Well, the NBA Finals are over, and LeBron lost.
Perhaps I should add the Dallas Mavericks actually won, but that’s secondary. This was about one guy and one guy only ‘” Lebron “The Devil” James.
Now, let me get this out of the way. I am a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. My team was swept by the Mavs, which might lead some to think that the defending of Lebron James that I’m about to do is provoked by the beating my Lakers took at the hands of Nowitzki and the Dirkettes. Let me assure you, there is nothing further from the truth.
Actually, I didn’t know who I was going to root for heading into the Finals. My Laker leanings pushed me to support Pat Riley ‘” who won four titles in LA and is currently the president of the Miami Heat. Then again, I have loved Mavs point guard Jason Kidd since March 21, 1993 when he took Bobby Hurley’s lunch and knocked two-time defending champions Duke Blue Devils out of the NCAA tournament.
So really, I was just hoping for a great series. That was until the anti-LeBron plague swept the country. A plague – similar to the Justin Beiber phenomenon – that I’ll never understand.
For the first seven years of his career, LeBron was relatively harmless. He scored lots of points, posterized many big men on incredible dunks and sold a ton of shoes. His appearance in the 2007 Finals aside, he was never really a threat to win a championship. Although since 2004 he’d scored more points than any other player in the NBA, and he won a lot of regular season games, let’s face it – he was surrounded with some pretty crappy players.
Even his commercials weren’t very memorable, although the puppet LeBrons showed promise. He was simply a one-man show that amazingly made downtown Cleveland happening. But he was innocuous enough, until that fateful decision ‘” actually “The Decision”, a two hour made for TV ego-fest which featured the ill-fated words “I’m taking my talents to South Beach”. LeBron compounded his mistake when someone in the Heat’s PR office decided to throw a party/press conference for a team that had yet to win a championship.
But really, who could begrudge any 26 year old guy who accepted millions of dollars a year to play basketball and be worshiped in the thong capital of the free world? Actually, almost everyone.
Before Lebron could fill out his change of address card, brutal criticism poured in, from sportswriters, NBA legends and most disturbingly, from his former team’s owner.
“As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote.
Sounding like a teenager dumped at the prom by the star quarterback, he described his former meal ticket with words like “narcissistic”, “cowardly betrayal”, “shameful”, and “selfishness”. But the very best part was near the end:
“This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.
But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio. “
The tone was so mean-spirited that NBA Commissioner fined him $100,000. And, Jesse Jackson likened it to a slave master’s feelings about a runaway slave. While that’s over the top, Gilbert certainly acted like the guy who’d made him hundreds of millions of dollars owed him even more.
Gilbert made one more promise. A pledge so inconceivable that only Cavs fanatics completely blinded by heartache could actually believe.
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE,” Gilbert boasted. “You can take it to the bank.”
Then, Gilbert’s team went out and promptly won 19 games — out of 82 — all season. That’s after winning 61 the season before with LeBron. On top of that, they broke the NBA record by losing 26 games in a row.
Never mind that though because about 15 minutes after LeBron lost, instead of worrying about his own team, Gilbert tweeted, “Congrats to Mark C. & entire Mavs org. Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings. Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.”
And the social media attacks didn’t stop there.
Facebook and Twitter exploded with news about Lebron showing lack of sportsmanship because he didn’t acknowledge the Mavericks ‘” even though there video of him hugging Jason Kidd and Jason Terry was played during the television broadcast.
“He only shook one guy’s hand,” one accuser asserted..
Cleveland.com, the online home to the city’s largest newspaper, blared “Mavs take talents to South Beach, win title 105-95.”
Among the reader responses:
· “Lord of NO RINGS.”
· “I LOVE IT!!!! LE JERK DESERVES NOTHING!!!!”
· “Still a King without a ring, why the frown King with no crown? Karma- Just the beginning! “
· “In the immortal words of Nelson from The Simpsons HA HA. I guess they just didn’t surround LeBroke with enough talent. He can’t do it all by himself, LMAO. Maybe next year they can sign Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, yeah that would do it.”
· “I predict many baby boys in Cleveland will be named ‘Dirk’ in 2012.” (My personal favorite)
And, this is for a guy who made Cleveland relevant again after 10 straight seasons without winning a playoff series. A guy who made Cleveland cool again, or maybe for the first time ever. He was a local guy made good. A star that actually passed the ball to his teammates. He raised money, did tons of charity work and stayed out of trouble off the court. He was their guy, until HIS decision.
Never mind that he took less money to go to Miami. (Remember, if you listen to anyone, they’ll say they want guys who will pick winning over money.) Or that they guy knew he wouldn’t get as many shots or be the focal point of the team anymore. He’s not the last name announced during pre-game introductions, the guy who appears solo on 50-foot ads on the side of the building.
He gave that up for a chance to win. Is that a role model?
He’d seen three former All-Stars band together in Boston and win a title. Toss in Rajon Rando and he couldn’t see his team being a favorite against the Celtics. Orlando assembled pieces around Dwight Howard, the best center in the league. That’s not even taking into account the Western Conference, where LA, Oklahoma City, Portland and, yes, Dallas had rosters stocked with quality players.
I usually root for the underdog and its crazy, crazy, that the most-hyped high school athlete in history, the number draft choice in the 2003 draft, the two-time NBA MVP, and a guy making kazillion dollars (ok, actually only about $15 million) could be considered the underdog. But the world, it seemed, now united against them.
Why? “The Decision”? “Taking his talents to South Beach”? Is that really enough?
I guess I see that Clevelanders would be “a woman scorned” no matter what. So their irrational hatred for him may seem a bit more rational, or at least humanly understandable, in that context. And, I get people cheering against him, but the sheer intensity of it is shocking.
Maybe we’re a bit jealous that the guy who had everything but a championship jumped ship as soon as he could (not true, because he’d resigned with the Cavs only a few years before, but ok).
My real question is who wouldn’t have left?
Sure we romanticize about Cal Ripken, Dan Marino, Ernie Banks and other guys who stayed in one town their entire career despite not winning a title. But, people always point out ‘” with Marino any way ‘” that he never won a Super Bowl.
And, the list of superstars who stay in a town knowing it’s almost impossible to win a title there is short and sweet.
So they move to another front to attack LeBron: comparing him to the NBA’s greatest recent stars, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, but that doesn’t work either.
By Jordan’s seventh season, he had Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant ‘” the cornerstones to his first three-peat. Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish showed up in Boston after Bird’s first season. When Magic brought Showtime to the Forum, they already had four guys including Kareem Abdul Jabbar who’d averaged at least 17 points per game during the previous season. Lebron? The guys who were drafted in the years after him in Cleveland: Luke Jackson, Ejike Ugboaja, Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, JJ Hickson, Danny Green and Christian Eyenga. Any of those names grab you?
My take on LeBron’s legacy hinges on what he does now. How does he respond to this loss? Is he right back in the gym today or laying out on South Beach? Does he become obsessed with improving his game? Does he inspire his teammates to do the same? Does he stop by his favorite restaurant in Cleveland when visits his hometown of Akron? Ok, that’s not really a relevant question, just fun in a TMZ kind of way.
The morning after the Finals, the real bad guys in sports who truly deserve our scorn must have felt great knowing they’ve been passed on the hatred meter by Lebron.
And he didn’t have to take steroids or commit a felony to do it. He just took his dream job. In South Beach.