Friday, July 9, 2010

The King of South Beach

Long gone are the days when Cuban men with slick back hair, colorful silk shirts, and alligator shoes run the city of Miami. Nowadays, 6-8 black men with multi million dollar salaries dominant the bottom of the map. In case you haven’t turned on the tv, radio, or even walked outside your house in the past 24 hours, you know the new resident to South Beach is none other than Lebron James. After roughly 3 years of constant chatter and speculation we now know where James will play basketball for the next 5 years or so, along side D-Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.

The highly publicized 1 hour special entitled “The Decision” aired last night on ESPN as the entire world watched in anticipation. This was a forum for James to announce his decision to the world and most importantly the 6 NBA franchises that are in dire need of his services. About 20-25 minutes into the program James announced he would play for the Miami Heat. Numerous stories broke earlier that day that this would be his decision unless he had a late change of heart and returned to his team of 7 years and hometown favorite, Cleveland Cavaliers.

I will start by saying I was not a fan of the ESPN special. The publicity surrounding this “decision” was not good press at all. James could have taken a page out of Kevin Durant’s book and done things quietly and still caused quite a stir just because of whom he is. Not to mention somewhat making a mockery of The Boys and Girls Club. There are much better ways to generate revenue and build awareness for charitable organizations than an hour long special that mentioned the charity once in the last minute of the broadcast. Nonetheless, after all of the backlash and scrutiny leading up to his decision, I find myself with a much different opinion about James than I thought I would. I was under the impression that I would feel he betrayed the city of Cleveland and his fans. That his decision would be about nothing more than becoming a billionaire (which he declared years ago was his ultimate goal). Today, after all is said and done, I don’t feel that way at all. I think what James did was rather heroic and selfless.

Lets consider the facts shall we? James stood to make the most money in either Cleveland or New York. Whether it was the max contract with the Cavs or the notoriety and endorsement deals in the Big Apple, James literally left well over 30 million in guaranteed money on the table. Additionally, much has been made of his huge ego so for James to go to a place who already has one superstar and another rising star (note the fact I do not consider Bosh a superstar) was shocking. Playing for a team where me may very well be a second option made little sense for the supposed egomaniac. So essentially, James past on millions to go play for a team who literally has three good players and no one else. Seriously, the Heat don’t even have a full roster under contract at the moment. Hmmm…

All this leads me to believe one very important fact. That fact is Lebron is maturing. He has been given a great gift to play the game of basketball. Those gifts gave the Cavaliers franchise its best years. Arguably the most exciting years in Cleveland sports history. Needless to say it was the most profitable. Leaving Cleveland was the obvious choice for James. He would have NEVER won a championship in Cleveland because no one in their right mind would play there unless they had no choice. The only reason they acquired James is because they were so bad they landed the number one pick in the NBA draft and he was the best player available. Bottom line, James does not owe the City of Cleveland anything. He gave the city and team everything he had. For example, if I make it big one day the city of Houston wont be responsible for my success. The people close to me in that city maybe, but not the city itself. Its absolutely ridiculous for fans to burn jerseys and make public threats because he is moving on with his life and doing what’s best for him. What people need to recognize is that this was the best basketball decision he could have made. Great players want to win and Miami gives him the best opportunity to win. Bottom line, winning championships is what this decision is about. Not money, not friends, and definitely not about fans that wouldn’t give a damn about him if he got hurt and never played another game.

Lebron came out of this situation as a leader in my mind. He didn’t do what everyone wanted him to do but made a decision based on what he wanted to do. In my personal opinion, he would have been more of a follower had he went back to Cleveland and did things the conventional way. Stay the course and ended up 30 years old with the body of a 40 year old and no championships, similar to Charles Barkley, one of his biggest critics surprisingly. He led by example in the fact that he walked a path he knew he would be hated for. A leader doesn’t care how he is viewed because he/she sees the bigger picture. More importantly they never compromise their vision or goals for general acceptance. Who are we to judge Lebron for wanting to play ball with his boys who he forged a bond with in the Olympics? I mean the guy is only 25 years old. What people are forgetting is that basketball is a team sport. It’s admirable that James wants to win with a team and build something special with a great group of guys. Not teammates that allegedly sleep with his mom.

It will be extremely exciting to see what the Heat do next year. I predict they win 3 championships over the next 5 years. If they can get the right role players around them maybe 4 rings are in their future. Another thing I predict is when they start playing great basketball, which they will, many of the people who absolutely hate James right now will love him. That’s the way it is and always will be. The media will twist the minds of the weak and make them feel how they want them to. Real sports fans just want to see great basketball and that’s what I want more than anything. The Heat will bring it next year and ohhh what a spectacle it will be!
-D. Griff

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