hatred seems to have projected beyond just James and onto the entire Heat organization, as well as onto the architect of the plan itself.

I would suggest that this is an emotion bred largely from envy.

In Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey, New York, etc. they all hoped he’d leave. There were even sandwiches named after him as an enticement. Wanting fans certainly weren’t complaining about the merits of the home-grown product then.

Had he, by way of example, chosen New York, would he have drawn such widespread criticism? I suspect not.

The fact that he chose to join an organization with such talent around him seems to be at issue. It just feels wrong to build an instantaneous dynasty, as opposed to breed it over the course of time. It feels cheap.

Pat Riley chose a path toward relevancy. It is a path that he has communicated for several years. It was a path that was once commended as a potential master stroke of brilliance. It is a path that nearly half the league also pursued, just not as successfully. Now that it has paid off for Miami, emotions have swayed.

People enjoy the notion of a competitive league. And they should. It’s exciting. It’s inspiring. It’s entertaining.

And, by all means, we may certainly still have one. This team hasn’t even hit the floor yet. It’s not even officially a team yet. I wouldn’t rush to judgment on anything.

But it does appear, regardless of how thing ultimately turn out, that Pat Riley made the right choice. I only hope that he gets credit for that.

It appears that James made the right choice, too. If hardware is the metric by which our superstars are judged, how can he be faulted?

Justifiably or not, James and the Heat have been cast as the league’s villains. Perhaps that is the price to be paid for greatness, or in this case projected greatness.

The people of Ohio have a right to be emotional.

For the rest of us, though, I would ask: What are you really mad at? That he left? The manner in which he chose to leave? Is one public relations disaster enough to overshadow a lifetime of great deeds that you haven’t even concerned yourself with? Are you even interested in getting know the man before labeling him as you do? What’s the worst mistake you ever made? In the grand scheme of mistakes, is this one really so bad? Did you not watch “the Decision” with hopeful anticipation even as you were simultaneously so disgusted with it? Would you be as angry as you are now if he had chosen your favorite team?

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  1. javier
    July 11th, 2010 at 23:12 | #1

    Good editorial. Fortunately, time has a way of softening emotions. And if winning occurs — especially beautiful winning, the kind of beautiful basketball this team has the potential to deliver — then even a “destroyed” legacy can be rebuilt in the hearts and minds of Joe NBA fan.

    Remember when Kobe Bryant was despised? He was considered the epitome of a selfish player. And when he had his problems in Colorado, he became a rapist in the eyes of Joe NBA. Fast forward several years and a string of titles, and he’s a darling of the NBA. Think how many times Michael Jordan has done things that should have forever tarnished his legacy, yet he is still considered the ultimate champion.

    I predict that we won’t even be through half of the 2010-2011 season when Lebron jersey sales once again become the top seller, which is as good a metric as any for determining Joe NBA’s perception of a player. Sure, they’ll always hate him in Cleveland (and Chicago, out of jealousy), but he’s too good, and he will do too many beautiful things with Wade, for the average fan not to re-embrace him.

    And in the end that he left Cleveland the way he did will be a footnote. He chose winning over money, and that will be his greatest legacy.

  2. lucas fb
    July 12th, 2010 at 02:59 | #2

    i really hope people remain loyal and get that this is wade’s team!!!

    lebron only came here,cause he knew it he would never won a title,against wade and bosh’es heat,and kobe’s lakers!!!

    also dont understate the fact that wade is leaving 2.55m dollars more on the table than each lebron and bosh,and lebron earns much,much more with endorsements.and wade was the one who was loyal, stayed in his team(even recruiting and lot more things)!!!

    james also came here to learn from wade,specially in being a playoff killer, instead of choker!!!
    plus all wade does!!!

  3. lucas fb
    July 12th, 2010 at 03:02 | #3

    if people and stern,refs and media specially try to make this lebron’s team i ll be really sick!!!

    even cause of all i just wrote!!!

  4. vincent
    July 12th, 2010 at 13:22 | #4

    nice work…

  5. Tyrone Slothrop
    July 12th, 2010 at 14:36 | #5

    Great editorial. I realize that I’m among Heat fans and that in Heat country Wade is God, but lucas, how did Wade do without a superstar next to him? Not to well. Now, he’s got two of them. James never had the luxury of playing with a superstar (no, not geriatric Shaq). Cleveland had 7 years to get a great (didn’t even have to be a superstar) player teamed up with James and the best they got was Mo Williams. Yes, I’d leave to if I were James. It also doesn’t matter whose team it is, the proof will be in the pudding. You may have thought you already had the best player in the league, but you didn’t. Now you do. But the beauty of having the two best players in the league is that neither of them is a ad gunner like Kome. They’re both great team guys. This is going to work.

    BTW, I’m a Cavs fan, and while I think the way that James left was bullshyt, childish and beyond egomaniacal, the fact remains that the guy on the basketball court is the best. Congrats Heat fans. Enjoy the championships.

  6. Fly N Dance
    July 13th, 2010 at 21:57 | #6

    it’s like Boston, Paul Pierce is Boston, and when KG and Ray joined him, now Boston is associated with them already with Rondo.

    If they would play together, in the long run Miami would be associated with the 3 Kings not Wade alone (of course Wade for me is the greatest) lol

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