A Royal Exit

Fans across the globe have just witnessed the biggest following of one professional athlete, in any sport.  Former Cavaliers Star, LeBron James’ journey through NBA Free Agency will undoubtedly go down, as one of the most chronicled events in Sports History.  James ended a following, which lasted close to two years, on July 8th, with an announcement to join the Miami Heat.  The same Heat team that is already home to Dwayne Wade…The same Heat team that resides in what was officially dubbed, “Wade County,” from July 1st-8th…The same Heat team who is also now home to Chris Bosh…Yes, That Miami Heat!  This team will join the forces of arguably two of the league’s best 3 players, or 3 of its top 10, however you choose to look at it.  A star of James’ caliber, leaving his team has an effect throughout the league, which will now be felt for the next 5 seasons!  LeBron’s reasoning was based on winning, and the fact that he didn’t want to turn 31, with no titles, and bad knees…which you have to respect.  But, let’s look at this signing from every angle…

The Suitors…

The New York Knicks (29-53)

The Knicks have been more infatuated with the idea of LeBron joining the team, than the Secretary was with Idris Elba joining her in bed, “Obsessed” –Movie. The Knicks had been on a cap clearing mission, since Donnie Walsh took office.  N.Y. did all they possibly could to get LeBron, including Nike releasing a New York City version of his signature shoe, that debuted during his annual visit to The Garden.   Amar’e Stoudemire agreed to join the team, and immediately spoke on Carmelo Anthony & Chris Paul joining him in the future.  All of these things were supposed to get James in Orange and Blue…right?  The Knicks messed up in a couple areas…First, their approach centered around James’ ability to make money off the court, ranging around 2 Billion Dollars.  Second, they ultimately didn’t have the pieces in place to win, NOW!  Amar’e is a nice piece to build around, and undoubtedly, would’ve made the Knicks a much better team with James.  But, there were no concrete plans in place to win, which seemed to come secondary in the Knicks’ plan to land James.  Through it all, the Knicks did deserve James, seeing as how they’ve done all they could to make James love them.  Another factor working against the Knicks was their lack of commitment on defense!  We all know that defense wins championships, and the D in Coach D’Antoni’s name is as close as the Knickerbockers get.  Amar’e has been criticized for lacking in that area, which was a major strong point in James’ previous Cleveland teams.   While becoming a billionaire was supposedly important to James, so was winning.  While the Knicks would have been a better team with LeBron, and would have landed them another star, it just wasn’t enough to get him to New York.

The New Jersey Nets (12-70)

A brand new billionaire owner in place in Mikhail Prokhorov, sidekick and minority owner Jay-Z, and a move to Brooklyn in two years, seemingly had it sewn up for New Jersey…Nope!  The Nets approached James with a “New Attitude, New Nets,” pitch.  Now this pitch was only fitting, seeing as how the Nets won an outstanding 12 games last season, and at times looked no better than a High School AAU Team.  With the idea that James could be the catalyst in New Jersey’s resurrection, as well as creating a brand new legacy in Brooklyn, the Nets seemed like a favorite to land James’ services.  They even went out and found a former player to coach the team, which was also on this King James wish list, in Avery Johnson.  With all these factors piling up, and the help of minority owner and close friend of James, the Nets seemed Golden!  But, what seemed like a great idea in the beginning quickly lost its zest, when seemingly no other Free Agents wanted to be a Net.  There are nice pieces in place, with Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Terrance Williams, and recently drafted, Derrick Favors.  The problem with these pieces, mostly lies around a lack of experience, and ultimately, this probably didn’t seem like too much better than what was in Cleveland.   While Prokhorov promised to go after Chris Paul, and Carlos Boozer, it just didn’t seem realistic.  But, it also seemed as though NJ got a little lazy in its pursuit of LeBron.  It seemed like after the initial pitch to LeBron, they felt as though they had done enough.  Other teams that were after James, seemed hell-bent on clearing up more cap space, signifying that they were willing to do whatever it took to land LeBron.

The Los Angeles Clippers (29-53)

We’ll keep this one short and sweet…The Owner himself didn’t even attend the meeting to speak with LeBron, which is an immediate reflection of how terrible this franchise is.  The Clippers will honestly never be successful, under Donald Sterling.  This is a team that needs an entire revamping, from the ownership, to the logo and colors.  There has been nothing but a loser’s mentality within the Clipper franchise, which won’t go away until all of those things happen.  On paper, the Clippers are a rising team, but in reality, are a team with a defeatist mentality.  In short, The Clippers NEVER had a real chance!

The Chicago Bulls (41-41)

Now out of every team in the running for LeBron’s services, this was the team I fully believed he’d land with.  The format was set up beautifully…A Star Point Guard in Derrick Rose, a Promising Defensive Big Man in Joakim Noah, a Historic Franchise, and the Cap Room to land 2 Stars!  Chicago was the team I wanted to see LeBron join, simply off of the fact that playing alongside Derrick Rose, would have been a sight to see!  The combinations were endless…Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, along with LeBron James, would have been an Instant Contender!  However, there were two big problems looming when it came to James joining the Bulls…First, Jerry Reinsdorf is known to avoid paying the luxury tax at all costs.  After all, Reinsdorf is the man who broke up the Michael Jordan Bulls Dynasty in the late 90’s.  The second factor, and possibly the most intimidating factor of all: Playing in Michael Jordan’s shadow.  There is no doubt that LeBron James would have been playing every game of his entire Bulls career, in comparison to Michael’s.  He’d have to walk passed that statue of Jordan, each and every time he entered the arena.  James has been criticized for, not having enough Killer Instinct, to close out games…so playing behind the game’s greatest closer, probably not a good idea.  At the end of the day, something was going to have to give in order for this to work.  Reinsdorf would’ve had to decide what mattered more…A Dynasty, or his wallet.

The Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21)

The team LeBron has pledged his first 7 years of NBA Existence to, found themselves in competition for its homegrown superstar.  The Cavs were the favorite to retain LeBron’s services coming into free agency.  They were in the position to offer him the most money, and were essentially where he’s been able to build his legacy.  Add to the fact that, Cleveland was also home of the NBA’s Best Record the previous 2 seasons…2 seasons that saw James take home the NBA MVP Trophy as well.  However, Cleveland was also home of Playoff shortcomings as well.  LeBron had been pleading for help, since their fluke run to the NBA Finals in 2007.  But with little cap space and no real plan to make the team better…Cleveland was at a loss.  The Cavs still remained a strong candidate to retain LeBron, until Chris Bosh completely scoffed at the idea of playing in Cleveland.  LeBron didn’t want to leave, but no one seemed too enthused to join him in a Cavaliers uniform either.

The Miami Heat (47-35)

With all the teams looking to, “Court the King,” the Heat seemed like the longest shot of all…besides the Clippers of course.  Despite having the most cap room of any team in the league, they were already the home to one of the league’s best players, in Dwayne Wade.  There was no way; anyone could really see LeBron playing alongside, much less, behind Wade.  However, the Heat has a proven winner as their General Manager (Pat Riley), and had 44+ million dollars in cap space, which was enough for 3 max contract players.  This luxury was something that no other team could afford, which began to make them an intriguing suitor.  But honestly, Miami loves Wade like Precious does a buffet, and just didn’t seem like the team that could embrace someone of even greater star power.  A major factor that played in the Heat’s favor was the fact that they did have a star in place, which signified a guaranteed positive outcome playing alongside him.  Wade not only pledged his want to return to Miami, but he went out recruiting players to come play with him, which was something no other free agent was doing.  But the outcome that I expected was more so, seeing Bosh or Boozer join Wade, along with Rudy Gay and Raymond Felton, which would have made them a major title contender as well.  However, after Chris Bosh joined the Heat, the possibility of winning multiple championships ultimately won out in LeBron’s mind.  Not to mention…It’s South Beach!

The Fallout…

Many people will say LeBron is hurting his legacy by teaming up with such elite talent, as well as, leaving HIS team, to join someone else’s.  While LeBron may have taken himself out of a Greatest Player Ever, conversation, he put himself in a Greatest Team Ever, conversation.  In the end, sports are about teamwork, and winning.  These three very elite players are displaying the ultimate in personal sacrifice in order to attain dominance.  While it remains to be seen as to whom the players alongside them will be, this team has already put itself in immediate contention.  Monetarily it may be difficult to fill out the Heat roster, but anyone that wants to win, will line up willingly to join.  While the Heat remains Dwayne Wade’s team, it allows them to just put the proper pieces in place, now that the stars have been aligned.  These three stars have set a huge example for children that look up to them, about the importance of teamwork, and sacrificing to achieve a common goal…Winning.

For the flipside of it all…LeBron seemed to handle all of this on a level that was seen as very, “Extra.”  Granted he is arguably the most talented player in the league, a one hour special to announce which team you’re going to, is a bit much.  While he ended up doing it for charity, it just seemed like he was making a mockery of the process.  Many people saw this show as a slap in the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, and its fans.  It goes without saying that he’s adored in Cleveland, but to make this out to be LeBron disrespecting Cleveland thing is taking it a bit far.  Especially after seeing how the fans reacted, by burning his jersey, cursing his name, and most of all, having Dan Gilbert release a tasteless letter completely bashing LeBron and everything he stands for.  Let us all not forget, that the Cavs drafted LeBron with the #1 pick in the draft, which means they had to be a pretty bad team to deserve such an honor.  While the Cavs brass did all they could to surround LeBron with talent, it just didn’t seem like it was enough.  The losing shouldn’t be based on a, “Lack of help,” as much as it should LeBron’s inability to trust his teammates, his teammates disappearing during games, as well as, poor coaching down the stretch.  The downside to LeBron joining such a powerful team is that if they don’t win a championship each year they’re together, it will be seen as a failed mission.  The Cavs also won 67 games a season ago, so this team should honestly have no problem challenging the ’96 Chicago Bulls 72 win record.  It’s actually stacked to an unfair advantage to me, being that each of these players is arguably the best at their natural positions.  But, teams like this are bad for the league, in that the element of competition is virtually lost, when facing them.  There will be teams that say, the Heat aren’t unbeatable.  There were also teams that thought the same thing about the ’96 Bulls, and they only lost 10 games total!  Bosh and Wade in Miami, LeBron and Boozer in Chicago, and Joe Johnson and Stoudemire in New York, would have brought balance to the entire league.  Instead, the East is left with 4 really good teams (Orlando, Miami, Boston, Chicago), and outside of Atlanta, are all potential lottery teams.

Ultimately, LeBron wanted to win, period.  The Cavs were great regular season teams, but a totally different team in the playoffs.  LeBron James gave Cleveland 7 long hard years of his NBA Career…making the Cavs relevant each of those 7 years.  LeBron’s tenure with the Cavs will be seen as a failure to some, which is very far from the truth.  He gave a struggling franchise life, credibility, hope, motivation, and financial success throughout the community.  For the fans and ownership to act in the manner that they did, is completely ridiculous, and only lessens the sympathy that many had for them, in losing LeBron.  Keep in mind, that had LeBron returned to the Cavs, he’d have been the great guy returning home to, “Finish what he started.”  But, he also would’ve have been seen as a foolish person that squandered an opportunity to become a champion…essentially making it a lose-lose situation.  Instead of being grateful for what LeBron did for the city of Cleveland, and its franchise, they displayed their true colors.  While some of the behavior displayed wasn’t indicative of everyone’s, it did reflect negatively on the city, and its ownership.  The thing that Dan Gilbert may not have taken into account was the fact that everyone in the league saw that letter.  How does this resonate amongst other players?  Players have seen how you’ve lambasted your, “Prodigal Son,” so what would that mean for them?  While James’ departure will set the franchises progression back a few years, I believe management has managed to set them back even further.  Keep in mind, that the NBA is a business, and in Corporate America, a layoff or firing can come without warning.  The Cavs could have traded or released LeBron at any point, with little to no remorse about it.  LeBron did nothing short of what happens everyday, when someone acts on their ambition.  Everyone has dreams they wish to attain at some point…LeBron’s departure was him acting on that dream.

8 Responses to “A Royal Exit”
  1. Reece says:

    Nice article Steve. I a couple of things I like to add is that he still may go down as the best player ever, because he has the greatness to take over a game like he did against Detroit and score 25 in a row. Playing with other great players doesn’t diminish a player’s legacy, look at Magic. But I think they could potential go down as the best team every. Your right it does affect the balance of the NBA by weakening two of the teams in the East plus the Celtics only have 1 or 2 more years left to compete at this level and the Bulls are a good, but not title contenders yet. So it’s going to be Orlando and Miami fighting to get to the finals every year. The Lakers also don’t have much competition in the West because Amare and Boozer just weakened two of the teams in the West.

    One of the most important things no one has mentioned is that he is joining two of his friends. These three dudes came in the league together and won a gold medal together. They also hang out in the off season and when they play against each other. There could not be anything better than winning a chip with one of ya boys!

    A lot of people are saying Lebron needed Wade to win, but Wade need Lebron too. Yes he has one ring, but Shaq was good in 2006. Shaq deferred his scoring to Wade, but if he hadn’t he could have averaged 28-30 ppg. Lebron never played with a player as good as 2006 Shaq.

    He could have stayed in Cleveland and won one or two rings, but that still wouldn’t have been enough to put him in GOAT status. Look at Garnett, they tried so hard to get him players and everything they did just failed and he watch the Spurs and Duncan win four and Shaq and Kobe win three.

    And I just want to give props to Stephen A. Smith who broke the story a week ago. Lebron, Wade and Bosh had this setup for a while.

  2. USCFAN says:

    Good article Fam-Ley!

    i guarantee that kobe is doing wind sprints as we speak.

  3. HReid says:

    Great article brother.

    I’m not mad at Bron Bron for his decision. He would still do him no matter where he went and someone or some city would be on hate alert if he didn’t pick them.

    The NBA is going to be on smash this season and Chris Broussard is about to get his own show.

  4. Nikki T says:

    Great article Steve!

    Decisions had to be made and I think he really believes that he made a decision best for him and his family. He mentioned all his life he has won championships and he sees that happening with Heat so let’s see. And as for Cleveland- hey it happens, guess they just didn’t get it, maybe they should have really threw their all into keeping him in OH they got cocky and thought their main man wouldn’t leave and now everyone is bitter. I’m excited to see these fellas in action!

  5. Terrell says:

    Good article big bro got to agree w/ Reece, if he goes on to win multiple championships his legacy won’t be diminished. This is a team sport and everyone else is too caught up with saying he has to win on his own, which makes no sense. But he has just added even more pressure on himself and expectations will be extremely high. I also think this is great for the NBA from a promotional aspect to, when MIA comes to town it will be bananas in every city, not to mention what South Beach is going to look like.

  6. Simone says:

    Great post Steve! I can’t stand that people are LBJ bashing! People quit their jobs everyday for another, and people should just wish him well. If the Cavs weren’t doing what they needed to keep him, then what’s their argument? “he should have stayed because we want him to”?? nah son, that doesn’t win championships.

    People also need to understand that all of the great teams had more than ONE star!! Lebron can’t pull EVERYONE’s weight on the team! IT’S A TEAM!

    I honestly didn’t think he was going to Miami, but I hadn’t decided where I thought he would go. I’m a DWade fan, so I was hoping NOT Miami…

    Hopefully, LBJ gets what he wants and wins these ‘chips!

  7. trustatement says:

    Excellent read. I completely agree with the last point made on this article about the NBA being a business. What LeBron did was a lateral move (free agency) to a new company (Miami) with better incentive (Wade/Bosh) with the hopes of being the best conglomerate ever assembled (Greatest team) The only grip I have with this decision is how it might affect the NBA when it comes to the enjoyment of the game. Having that much star power on one team could potentially lead to a number of games where teams facing the Heat will just be overmatched. Only time will tell how this all plays out.

  8. slamdanupe says:

    Good job brother!

    As far as lbj and his exit my only grip is cleveland got no notice to
    compete for other top free agents. By him goings of those big names
    cleveland had to wait.

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