Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBron shows true colors and they are UGLY

This is not going to be a blog post bashing LeBron James (okay, maybe there will be some bashing). However, this WILL be a blog post discussing the ins-and-outs of his decision, the ramifications for the league and my personal opinion on what the ultimate ramifications of "The Decision" will be for LeBron, the Heat, the Cavaliers and the NBA as a whole.

I would like to start by saying that I was a HUGE fan of LeBron James when he first came into the league. I thought his game was naturally unselfish and that he was the ultimate team basketball player. When he was double-teamed in the final seconds of a playoff game and passed the ball to Donyell Marshall for a wide-open three-pointer (that Marshall missed), James was called out by the results-oriented media for passing up the last shot.

But his response landed in my Facebook profile under "favorite quotes." The response was, "I go for the winning play. The winning play when two guys come at you and a teammate is open is to give it up. It's as simple as that."

If I wasn't already a huge LeBron fan, this made me one. What a radical way of thinking in today's NBA, that even when double-teamed a superstar should find an open teammate for a shot that a teammate hits 40 percent of the time for the win. Somebody did scientific research after the fact based on shooting percentages from where Marshall was and where LeBron was to prove that James' decision to pass indeed had a higher positive expectation for winning than if he had taken the shot himself. And he never backed down from his stance that his decision was right and he would do it again in a heartbeat. ULTIMATE RESPECT.

The irony of this situation is now that James resides in Miami, he will be giving up the last shot most of the time to Dwyane Wade. Wade is a better pure scorer than LeBron, whose freakish athleticism allows him to get to the basket almost at will. But at the end of the game, the lane tightens up and we've seen before that James is unable to consistently deliver game-winning shots from mid-range or long distance (I know, he's hit a few ridiculous threes, but those are more luck than anything). Wade has a more polished offensive repertoire, is a better shooter and just finds more ways to score than James, which is what you need when the seconds are ticking off the clock.

Wade will have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He is the league's second-best closer behind Kobe Bryant and if James' ridiculously large ego can accept ceding at least 80 percent of the final shots in important games, this situation might work very well. This is DWYANE WADE'S TEAM and anybody who thinks any differently is a fool.

How will LeBron handle playing second fiddle (or 1B to Wade's 1A)? That remains to be seen, but I think we can all envision some speed bumps arising along the way, despite the fact that James, Wade and Chris Bosh (who somehow hasn't been mentioned until right now) are great friends. But the real question is what will piggybacking off of Wade and Bosh do to LeBron's legacy?

I find it very difficult to say anything besides this: LeBron James will NEVER be mentioned anything but sarcastically in the same breath as Michael Jordan again. Hell, he shouldn't even be in the same discussion as Kobe Bryant. I know Kobe had Shaq for his first three titles but he wanted to do it on his own, as the unquestioned leader of his team. He had that desire, that will to win and be the man. The Lakers have built around him and Kobe has delivered consecutive titles as the team's unquestioned leader (for anybody who says Pau Gasol was the MVP of that series, quit it). But that's a discussion for another post.

By joining Wade and Bosh in Miami, LeBron will never be the unquestioned leader and will have to share Finals MVP awards if this team does contend for multiple titles. Jordan won 6 titles and 6 Finals MVP's. Kobe has 5 titles and 2 MVP's (Shaq has the other 3). Even if James wins 5 titles in 5 years with Miami, he won't win more than 2 or 3 Finals MVP's. Then he will be 31 and might try to build his own separate legacy elsewhere, when his freakish athleticism will be diminished post-prime and will actually have to work hard at perfecting certain parts of his game, like Bryant has. I'm not sure I see it.

For as cocky as LeBron is, I can't believe he didn't chose to be THE GUY in either Cleveland, Chicago or New York. Maybe this decision shows a subsiding ego, but I'll believe that when I see it. He wants to ball with his friends. He's shying away from the potential spotlight (New York) and the possibility of failure somewhere (Cleveland). He made a SELFISH decision and will forever be looked at as a pansy. A wuss. A scared little girl who couldn't win on his own and had to piggyback off his super-talented friends. If you couldn't already tell, LeBron has lost all my respect.

Not that he cares. He just wants to win and he's willing to take less money to do it with his friends. Did they have this plan in place when they signed their contracts like they did after the 2003 draft? Or was it the Olympics that sealed the deal if they could get all of their salaries to fit? I smell a rat and this was definitely in the plans of all three players involved for much longer than most people might think.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was obviously not pleased with LeBron's decision, calling it a "cowardly betrayal" and stating the Cavs would win a title before the "self-titled former King" does. I love the anger and enthusiasm, but that last statement is beyond blasphemous. Cleveland will not touch a title while James, Wade and Bosh are in Miami and that's just a clear fact. Sorry Cavs fans, but your Chosen One screwed you over.

On that note, how do you get drafted number one overall by your hometown team, lead them to great regular-season success (but no title) and then unceremoniously leave to play with your friends like it's a schoolyard pickup game. I'm on Gilbert's side when he calls this a "cowardly betrayal."

"Oh we have 8 guys, let's just play 3-on-5. LeBron, Dwayne and Chris versus you five." And that's essentially what will happen in Miami with their lack of cap space, unless veterans decide to come and take less money for a shot at what might be a guaranteed championship (given full health for the new Big Three). I've already heard Shaq's name floated around in rumors of a return to Miami and I'm sure more will come in the next few days and weeks.

Chicago will still be very good without LeBron, as adding Carlos Boozer alongside Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng will make them one of the top four teams in the East along with Boston, Orlando and obviously Miami. Cleveland might not even make the playoffs but the Knicks, well, that's another story.

The Knicks will still suck, which annoys me as a Knicks fan. But while all my friends are disappointed LeBron didn't come, I'm not. I would've preferred Wade in all honesty, as my former love affair for LeBron has turned in recent seasons. He's a selfish prima donna who is all about self-promotion and "The Decision" last night (both the show and the actual choice) prove that much. I'm glad he's not coming to New York and I'm glad I said he wasn't coming from the start. I'm in no way shocked or disappointed. As I said in my first free agency post, if you expect nothing you will never be disappointed. And I'm not.

At least now I don't have to worry about all the bandwagoners that would've been all about the Knicks if LeBron came. At least now I can enjoy my likely-still-terrible hometown team in peace with the other die-hards. But then again, bandwagon fans only exist when teams are successful. Would I rather root for a winner and deal with frontrunners (like I do with the Yankees and hate three-quarters of my team's fans) or root for a loser with the other crazy nutjobs? I guess I'd rather have my team succeed, but maybe Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony will come next year to become the second Axis power of the Eastern Conference and dethrone the Heat (and any other team in the conference).

This has been a very long post and I swear I'll end it soon, but first I have a question: Are the now-loaded Heat good or bad for the NBA? Is the league better with obvious villains that everybody else wants to beat, or is it better when the competitive balance is slightly less swayed?

I'm not sure the Heat stacking up is necessarily a good thing for the NBA, but I do know that no NBA championship is guaranteed. The Lakers may only have one player better than Miami's third best, but their depth will keep them in serious title discussion assuming the Heat fill out their roster with minimally-productive veterans and inexperienced rookies. Boston has one season left to show me they can compete, but it will tough considering their "Big Three" is nowhere near their prime while Miami's is. Although Miami's triumvirate doesn't include Rajon Rondo, one of my favorites who gets better every season and is the best player on the Celtics roster. Orlando? Chicago? Nope, sorry, not this year.

It all comes down to what players are willing to piggyback to Miami (like LeBron) for a title. I have a feeling their roster after the top three won't look so bad and if they add solid role players and stay healthy, they are easily favorites to win the NBA title. Hey LeBron, you may finally get your ring! Only you'll have to split it three ways and it comes at the price of the legacy you could've built in New York or Cleveland (screw Chicago, that's Jordan's legacy). Only James will know if this "sacrifice" will make him happy in the end. Because the only fun way to be a pansy is to be a happy one and now we all know now that LeBron truly is a bitch (excuse my language).

And I lied, this ended up being a post bashing LeBron. So sorry...NOT!

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