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The LeBron Rant

Posted by Neil Paine on July 9, 2010

Basketball is all about sharing, about unselfishness, about legends like Bill Russell doing whatever it takes to win. But apparently it's also about who has the bigger... um, contract.

You see, all we heard these past few days was whether LeBron and D-Wade could co-exist as "Alpha Males", or that LBJ joining Wade in Miami is supposedly something a true "Alpha Male" (ostensibly referring to Kobe or MJ) would never do... It's curious that this hyper-macho view of basketball first began to emerge less than two decades ago, though. Like a commenter said yesterday, the Michael Jordan era was so transformative that we may very well have have convinced ourselves that the MJ-Pippen formula (and the Alpha-Beta designations contained therein) is the only way to view the game. Heck, Bill Simmons even wrote a 700-page book that revises the entirety of NBA history to match that ultramasculine theory of basketball.

Yet in those same pages Simmons also extolled the virtues of "The Secret", which is allegedly about sacrificing numbers, money, and individual glory for team success... Well, isn't what LeBron did last night the living embodiment of The Secret, leaving millions on the table and turning himself into a hometown villain, all for the sake of winning? If Vince Lombardi was right and "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing", then LeBron made the only rational decision last night. But the dirty secret of commentators like Simmons is that winning by itself is not good enough -- you apparently also have to win while simultaneously vanquishing the idea of another male rival sharing your spotlight, because god forbid that another Alpha could possibly question your hoops authority when you're doing all that winning.

Oh, but I forgot, basketball is the ultimate team game, and it's all about sacrificing stats and glory for championships, right?

I guess this LeBron situation provides the ultimate opportunity for people to put their money where their cliches have been all these years.

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281 Responses to “The LeBron Rant”

  1. jpmeyer Says:

    ...and that's why I've always thought that Simmons is a tool.

  2. Michael Says:

    For true winning though, Chicago was the better situation.

    Wade and Bosh and Chalmers along with a bunch of mid level exceptions and minimum wage guys, at best.

    Rose, Noah, Deng, and Boozer and at least a couple of decent bench guys.

    I get the feeling we will see that Bosh really doesn't impact a team that much.

  3. snley Says:

    Very well put Neil. Nice to see some reasonable evaluation of LeBron's decision and the hyperbolic criticism surrounding it.

  4. Anon Says:

    Too bad you're not an ESPN analyst Neil. But I guess they're not gonna put people who are rational on the payroll -- they need "sensational journalists" a la Bill Simmons (and I like Simmons btw).

    So all I gotta ask is this:

    If LeBron's hypothetical rings with the Heat don't "count" (and this is NOT a bash on this player btw, just using this as an example,) what about Kobe's this year and in 09? You know, the player the media claims did it "did it the right way"? Despite playing alongside a player whom you could make a pretty darn good case for outplaying him since he got to LA in Pau Gasol? The same player he complained about not having on his team in the post-Shaq years and demanded a trade away from the Lakers as a result (which I would too if Smush Parker was my team's starting PG...)? Oh wait, Pau didn't take the majority of the Lakers' possessions, so he doesn't count...although we all KNOW that being "The Man" where that's concerned (or what we like to call Poss. % on the blog) doesn't necessarily MEAN you're the best player on your own team, right?

    If I didn't like this sport for the other things it offers of course, I would despise it for its continued display of backwards logic among the media and casual fans. +1 on the rant Neil.

  5. Adam Says:

    If winning is not going to be a symptom of supreme work ethic, the will to overcome adversity, besting a worthy rival, etc., why is it important?

    If I go challenge an eight year old to a game of basketball and beat him 10-nothing, should I feel pride?

  6. Chase Says:

    Good post, Neil. I think these are the same people who say Kobe's first three rings don't count (count for what? Who knows) and that apparently only one person on each team can really win a ring. The vitriol being directed at LeBron baffles me. People seem personally offended that he chose not to go be the savior for CLE/NY; of course, those are the same people who would rip him to shreds if he went to CLE/NY and never won a championship, saying he couldn't win.

  7. J-S Says:

    I can definitely see your point Neil, but one of the most rewarding thing about sports is winning a trophy by beating the very best players or teams your league has to offer, not teaming with those players to beat lesser opponents. Depending on what you think of the guy (and to be honest, I wasn't a big fan of his to begin with and this whole circus yesterday sure didn't help...) accepting what will almost certainly be a less important role either shows LeBron's unselfishness and desire to win or his lack of killer instinct. I personally think that the fear of failure in Cleveland, Chicago and New York, in situations where much of the pressure would have been on him to get titles, played a big role in his decision to join a proven winner in the Wade-Riley tandem, especially with Bosh coming too. Now the question is : what will LeBron's legacy be if he wins his championships in a team where he might not even be the true leader?

  8. thparadox Says:

    AMEN.

    This is truly an smart move. It's not unselfish, but it puts the right values first. Winning > Money&stats

  9. Charrua Says:

    I can understand Lebron's wish to go to Miami (easier life, not so much expected of him), but he was playing for the best regular season team in the league, right?
    He wasn't exactly Kevin Garnett here, lifting a terrible team to 50 wins every season and losing in the first round in a loaded conference; he was in the team most people favored to win the title!!
    How much better can Miami 10/11 be than Cleveland 09/10, after all? 6 games?

  10. Eddo Says:

    I'll echo what J-S says in post #7: Yes, it's about winning, but also being competitive. James has essentially taken the easy way out.

    As Simmons put it yesterday, everyone assumed James's decision was between loyalty (Cleveland), winning (Chicago), and brand (New York/New Jersey); no one thought he'd wind up choosing "HELP!"

  11. Pageup1000 Says:

    next poll, who's going to win it next year

  12. Anon Says:

    "...but he was playing for the best regular season team in the league, right?"

    Yes, REGULAR season team. Too bad in the playoffs the only player on that same team that consistently produced in the postseason was ...LeBron, even in the supposed "flameout" this playoffs (which this blog did a great job of mythbusting). In Miami at least Wade can provide the playoff punch you need from others to win a title.

    And for the post above, Chicago doesn't exactly have a roster of proven playoff performers either. Rose is incredibly overrated, and Boozer is not someone who brings his ball with him to the playoffs. Perhaps Noah can give playoff production, but Wade is leagues better. And we haven't even talked about what Bosh can bring to the table as a solid 3rd star.

    Nothing wrong with getting that "HELP" as Simmons put it. You need it to win titles.

  13. Dickie Dunn Says:

    I guess having a dog-and-pony show on ESPN doesn't count for making him a villain? It's all great he wants to win and sacrifice some money and stats in the process but the whole "LeBron James Show" was as much about ego and hype as anything else.

    If James handled it old school by simply having a press conference and going to Miami...throwing in some crocodile tears for Cleveland and how much he'll miss the fans but in the end it's about the rings, he'd look a lot better right now than the dog-and-pony show that ESPN and James' handlers concocted.

    Yeah, the Boys and Girls clubs get some coin out of this but to be honest it's a poor attempt to save some PR face. He has enough money where he could simply give those proceeds out of his foundation if he were truly sincere.

    James deserves the hate he's getting. It's not about his desire to win...it's about his desire to feed his ego.

  14. Dan Says:

    I really agree with your post, Neil. I had a conversation with my basketball buddy last night about what this "Miami Thrice" scenario will do for the game. To me, all signs indicate that Bosh, Wade, and James are simply trying to do something unprecedented. That's where I think your astute discussion of the "Alpha-Beta Male Championship Strategy" comes into play.

    Historically speaking, there are only a few franchises whose legacies resonate in fans' collective memory. This can be seen in the media's insistence on continually rehashing the "Glory Days" of basketball between Bird and Magic and exhaustively analyzing Jordan's hegemonic presence in the league during the 90's. Consequently, basketball enthusiaists of all types are quick to ridicule LeBron's decision because it simply does not fit into the formula they equate with winning.

    This historical narrative is tiresome and quite contradictory. By all accounts, Jordan is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Additionally, he entered a stratosphere of fame that allowed him to transcend the game itself (thank you, Nike). Why then, are people looking for his heir apparent? Has there been another Jordan? No. Another Russell? No. Chamberlain? No. These are unique talents that transformed the game and are not likely to be replicated.

    For this reason, I don't see why analysts, coaches and fans try to glean some deeper blueprint for success from Jordan's teams when it is clear that they were built around a unique talent. In so doing, people try to jam all great players succeeding him into the niche his talent created for him, both on his team and in the league. I think this perspective does a disservice to our current players as well as promote an intellectually stinted way of viewing a game we all love. Consequently, I wholeheartedly endorse this move by LeBron; he transformed the league and is challenging all of our popular attitudes about Basketball.

    Go Celtics

  15. ScottR. Says:

    LeBron took the coward's way out and has now tarnished his basketball legacy forver. If LeBron is one of the GOAT, he shouldn't have to gravy train his way to a title. Since he's now conceded he can't get it done in Cleveland, he's also conceded he's not one of the best ever. LeBron doesn't have the balls to grind it out and risk it all to win one in Cleveland. If he had tried and failed in Cleveland that would still be more meaningful then winning a title on some artificial dream team.

  16. Tweedster Says:

    "...left millions on the table"?

    Florida has no personal income tax. It wasn't some virtuous move purely for winning's sake and to think so would be ridiculously naive.

    By the way, does it really take an hour to say "I'm signing with Miami"?

  17. Jason J Says:

    I'm in agreement here. You can't have it both ways. Either you respect guys for being willing to do less for the betterment of those around them in order to win, or you respect those who are not satisfied unless they are dominating all competition.

    Hell those two things aren't even mutually exclusive, but don't praise retired champs for doing one or both of those and bash current players for the same thing. I don't know what the difference is between Shaq going to LA and them drafting Kobe and LeBron choosing to sign with Wade. He just took the GM out of the equation and made the choice for himself.

    And FYI to those people who are claiming that Jordan would never have done anything like this because he needed to compete against the best - Michael copped during Ewing's retirement ceremony to shamelessly recruiting Pat for the Tarheels and the Bulls. This guy wanted to win and wanted great teammates. He worked hard to tutor Scottie and help him reach his potential. He was very happy to get Dennis Rodman. The most competitive guy in the world wanted the best possible teammates. Why shouldn't LeBron?

    And if it makes a difference, I'm really not saying this out of some fidelity to LeBron. I'm a Celtics fan, so this trade really is potentially only harmful to my future NBA happiness.

  18. Richard Bauer Says:

    I understand the direction of the rant, but I believe you missed the boat as far as what Simmons meant by "The Secret" as was made aware to him via his Vegas chat with Isiah Thomas. The Secret is that it's not about basketball at all. Its about everything else. In that sense, LeBron of the last 2 seasons with Cleveland might be the living embodiment of The Secret cause his team looked the part and smelled the part, but something outside basketball kept it from winning. I don't know what, but that Cavs team knows. It's why we will never get any response from LBJ towards the Cavs owner after his fun letter to the fans of Cleveland basketball. Cause LBJ will take the high road. Cause he has no choice. Until we get the Mike Brown autobiography telling us all about the problems within the organization that might have contributed to the failures we will never know. The true Secret of this whole Miami Heat team is that these 3 players knew each other and all wanted this to happen thanks to being closer friends via the Team USA days of 07-08. What they share outside of basketball made them friends and want to be teammates again. These three arent randomly selecting a place with cap room with just some guys they know put up numbers. They are going cause they want to work at a job together with friends. What a fun job it'll be. :)

  19. Vinsanity Says:

    It's not only what you do, but how you do it, and to whom you do it to. Lebron made a "business" decision and a decision to make "Lebron James happy". This is his right. But his position is contradictory. A good business decision would have been to go to Chicago or NY for the endorsement opportunities and to take more money in salaries. However, he chose friendship over money, over his community, over his commitment to the organization. Nevertheless this is his right to make this choice.

    However, what is also important is how you do it. Lebron's stature in and responsibility to Cleveland is much much greater than that of Bosh's to Toronto or Wade's in Miami. Cleveland and Ohio are going through a depressed period economically and socially, and thus homegrown kids like Lebron have an inherent responsibility to lift up their communities. Instead, his last seven years seem contrived in that all his involvement in the community was simply a marketing opportunity, and not his true heartfelt sentiment towards his home state. This a huge slap in the face to Cleveland and the surrounding areas. He should have been more transparent from the start by saying that 1) Win or lose, I will stay because I know what I mean to Cleveland and what my social status means to the community; or 2) Thank you Cleveland for the memories, but its time for me to explore other paths in my journey as a player and a person. He did neither. He showed no loyalty towards Cleveland by protracting the time to announce his decision and in the way he did it. He owes happiness to himself, but he also owes respect to Ohio. It's not only what you do, but how you do it. This circus of free agency visits highlighted that there is very little loyalty in sports. Players become "part" of their communities because it shows them in a positive light and increases their marketability. However, when the time comes, they focus on their selfish needs and rationalize it by saying that it was the best decision for my family. Really? How? Miami and Cleveland are seperated by few thousand miles, not continents. They are part of the same country and same geographic area. So what does Miami offer that Cleveland doesn"t.

    In the end, Lebron's stature is bigger than all other athletes and as such he has a greater responsibility to his city and the community. KG played in Minnesota for majority of his career because he understood his value to the community. Lebron needed to stay in Ohio not only for his good, but for the good of a state that is economically depressed and is in dire need of any upliftment. He not only did not stay, but he also rubbed the salt in the wound in the way he went about planning his exit. The "Decision" could easily have been announced in Cleveland by looking the fans in the face and saying thank you for everything, but now I have to go. I cannot be burdened with being the face of Cleveland and I need to go. This would have made him appear more human and at the same time show that he is not the leader that his made out to be. Dwyane Wade is a leader because he was able to recruit other players without leaving Miami. Lebron despite his star power and perceived leadership, wasn't able to do either. He also shanked in the heart while making his "Decision".

    Nuff said.

  20. downpuppy Says:

    The Cavaliers have always been like the pre-Belichick Patriots. From the incredibly bad originals through the Ted Stepien insanity (when the league had to rescue them from the owner's stupidity) to the Boozer screwup, even when they had a good team the crazy was always just under the surface.

    LeBron gave them 7 years. Cleveland should have nothing to say but "Thanks".

  21. Spree Says:

    Basketball is also about competition! Competition, Neil. It is about teamwork and sacrifice of the individual for the good of the team. It is about that.

    But it is also about competition. Would the league have been better off if Bird and Magic played together? Would they have wanted to play together? No on both counts.

    The best in the world want to compete against the best to test themselves. They don't want to play on a Dream Team professionally. They want to test their skill and their will against the best.

    Why not just throw Russell and Chamberlain on the same team? Why not just put Stockton at the point, Jordan at the 2, Pip at 3, and Malone at four? Sacrifice right? NO!

    This is about competition. LeBron James turned away from the pressure. He turned away from the oppotuntiy to be "The Man". Any choice would have been defensible, but the one he made.

    I dislike Kobe, but do you think he is disappointed by this development? No way. He loves the challenge. He's glad to see the hype for LeBron and Wade. He wants to beat them both. That is a competitor!

    Would Michael Jordan look at Wade and Bosh and think he should play with them or that he should beat them? Would Magic think he should join them or beat them? Bird? Russell?

    The greatest players won't to beat the other greatest players. They don't want to join them.

    LeBron robbed himself of the opportunity to beat the best and he robbed the fans of a chance to witness great rivalry clashes b/w his Bulls/Cavs/Knicks against Wade's Heat.

    Sorry. But this is a sport built on rivalry and compeition and LeBron just didn't want the pressure and the possibility that he'd lose.

  22. Tim Says:

    No player has ever won a championship by themselves. Kobe was ready to leave Los Angeles in 2007, until management assured him they would put better players around him. They got Gasol months later, and all is now well in Laker land. The problem with Cleveland is that they weren't in a position to put better players around Lebron, after Bosh denied them. It's still about competition, but it's about having pieces around you to realistically compete, because without those pieces you saw Jordan fail in the 80s, Kobe fail after Shaq left, et cetera.

  23. Spree Says:

    If they win a title is it really an accomplishment?

    Think about how the Bad Boy Pistons. They came up just short against Boston in 87. Their best player hurts his ankle against LA in 88. Those struggles made 89 and 90 all the sweeter.

    Ditto for Jordan's Bulls when they finally swept the Pistons and won their first ring. There was accomplishment because they experienced the sweet and the sour. The sweet will never be as sweet until you taste the sour.

    You have to risk failure and experience failure for victory to taste as sweet as possible. This Heat team isn't the Celtics. KG wasn't in his prime and walking away from Minnesota. The Minnesota fans even wanted him to get out while he still could by the end of his run. Boston was about three guys coming together at the end of their career after playing on bad teams. Pierce stuck it out in Boston. KG stuck it out in Minnesota beyond reason. They came together at the end with no hostility from anyone.

    This Miami merger is about the path of least resistance. It is about LeBron avoiding pressure. Even if he loses it can't all be on him.

    And if they win next year what is the narrative? What did they overcome?

    I predict right now that they won't win a ring. Whenever people try to avoid the hard roads and grab the sweet without the sour, life has a funny way of smacking them down harder than anyone else. When it sounds too good to be true it is. Get-rich quick doesn't happen.

    THIS TEAM NEVER WINS A RING. Mark it down.

  24. P Middy Says:

    Competition is under the auspices of the Association, not the players. If the Association doesn't want this kind of stuff happening, they'll make a rule. If he's in charge of the integrity of the Association, they'll need to pay him more than $15 million a year.

    I find the argument ridiculous. How many people go out of their way to make their lives more difficult? The man became a free agent so that he could go to the best situation available to him. By his estimation, Miami is that spot. Given something that we see as a perfect opportunity - in terms of money, fulfillment at work and home, being successful- we'd all snatch it in heartbeat. And now LeBron is a heel for it? Foul.

  25. Spree Says:

    He has a right to do whatever he wants. The NBA hasn't needed a rule to stop players from grouping up like this. Because most superstars are more interested in beating the best in the world rather than playing with them. So it has been a self-regulating system.

    LeBron's choice was his to make and he made it. I'm not calling him a heel for it. There are things that it reveals though. He isn't a competitor on par with Kobe, Duncan, Bird, Magic, MJ, Russell, Kareem, etc. He'll never crack any Top 10 of all time.

    His ceiling is now Pippen not Jordan. Just the facts.

  26. Zachary Says:

    I disagree with your opinion on Simmons and his book, but I do agree that if winning is the most important thing, it would be idiotic to try and win a title single-handedly. Name me one NBA champion that was a one-man team. You can't. Russell had a bunch of Hall of Famers. Magic had Kareem. Bird had McHale. MJ had Pippen. Shaq had Kobe, and later Wade. Garnett had Pierce. Kobe had Gasol. Who has LeBron had? Mo Williams? Please. It would be foolhardy to stick with that idiotic organization when he had a chance to join up with a great coach and his talented friends.

  27. John C Says:

    Great post, but doesn't Lebron's media explosion over the last few days still give him that status of being the 'alpha dog'? The decision was one thing, but the fact that he did so apart from his new teammates is entirely another.

    I guess we'll have to wait and see if Miami 10/11 turns out like Boston 07/08, and if Pat Riley will be given the Danny Ainge treatment for this signing.

  28. Jason J Says:

    So when it turned out that Kobe was a great player by 2001, Shaq should have demanded a trade so that he could defeat him instead of teaming up with him? Robinson should have thrown a fit when the Spurs drafted Duncan, right? Because it's about competition. Magic should have told the Lakers he was not interested in playing with them because it would rob him of the opportunity to defeat Kareem?

    I just don't follow that rationale. Where is the line? How good of a teammate is a great player allowed to have before it becomes a cop out? I need a graph.

  29. P Middy Says:

    Miami just traded Beasley for a draft pick. So they've got a little more money to get some players this season.

    I think making proclamations about his legacy while his career is less than half over is premature. He's one of the greatest already, and could very well finish with a number of rings. They're all on 5 year contracts. You don't think that at 30 years old he can go somewhere else and win a ring as he #1 guy?

  30. themojojedi Says:

    I'm a big fan of old school PC adventure games, where sometimes the only way to progress is to spend hours trying to solve some frustratingly obscure puzzle. To help you out, some games give three levels of hints, increasing in specificity such that the first hint is very vague and doesn't give the solution away while the third hint essentially tells you exactly how to solve the puzzle. Its much more rewarding to find the solution on your own, and you feel like you're cheating yourself a bit if you get even the low-level hints, but sometime a hint is necessary to solve the puzzle. If you use the third level hint though you might as well not even be playing the game.

    I think my problem (and that of some others) is that LeBron has spent a 2 or 3 years in Cleveland close to cracking championship puzzle without any hints, but instead of getting a low level hint (re-signing with Cleveland and adding another all-star) or a second level hint (joining a nicely balanced Chicago squad) he bypassed those options and jumped straight to the easy solution provided by the third level hint (Miami with DWade and Bosh). So now the difficulty of solving the championship puzzle just got a whole lot easier (not that winning a championship will ever be easy), and surely that has to be a little less rewarding for someone who has invested so much into winning his first championship.

  31. Anon Says:

    "I dislike Kobe, but do you think he is disappointed by this development? No way. He loves the challenge. He's glad to see the hype for LeBron and Wade. He wants to beat them both. That is a competitor!"

    Oh yes, because we all know it's just Kobe playing ball fir the Lakers right? It's Kobe vs. ________ to Lakers fans, not Kobe + Gasol (best big behind Dwight, and actually had a better season/postseason than Kobe in '10) + a great frontline in Odom/Bynum (even when injured he had an impact) + good supporting cast vs. the league.

    When will basketball fans stop turning these things into "Player X vs. Player Y"? This isn't tennis or golf.

  32. Paul Alexander Says:

    For all these people talking about how LeBron just didn't have enough to put his team over the edge, that team doesn't even approach that edge without LeBron. I'm sorry, I just don't see Mo Williams, Big Z, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Shaq and Jamison sniffing the playoffs let alone pushing the Celtics to 6 games without LeBron. I think the perspective is totally off. Instead of saying that he failed to get them a title, we should be saying how in the hell did he even get them to contend for a Finals. Someone please look at that 2006-07 team, remove Lebron from that list and tell me who else you could plug in and see them reaching the Finals. His starting point guard was Eric Snow for chrissakes! And even if you don't agree with what I'm saying, if you truly love basketball, how in the world could you not be excited about watching LeBron and Dwyane Wade together? Does anyone even like watching the game of basketball? I do! And this is a dream come true in my mind!

  33. Michael David Boyd Says:

    This column is exactly right. The out-of-control wanton hate for LeBron James is the stupidest, most hypocritical thing I've ever seen in sports, narrowly surpassing the "moral outrage" over steroids in baseball circles. The reason for it is that our society is only in the business of trying to destroy heroes now. Not just in basketball, but I think in AMERICA, Michael Jordan was the last public figure who had a concerted effort to build him up rather than tear him down, hence he has become a mythological figure who has managed to become overrated and overhyped despite being the greatest basketball player ever.

    LeBron was in a no-win situation.

    If he had stayed in Cleveland, and failed to win with what would have been one of the 3 or 4 most mediocre rosters to win a championship, people would have called him a loser, and said he lacked Jordan's moxie because he couldn't turn JJ Hickson into Scottie Pippen.

    If LeBron had gone to Chicago (which I do believe was actually a better basketball fit) even after his 4th or 5th ring, he still would be in Jordan's shadow in the eyes of fans.

    And so he went to Miami, and now he is being excoriated for doing what practically everyone has been saying superstars should do--taking less money, setting aside his ego, and now suddenly everyone has done a complete 180 on the basketball values they profess.

    And it's hilarious to me that people are behaving as if LeBron did the Cavs unfairly. Are people forgetting that LeBron already resigned with Cleveland once and gave them three more years to build a team around him, and they gave him Mo Williams, JJ Hickson, and Shaq and Antawn Jamison far past their primes. LeBron's ability has covered for the fact that the Cavs' personnel management has been some of the worst in the NBA. And I'm not even necessarily a LeBron fan--Kobe has been my favorite player for the past 10 years. So I'm not a LeBron lover woho would defend him no matter what. I've been critical of him. He has handled a lot of things imperfectly in the past couple of years, including the hour-long special and many other things. But the response from the public, from the Cavs owner, from the blogosphere, is completely irrational and disproportionate.

  34. AHL Says:

    Haha, look at all this Simmons bandwagon hate.

    Him pointing out his concept of "The Secret" and him pointing out what happens in reality are two different things. It's not a dirty secret, and nowhere does Simmons say it's what they "have" to do to win, it's just what happens realistically and often. I don't see what the contradiction or hypocrisy is here. Citation needed.

  35. Bob Says:

    I think the sympathy for Lebron will be there when the Cavs come up with a hugely sub-par record next year. What he did to make that team look that good is beyond imaginable, there really was not a lot of talent there, half the guys were well past their primes.

  36. Anon Says:

    "I think my problem (and that of some others) is that LeBron has spent a 2 or 3 years in Cleveland close to cracking championship puzzle without any hints, but instead of getting a low level hint (re-signing with Cleveland and adding another all-star) or a second level hint (joining a nicely balanced Chicago squad) he bypassed those options and jumped straight to the easy solution provided by the third level hint (Miami with DWade and Bosh)."

    I like the analogy, but this team isn't even guaranteed to win a title. They still have some things to address, notably on defense (DSMok1 I believe had a nice post the other day about that). They became nice and top-heavy with getting the two best players in the league in 2009-2010, with Bosh being a top 15 player. But they still need to take care of some things with the roster.

    Anyways, the poster above me pretty much nailed it. For a culture that *irrationally* uses rings to rank its players historically (which is something I have always disapproved of), it should be applauding this move -- LeBron is putting himself in in a position to win a title or multiple titles. But whoops, apparently it's in the no-no's of the "Basketball Urban Legend Handbook: How to Be Considered a Great Player by the Media and Casual Fan".

    Where are these dumb, arbitrary rules coming from? Lakers/Kobe fans? (This is not supposed to be a shot a Thermojedi, he's an intelligent poster).

  37. Anon Says:

    EDIT: "The poster above me" I was referring to was #33.

  38. TH Says:

    http://www.stevenlebron.com/2010/07/king-james.html

  39. themojojedi Says:

    "Instead of saying that he failed to get them a title, we should be saying how in the hell did he even get them to contend for a Finals. Someone please look at that 2006-07 team, remove Lebron from that list and tell me who else you could plug in and see them reaching the Finals. His starting point guard was Eric Snow for chrissakes!"

    When you are talking about that 2007 team remember that they primarily generated their wins through defense, while LeBron was the major contributor on offense. In this way they were much like the 2001 Sixers, who also got through a weak conference (by SRS at least) and started strong defender Eric Snow, with LeBron cast as an Iverson Plus. As a rough measure take the percentage of Offensive Win Shares and Defensive Win Shares of total Win Shares. The 2007 Cavs breakdown as 38% O/62% D while the 2001 Sixers were 44% O/56% D. With Iverson taking a similarly styled and structured team to the Finals in 2001 I don't think its unreasonable to suggest that there were other strong offensive players in the league that could have taken that Cavs team to the Finals.

    "Where are these dumb, arbitrary rules coming from? Lakers/Kobe fans? (This is not supposed to be a shot a Thermojedi, he's an intelligent poster)."

    I try not to mention Kobe anymore because it seems to automatically weaken an argument in these parts ;), but I think it does come to some extent from Lakers/Kobe fans who for about 7 years heard moronic rants about how Kobe's titles with Shaq don't count and whenever Kobe's rings are mentioned the words Horry, Havlicek and Pippen are tossed about as superiors. I think we're all intelligent enough to realise that Horry's contribution to winning his championships is not the same as Kobe's or Pippen's. I was thinking about a rough way to quantify a player's total contribution to a ring by breaking the Championship year into regular season and playoffs, and calculating for each the proportion of total team WinShares the player produced. This does a pretty good job at sorting the really dominant star performances (Jordan 91 and more, Shaq 00, Duncan 03, Hakeem 94 at a combined proportion of around 0.6), strong number 1's at around 0.45-0.55 and clear-cut number 2's or leaders of balanced teams like the 89,90,04 Pistons at around 0.3-0.4)

  40. Jay Oh Says:

    I think most people are basically upset with the way he did it. If he went on ESPN with wade + bosh to do a short announcement, that would've been a lot classier. Instead, he created this sensationalist media event that basically came off like a wrestling match. It was very awkward to watch, and really couldn't be taken seriously in my opinion. Hey, maybe that isn't entirely his fault. I'm not really convinced that his "team" surrounding him always has his best interests at heart, regardless of how close they all are.

    In contrast, you look at a player like durant, who did all he could to not make a big deal about his extension. All this guy cares about is playing basketball and winning. He's arguably a top 5 player in the league, yet he's hanging out in orlando at the summer league with his team. Of course lebron is more concerned about his brand, but this was flat out overkill.

    As far as his leaving, maybe "taking the easy way out" is a stretch, but the main point here is that he's giving his role up as "the man" pretty early in his career. Can anyone really deny that at the end of games, there will be some selfishness at play between wade and lebron? It's all about the team, but those 2 still have massive egos. Also, It's beyond me how the cavs front office couldn't land a bosh or amare level big man over the last few years. I don't think there's any doubt that he'd still be in cleveland if that were the case.

  41. AYC Says:

    Lebron vs. Wade was the best individual rivalry in the league but now it's finished; for that reason I'm disappointed; we never got to see them go at each other in a playoff series. I don't see how joining Wade in MIA helps his legacy; right or wrong, the haters will always hold it against him.

    And I don't think turning down all the money he could have made is "unselfish", I think it's DUMB. By the time he's 40 he will probably be done as a player. If he gets hurt it could happen alot sooner. He's the best player and biggest draw in the league; he should be making as much as possible. Lebron would be underpaid even if he got a max contract; in a free market he would make alot more. Idon't get why he wouldn't go to Chicago, a better team that could have paid him. (No, Rose is not overrated; he's young; and if you watched him in the playoffs the last couple years, you saw a player who excels under pressure.)

  42. GoldenStateBull Says:

    I'm of the opinion that even with the big 3, the Miami Heat will not win a title this year. I believe that even with the addition of Mike Miller, they don't have a bench that is capable of maintaining the level of play necessary to win when/if injury strikes, foul trouble, off nights, etc.

    All of these simulations being run and prognostications pondered, I really want to see what the result would have been with LeBron coming to the Bulls. That roster would have instantly been one of the deepest in the East, one or two moves would have elevated the team to heights not seen this decade. Presumably speaking, of course.

  43. JLK1 Says:

    Great stuff here. I just want to point out that the Heat are building a team within the salary cap rules of the NBA, and that it's laughable to me to say that he's playing for some kind of Dream Team or All-Star Team. Some poster above used the analogy of an adult beating a small child at basketball. That just doesn't fit. If the Heat want to use their salary cap space to pay 3 superstars and a bunch of scrubs, then they are free to pursue that strategy. Everyone plays by the same rules.

    In a sense they are exploiting a flaw in the collective bargaining agreement. Max contract players are often underpaid (at least when you're talking about players like James and Wade, and not Joe Johnson), as are rookie scale players. My guess is these two categories will make up most of their payroll. LeBron has tried to win a title on a team that went deep into the luxury tax to pay MLE players and veterans, and that roster didn't work. The Heat are using a different strategy, and if anything the Celtics have already shown that it can succeed, though the Heat may suffer from a lack of quality role players.

    Finally, the idea that his rings will be tarnished because he earned them with great teammates is absurd. NBA history proves that one transcendent player is not enough to win a title, and some of those examples have been brought up here: post-Shaq Lakers, Jordan in the late 80s, Lebron the last 3 years, Kevin Garnett in his prime, Shaq when he played for Orlando. LeBron is clearly focused on winning and he wants to be on a team that can win it all.

  44. Michael David Boyd Says:

    It's funny to me that people talk about how LeBron should have a rivalry with Wade. In 2003, I thought he would be the best player out of that draft and was one of a small group that correctly foresaw his upside. I'm a Wade guy. But in the last 24 hours, nobody is talking about Wade's downsides anymore. It's not like the title has been going through Dwyane Wade. Yes, he has that one ring, but he hasn't won a playoff series in the four seasons since. And Shaq wasn't dominant, btu he wasn't chopped liver in 2006 either. So people are acting like Wade is a Jordan-like figure, and that LeBron is going to team with an all-time great. Wade ain't all that. He can play as well as anyone when he's healthy, this is true, but people seem to be forgetting he's missed 101 games in 7 seasons, and has only been past the second round of the playoffs twice, in 2005 when a lot of people felt Shaq finished 2nd in MVP voting and a lot of people thought he should have won, and in 2006 when they won a title in the most controversially officiated Finals in history. Not to denigrate Wade's performance--he was outstanding and it's no like he should have turned down the foul calls. But let's have some perspective. It's hard to fairly rank Wade because of his injury history, but other than being in the right place at the right time to get the one ring, Wade's level as a player is a lot closer to Bernard King than Michael Jordan.

    I like Wade a whole lot, but people acting like LeBron is cheating by teaming with him doesn't make sense. Wade is great when he's great, but this is not Jordan, Magic and Bird teaming up. Wade and Bosh are not on that level. Even though Wade can play at the level OCCASIONALLY, he hasn't done it CONSISTENTLY because of chronic injuries. Luckily he's been healthy two solid years, and I hope he stays healthy, but players with his history usually don't.

    There is some chance Bosh is not as good as ANY of us think. A lot of players in NBA history have had 20+ averages on mediocre to bad teams and looked like All-Stars and turned out to be just slightly above average players when put on a good team and in big games. Bosh has disappeared in most of the few big games he's been in.

    So the comparisons being drawn with LeBron joining Wade and Bosh are unfair. Do Wade and Bosh constitute a pair of terrific running mates? Sure. But there are plenty of other great players they have to go through to win rings. People are talking like Miami has won the last three titles or been in the Finals 4 of the last 5 years. The title hasn't been going through Miami. The title hasn't been going through Dwyane Wade. I'm not sure why people are talking like that has been the case.

  45. AYC Says:

    To #39, I think your comparison of LBJ in 07 to AI in 01 greatly oversimplifies things. For one thing, this isn't football, where offensive players don't play defense. Lebron was a stellar defender in 07 (5.7 DWS), while AI was never good defensively (4.5 DWS in 01). In the playoffs, the gap between the two only grew; AI had 0.9 DWS in 22 games, while LBJ had 1.6 DWS in 20 games. Lebron also had more OWS (2.1) than AI (1.9) in fewer games.

    The "38% O" number just tells me Lebron's team had worse execution/personnel on offense, meaning LBJ had more to overcome than AI. He responded with better offensive stats and much, much better defense.

  46. Luke M. Says:

    Regardless of how you feel about LeBron leaving (I personally am fine with him going to Miami or anywhere else for that matter, I just find the WAY he did it more than a little distasteful), does anyone else feel like everyone's reactions would be completely reversed if Wade and Bosh were joining LeBron in Cleveland? It seems like everyone, except Heat fans, would praise that as brilliant. I have to believe this "Cleveland betrayal" or the idea that LeBron is joining Wade's team plays a big part in everyone's reactions here. Also, I think the fact that Wade has already won a title plays a big role in this too. It makes it seem like they're not teaming up to help each other win, but that LeBron (and Bosh too - but, honestly, no one really cares about him here) is giving up and just hitching himself to Wade so Wade can carry him to the promised land. Not saying that's what's happening here, at all, but I think that's the way a lot of people are perceiving it.

  47. AYC Says:

    #44, you should check out Wade's advanced stats; they're alot closer to Jordan than Bernard King (what an odd comparison!). And he's been healthy for the last two years, playing 79 and 77 games. I don't think 35 ppg in the finals qualifies as just "being in the right place at the right time"

    PS Like Lebron, Kobe sans Shaq, and MJ in the 80's, Wade couldn't win a series by himself

  48. Michael David Boyd Says:

    The 2001 Sixers also had Dikembe Mutombo, who was 2nd team All-NBA and 1st team all-defense and defensive player of the year that season, a much better player than anyone on the 2007 Cavs besides LeBron. So the Sixers were a better team. I'm not one that hates Iverson,and wants to explain away what he did that year. I think his performance that year was spectacular, one of the best playoff efforts by any player, whether they won the title or not, and I generally think Iverson's flaws, while they are many and serious, get overly emphasized while he doesn't get enough credit for his virtues. But LeBron did more with less in 2007, though, and you're really in hater territory if you can't acknowledge what he achieved that year as historic even in losing in the Finals.

  49. NGNM Says:

    Here http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2010/07/09/legends-weigh-in/ former starts like CWebb, Reggie Miller and Sir Charles, although they don't criticize LeBron's choice, all say that at his age they wouldn't have taken this decision.

  50. Michael David Boyd Says:

    AYC, I'm not saying Wade isn't similar to Jordan in terms of stats and style, I'm talking about overall impact. When you look at the year-by year summary of Wade career, it doesn't look like a Jordan or Magic or Bird or other all-time great. I realize in terms of playing style and skills, yes, he's more like Jordan than King, but I'm talking about the LEVEL of player he is, not style or skillset. Just step back and consider Wade's career:

    2004: solid rookie year, but not dominant by any means

    2005: played great, but ended the season hurt and missed a key playoff game and then was hobbled in his team's last playoff game

    2006: played outstanding all year and won title

    2007: injured off and on all year, swept in first round of playoffs putting forth a mediocre performance

    2008: injured off and on all year, didn't finish season

    2009: played MVP level, but still didn't get out of first round (not his fault as Miami didn't have a very good roster, but people hammer McGrady for losing in first round with bad teams. People are comparing Wade to Jordan, but those same people would say Jordan wouldn't lose Game 7 to the Hawks in the first round.

    2010: had up-and-downs in the season and was great overall, but not as good as 2009, and again lost in the first round, although to a more forgivable opponent. Are people already forgetting that Pat Riley was criticizing him for not playing at the same level as 2009 and calling him out for being not in tip-top shape?

    Wade's basically had two thoroughly great seasons (2006 and 2009), and one very very good one (2010). The evaluations I'm hearing of Wade are not consistent with the reality of this resume. And I love him, but we've got to be honest and fair here. The above resume is who Wade is. Not a Jordan-like figure. Not even close. His stats might look somewhat Jordan-like, but so do McGrady's and Vince Carter's. The Jordans and Magics and Birds had their off years here and there too, but they weren't off one out of every two years like Wade's been. Neither are LeBron and Kobe.

    Wade is a great player, one of the best in the league right now, but not what people are making him out to be right now in order to try to put a negative spin on LeBron's choice. Wade has bigger downsides than any of the other players currently considered super-elite, namely his inconsistency due to inability to stay healthy. I mean, how low has the bar been set that we're excited he's been healthy two consecutive years?