Saturday, July 12, 2014
Lebron goes Home
A little change from the usual topics. As I'm writing this the internet and TV has been taken over by the news that Lebron James has decided to leave the Miami Heat and return home to Cleveland to play for the team that drafted him, the Cavaliers. So like four years ago, one city is celebrating while another is left scrambling to pick up the pieces. Outside of those cities, opinions are mixed. There are those who think that he should not go back to Cleveland after the way Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert ran him down in the infamous comic sans font letter posted in the Cavs website in 2010 (and not taken down until a week or so ago), and the way some Cleveland fans reacted by burning Lebron jerseys in the streets. There are others who felt that he should go back home, to right the (non-existent in my opinion) wrongs he committed in leaving. I for one, did not think he would or should go back. I understand wanting to go home, but to me a return to Cleveland would undo what I admired most about what he, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did four years ago in deciding to team up. I also thought (and still do think) that getting marquee names to come or stay in Cleveland is going to be a challenge, and that he could quickly find himself in the same boat he was in back in 2010. And lastly, I thought that returning to Cleveland was mostly something conjured up by 24 hour media to get pageviews and television ratings. I thought there was really nothing to it. Boy was I wrong.
Now to this day I believe he made the right choice to leave in 2010. To continue on there and leave his fate in the hands of Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland front office given the roster that was assembled around him at the time. That team was a collection of has-beens (a 37 year old Shaquille O'Neal), journeymen (Mo Williams, Anthony Parker), and so-called up and comers who never amounted to anything (Boobie Gibson, Jamario Moon, JJ Hickson)/ There was zero evidence that was going to change, especially given the fact that the two guys he did team up with to form the Big Three in Miami didn't want to do the same team up in Cleveland. Four more years of 60 win regular seasons followed by flameouts in the playoffs were the most realistic outcome, while Wade, Bosh, and someone else may very well have been getting to the Finals in Miami at the same time. The idea that a player who is going to be judged largely on how many championships he ends up winning would pass up a chance to do just that so he could be 'loyal' and suffer with his hometown team for another four years is just ludicrous to me. He's one of only a few 'face of the league' players in league history who was faced with that choice; the others were Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan. No one else has had to contemplate leaving the team they started with during their prime as a free agent before winning a championship there. Shaq got on the first thing smoking out of Orlando, and while Michael stayed in Chicago he did consider heading to New York. It was also 1988, a year after free agency began in the NBA and an entirely different league. No I sure as heck don't remember anyone calling Shaq a coward or a quitter when he left to go to Los Angeles so for people to take that approach with Lebron was just plain wrong.
As far as him coming back, I was against it at first. I thought that him going home would have been little more than him caving to all the people who were whining and complaining about The Decision and what followed. But after reading the letter that will be in the next Sports Illustrated, I don't have a problem with it. For one, the Cleveland team he left is not the one that he's returning to. Kyrie Irving is better than anyone he played with the first time around, and Kevin Love with his 26 points and 13 rebounds a game could be on the way. Second, he's not coming back hat in hand. His contract was up, and he could have gone back to Miami. He could also taken a one year deal in Miami and opt out again 2015 when a lot more teams will have cap room. He had options, and he made the choice that worked best for him. That's why I defended the Decision in 2010 like I did. The man was using the autonomy over his career that he earned, that we all wish we had, to shape his own destiny as best as he could and maximize his potential for accomplishment. For people who would leave their job tomorrow for a marginally better opportunity to bash him for that is beyond hypocritical in my book. And to do it because you expect him to follow some misplaced code of honor that says he should stay in one place and try to win there, even if it means he ends up with no rings because the team around him wasn't good enough, because some former players did is just dumb. Most of those former players you cite either couldn't leave their teams during their careers even if the wanted to, and most of the ones that could have won rings early enough in their careers that it wasn't a concern.
So welcome home, King James. I am not and have never been a Cavaliers fan, but I wish you the best. Except when you're playing my Knicks.