This had the potential to be a positive story for LeBron James. He's had some critics over the past few seasons (Wizards fans have hated him for a few years now and he didn't do himself any favors when he didn't shake hands after being eliminated by the Magic two years ago nor when his people/nike allegedly confiscated tapes of getting dunked on at his camp just over a year ago) but for the most part, LeBron was one of the more likeable stars in the NBA. And last night LeBron chose to set aside his ego, take less money, and play with his friends in pursuit of the ultimate prize - championships.
But this is no feel-good story. About the only people who like LeBron right now are sitting on South Beach and coming to terms with their good fortune. By entering free agency and dragging out the process, LeBron was bound to disappoint and anger fans of the teams he passed on. But he angered more than just those fans by setting up an hour-long LeBron infomercial on ESPN titled "The Decision." Who are these people LeBron has around him and how are they stupid enough to let this happen?
The funny thing is ESPN probably would've done an hour-long special even if LeBron and his people hadn't pitched the idea. If he had just held a press conference to announce his decision ESPN and everyone else would've been all over it. Then all of this backlash would land on ESPN for the hype and not LeBron (even still, there's been plenty of backlash towards ESPN).
He set up an hour long special just to break the heart of Cleveland fans? Haven't they had enough misery? And the reaction of Cleveland fans was a little over the top. They were burning jerseys and one ardent fan wrote, "This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And 'who' we would want them to grow-up to become." Did I say fan? I meant OWNER. That's actually one of the tamest things from the scathing letter Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote to fans. But the most entertaining part of the letter wasn't anything that was written but was that it was done in Comic Sans. How can anyone take anything written in Comic Sans seriously?
As an NBA fan I'm disappointed with his decision (and as a Lakers fan). I would've loved to see him stay in Cleveland. It would've created a lot of parity with the Cavs, Celtics, Bulls, Heat and Magic all potential contenders in the East. But I'm still intrigued to see how this works out in Miami.
We've never seen anything like this. Sure, there have been teams with stacked talent before. In 2007 the Celtics assembled their Big Three. In 2004 the Lakers had Kobe, Shaq, Malone and Payton. In 1996 the Rockets had Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley. And in the early 70s the Lakers had Chamberlain, West and Baylor. But in all those situations most of the players were well past their prime. For comparison, Garnett, Pierce and Allen were 33, 30 and 32 respectively. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are 25, 28 and 26. That's three All-Stars and three of the top 15 players all in their athletic prime.
Some think their egos will get in the way and they won't be able to learn how to play together. I don't see this being a problem. They are three of the more unselfish stars in the NBA. LeBron James has always been a great distributor and as for Wade and Bosh? Well, they haven't had the players around them to afford to be unselfish except when they were on Team USA and they were great teammates.
I do see issues with their playing style. Both Wade and James both look to drive to get the bulk of their points so teams will look to play zone and make them jump shooters. But now there are reports that they will sign a zone breaker in three-point specialist Mike Miller.
Their other weakness is the front court. Bosh isn't exactly built to bang with the likes of Dwight Howard. But Shaq is and he's a free agent. Will he be willing to take a league minimum contract for a chance at his fifth ring? He might want that fifth to match the one Kobe just got.
And speaking of legacies - I do think this has the potential to hurt
LeBron's. Rings are important but how you get them is important too.
Jordan isn't considered the greatest simply because he has six
championships. He's the greatest because he did it with one team with
little help and a killer instinct. LeBron has never had that killer
instinct and his signing with the Heat is the ultimate proof of that. But he could still have quite a legacy and maybe even be in the discussion with Jordan. What if LeBron is able to average a triple-double this upcoming season? What if he wins three titles in Miami and then wins a couple more in his early 30s? I think it will be tough for him to reach Jordan status but I'm not willing to write that off just yet.