Is here, in all its glory. Let me know what you think of it. Also, help me out with this question: is LeBron news still worth blogging about here? I don’t want to make “Cleveland hates LeBron” a through-line of this blog, but the LeBron situation and its fallout has, admittedly, been more interesting than the stuff the Cavs have been doing this off-season. I don’t mean to overshadow the franchise, I’m just telling you what’s going on. Let me know what I should or shouldn’t be doing w/r/t LeBron in the comments.
Archive for the ‘The LeBron Situation’ Category
Zydrunas Ilgauskas wrote a letter to Cleveland fans, which was published in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer on Sunday. (Here’s a link to the letter for those of you who haven’t seen it.)
It’s exactly the kind of thing Z would do. It’s classy, it’s understated, it’s honest, it’s from the heart, and it was written directly for Cleveland fans. Again, exactly what you’d expect from Big Z. If there was any doubt that Ilgauskas’ number will someday be retired before, there shouldn’t be now.
This leads me to an idea I’ve had for a while, and one I thought about writing about it in response to Cam’s post on Friday — the letter just makes the idea a little bit more obvious.
Nobody is quite sure what’s going to happen when LeBron comes back to Cleveland. Cities have hated athletes before, but it’s usually there are some understood ground rules, an acknowledgement that this is all kind of a dress-up game. However vehemently Ohio State fans have booed great Michigan players, or Red Sox fans have booed great Yankee players, or whatever, there’s always been a tacit understanding that they were really just saying “You’re a very talented player who may or may not have some personal flaws, and you’re wearing the wrong laundry.”
Most fans would never admit it, but booing a player is often a sign of respect. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Cavs fans and LeBron James. It’s one thing to boo a player for his on-court performance or off-court shenanigans – this is about hating LeBron James based on a major choice he made and the way he chose to act while doing it. Driving 98 yards in 5 minutes was John Elway’s job. “The Decision” was LeBron’s choice.
That’s a much different kind of hate — honestly, the best comparable I can think of to this is when Carlos Boozer returned to Cleveland, and that blow was softened by the Cavs’ rise and Boozer’s up-and-down stint with the Jazz. Football and baseball teams have had players leave under dubious circumstances before, but those fans are a lot further away from the players than basketball fans are.
One could also consider what happens to top college athletes that string along one school and commit to another at the 11th hour — remember when Eric Gordon decided to attend Indiana?
In any case, I’m not really looking forward to LeBron’s return to the Q. Sports are a lot of good things, but they can also be an excuse for fans to indulge their instincts to join a tribe and act like animals towards anybody outside of their chosen tribe. I fear that’s what may happen when LeBron returns to Cleveland.
It’s fine to boo LeBron James. It’s fine to hate LeBron James. What I’m concerned about is Cleveland becoming a franchise that defines itself by its hatred of LeBron James. It’s something I’ve seen other fanbases do to varying extents in the past, and it was never pleasant to look at. The fact that LeBron acted foolishly in the weeks and days leading to his decision to play for a different team didn’t change my mind about that.
So here we are. Cleveland fans (and the owner of the Cavaliers) clearly feel that they were wronged by LeBron James in a major way, and most feel a very deep antipathy for him now. Fighting against this current with a “Thanks for the seven years of service and all you did for the franchise, LeBron” night upon his return would be foolish.
On the other hand, “Screw You, LeBron night” (orchestrated chants, video segments to incite the crowd, 2-3 play stoppages because somebody threw something at LeBron, et cetera) also wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I completely understand why such a thing would happen, and acknowledge that it likely will. That said, this is a beautiful game played by a lot of good people, and losing sight of that makes for bad sports fandom. Also, going overboard with that stuff could lose Cleveland fans a lot of the good will they’ve gained since the LeBacle.
So what should be done when LeBron returns? This is just one man’s opinion, but I think they should make the first Heat-Cavaliers game at the Q next season “Zydrunas Ilgauskas Night.” Give out Z bobbleheads or facemasks at the door. Have halftime be a “Thank You, Z” show, with a montage for him, a speaker or two, and an opportunity for Z to speak. There should be one heck of an ovation.
Don’t go overboard with it and make the “screw you, LeBron” theme overt — everything said and done for Z should be about Z, and done because he deserves it. (Because the “screw you, LeBron” theme will be implicit, the Cavs should NOT retire Z’s number until his Heat days are forgotten and LeBron isn’t on everyone’s minds the way he will be for the next 2-3 years. Z deserves for that night to be all about him.)
LeBron James has been given a lot of things in his life. He’s won a lot of things, and he’ll win a lot more things in the years to come.
However, there are somethings that can’t be given. There are even some things that can’t be won. Some things must be earned, and the appreciation Cleveland has for Zydrunas Ilgauskas is one of those things. When LeBron comes back, it may be prudent to give him a glance of one thing he’ll never get.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has just put up a massive piece on why LeBron ended up signing with the Heat. It’s been extensively researched, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the piece. The article states that LeBron’s attitude and entourage nearly kept him off of the 2008 Olympic team, that he pushed for Mike Brown to get fired after both the Orlando and Boston series, and much, much more.
No mention of LeBron trying to recruit Chris Bosh to Cleveland, which is really the event that makes all the difference — if LeBron really did try to get Bosh to Cleveland, it was a choice. If not, it was something approaching a conspiracy. It’s not much more complicated than that.
I got most of what I wanted to say about LeBron’s departure out of the way last night (I assumed he was leaving), so I don’t think I need to say all that much more here.
That said, here’s my post-decision LeBron piece for Pro Basketball Talk, which does cover some new ground about LeBron’s future.
Let me know what you guys think. I’ve gotta get to packing, because tomorrow morning I go to Vegas to cover the Summer League. It should be fun, so try and sleep well. This blog isn’t going anywhere, and I promise we’re going to continue having fun talking Cavs and talking basketball. Until tomorrow, everyone.
It won’t be long now. Most people think it will be Miami, but nothing’s etched in stone just yet. There’s not much more to say at this point — it’s time to just sit back and watch it happen. I’ll be live-blogging the festivities with the Daily Dime Live crew, so head over there to participate in the fun, or hang out here if you want. Check back here immediately after the announcement for some analysis.
We Are All Witnesses. We all know the slogan. We all know where we’ve seen it. We all know who it refers to. Do we know what it means?
Think about that slogan/saying/motto/mantra/whatever for a little bit. Think about what it makes the “we” in question, and think about what it does not make us. We are not LeBron James’ family. We are not LeBron James’ friends. We are not part-owners of LeBron James, nor do we hold shares of him. We are not LeBron James’ bosses or employees. We are not his defenders or his prosecutors. We are not his judge or jury. We Are All Witnesses. We have all watched.
Cleveland owned the Browns long before Art Modell bought them, took them, and moved them. Likewise, Cleveland owned the Cavaliers long before LeBron James joined the team. Cleveland will own the Cavaliers long after LeBron James leaves.
Cleveland does not own LeBron James. LeBron James was born in Akron. He was drafted by his hometown Cavaliers, who signed him to a contract. He played at a high enough level to make his contract a relative bargain. He then signed an extension with the Cavaliers. Again, he played at a high enough level to more than justify the money he was given by the Cavaliers.
LeBron does not owe the Cavaliers any more than he has given them. LeBron has never needed to pay off some cosmic debt to Cleveland. He’s done all he can to bring a title to the city, but it was never about anybody forcing LeBron to win a title for the Cavaliers. He tried to win Cleveland a title because he wanted to. Cavs fans just got to watch.
We are not LeBron James, and LeBron James is not us. On the court and off of it, LeBron has only allowed himself to appear tangentially human. On the floor, LeBron is the most blessed player the game has ever seen. Nobody has ever had his combination of size, speed, and explosiveness. He can see plays in a split second that most people couldn’t dream up given all the time in the world. He’s more skilled with his off hand than most forwards are with their dominant one. He can hit insane shots from anywhere on the court, and often makes them simply to prove he can.
He also refuses to make the concessions to fundamental basketball that so many people have demanded him to make. His shot selection is often baffling. He refuses to put himself in the post and use his combination of size and strength to dominate with a minimum of effort. He’s never developed a solid mid-range game, and he’s not even a lights-out free throw shooter. Sometimes, it’s like being the best isn’t good enough for LeBron; he needs to be the best while proving that his own way of doing things works better than all the ones that existed before it.
Off the court, LeBron is even less accessible than he is on it. He wants to be the richest athlete of all time, yet he surrounds himself with his high school buddies. He’s constantly cracking jokes and playing the buddy-buddy role with his teammates, but he keeps the general populace at arm’s length with a bizarre gumbo of warmed-over team-first mantras and a healthy dose of self aggrandizing-behavior. He wants to be Warren Buffet, but he wants to be a big kid as well. He wants to be One of The Guys, but he wants to hand-pick who gets to be One of The Guys.
He has refused all archetypes. He is not the intense workaholic whose desire to win dominates all other aspects of his personality. He is not the happy-go-lucky kid who just wants to play the game and have fun. He is not the suave businessman who controls everything in front of him. In trying to be all of those things, he has become none of them. He has become larger than life, but not in the way he wants to be. He is Alice after eating the cake, too big to fit through the door to the garden and too far down the rabbit hole to come back. And he might not even care.
Tonight, the eve of what was supposed to become LeBron’s big day, is instead the nadir of his career. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and all the hype and adoration that LeBron James inspired has come crashing down upon his ringless self. He is a King without a crown, and now he is being criticized for daring to take the throne. All LeBron did was play basketball very well and lap up every bit of praise lavished upon him for doing so. Whatever LeBron is other than a basketball player, we made him into. Now we have taken it upon us to punish LeBron for his hubris, and ourselves for trusting it. What the gods wish to destroy, they must first label as promising.
Tonight, LeBron is a man without a country. He hasn’t won the championship that would endear him to the fans who want a winner, and he hasn’t stayed humble or loyal enough to the fans who want their superstars to be paradigms of truth, justice, and the American way. He never brought his hometown team to the promised land, and he’ll never be truly worshiped there unless he does. If he leaves, he will go to a new team, a better team, in a bigger city. There, he will never be fully embraced, because he needed to take a shortcut to greatness. If he stays and does not win a championship, he will forever be seen as a player too weak-willed and weak-skilled to have ever truly been great. Even if he stays and does take the Cavs to a championship, he’s gone too far down the aforementioned rabbit hole to ever be the humble, team-first, hometown hero he wants Cleveland to see him as.
On Thursday, LeBron will have a new contract, and may someday get a championship ring. What he will never be is what he was once supposed to be; a player so great that he would unite all basketball fans under his banner, and achieve the kind of consensus greatness that Jordan once did.
He may unite great players under his banner, he may unite the mainstream media and his team’s fanbase under his banner, and he may unite the stat geeks under his banner, but he will never have the mob appeal to match his snob appeal. That ship has sailed, regardless of whether or not he stays in Cleveland.
This was supposed to be LeBron’s year. It was the seventh year of his career; Jordan won his first championship in his seventh year. It was his best individual season ever, both on the stat sheet and in terms of his evolving skills. He had more quality veteran players around him than he ever had before. His team was built to win a championship, not just impress in the regular season. With his contract coming up and a veteran team around him, it was do-or-die time, the time when the great ones are supposed to reveal what it is that makes them great.
If LeBron’s career was scripted, this would have been the year he finally won a championship. The Celtics’ defense didn’t care about any of that, and now the LeBron honeymoon is over. The first act of LeBron James’ career is over, and it ultimately turned out to be a tragic one. From a narrative standpoint, LeBron has tasted true, inexcusable, and lasting failure.
“A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It’s what happens while you wait for moments that will never come.”
-Lester Freamon, The Wire
We are not LeBron. LeBron is not us. LeBron does not owe us anything. We do not own LeBron. What we do own is the moments that LeBron gave us over the last seven-plus years.
The moment that you turned on ESPN2, saw St. Vincent/St. Mary’s beat Oak Hill, saw LeBron find Romeo Travis with a behind-the-back feed, told any other 8th grader who would listen that this kid was for real, and thought maybe the Cavs might get this kid in the draft? You own that moment.
When the ping-pong balls went Cleveland’s way? We own that moment. When LeBron showed up in that white suit and there was suddenly hope in Cleveland? We own that moment. When LeBron started owning summer league and then got a near triple-double against the Kings in his NBA debut? That moment is ours as well.
How about when LeBron became a legit MVP candidate at 21 years old, then tiptoed the baseline to beat the Wizards in his first-ever playoff series? Yep, that moment is ours. 25 straight points to beat the Pistons in double overtime and take a rag-tag team to the finals? Nobody can take that away. Then there was LeBron in the 2008 playoffs, fighting to the bitter end in a seven-game series against the eventual champs.
Then there was the 2008-09 season, when LeBron somehow took his game to another level and emerged as a dominant force en route to his first MVP award. Even against the Magic, LeBron managed to keep Cleveland’s hopes alive by draining an off-balance, buzzer-beating three in game two. This season, LeBron raised his game and led the Cavs to a 61-game season despite some new acquisitions and a slew of injuries, and nearly every one of those games was a small masterpiece in its own right.
There were the bad moments as well. When the Cavs collapsed down the stretch in 04-05 and missed the playoffs. When the Cavs couldn’t quite finish off the Pistons in game six of the 2006 playoffs. When LeBron took a good portion of the 06-07 season wandering around the perimeter and only trying to take over the game when he felt like it. When LeBron looked like a completely over-matched 21-year old against the Spurs that same year. When LeBron came up just short in his duel with Paul Pierce in 2008. When LeBron couldn’t quite finish off his masterful game one performance against the Magic in 2009, and had that sloppy fourth quarter and overtime in game four of the same series. Then, of course, there was LeBron getting completely demoralized and overpowered by the Celtics’ defense this season, backing down from the challenge he was supposed to embrace.
Off the court, there were the times LeBron had one eye on the bright lights New York or New Jersey/Brooklyn. When it seemed like he wanted to be a global icon more than he wanted to be the best player ever. When he may have told Nike to destroy tapes of a college kid dunking on him. When he was out pimping some self-serving biography. When he acted like he was the one with the right to take Jordan’s number and wear Bill Russell’s. We own all of those moments the same way we own the good ones.
All of those are just the big moments. There was also the night-in, night-out pleasure (and pain) of watching LeBron play. Every time he would lull his defender to sleep with a slight hesitation dribble and explode to the basket. Every time he would shrug off a big man and convert an impossible and-1. Every time he made a jumper few other players would be able to get all the way to the rim. Every time he got the ball in the open court and you told your friends to shut up and watch what was about to happen. Every time he threaded the ball through a hole nobody but his teammate knew was there. Every time he snuck up behind an unsuspecting opponent who thought he had an easy transition layup. Every time the game was close in the last five minutes and you knew LeBron had it under control. There were thousands of those moments, and LeBron gave us every one of them.
(The bad little moments; every time LeBron got in in the post and hesitated to go at his defender, every heat-check, every missed free throw, every stutter-step 20-footer with time on the clock, every off-balance mid-range shot, every time he would dance 30 feet from the basket instead of running the offense.)
Last Saturday, me and a few friends of mine went on a hike. We were led to believe it would be a three-hour day hike, but we ended spending nearly all day climbing up a freaking mountain. It was miserable. At some point during the hike/climb, I realized that a goal-oriented view of hiking makes very little sense. Was the moment I was working for the moment I got to the top of the mountain, only to realize I was now going to have to scramble down this freaking thing? Was it the moment we got to the car, too exhausted to do anything but drive to the nearest gas station, buy a bunch of Gatorade, and drink it in silence? Was it when we got home and finally got to shower? Which one of those moments was supposed to make the whole miserable experience worthwhile? Was it when we could tell very unimpressed people that we climbed a relatively small peak?
The answer, of course, is none of them. If you don’t enjoy the process of hiking/climbing mountains, there is no way to justify the activity. Professional cyclists often talk about how the love of suffering itself is something all good cyclists must have on one level or another. More and more, I feel the same way about being a sports fan. If you’re waiting for that one game, one moment, one play, one championship, three championships, that will make all that suffering go away and let you feel nothing but warm inside when you think about your favorite players and teams, I suggest taking up quilting. To be a die-hard fan is to suffer. You just have to enjoy the little victories that you find while you’re suffering.
Maybe you believe that all the great things LeBron James did in the last seven years were just a dress rehearsal for the moments when he ultimately failed to deliver. Maybe you believe that all the good things you thought about LeBron over the years were revealed to be the products of deceit when LeBron started acting like a jackass who believed himself to be bigger than the game this summer. I suppose those are valid viewpoints. They do not happen to be my own.
For the first two years of his career, LeBron James was perhaps the most exciting prospect the game has ever known. For the next three years of his career, LeBron was an underaged MVP candidate who gave the Cavs a fighting chance at a championship. For the last two years, LeBron has been a dominant individual force who turned the Cavs into true championship contenders. For the last seven years, Cleveland basketball has been something to feel good about. When you think about it, that’s something.
If LeBron does decide to stay tomorrow, it will still never be the same as it was before; LeBron is no longer the golden child, and the Cavs won’t have the buzz around them that they once did. If he does leave, it will be one of the lowest moments in the history of one of the most tormented American sports cities. Either way, an era will officially end tomorrow.
The seven seasons that made up the (1st act of?) the LeBron Era in Cleveland ultimately ended in disappointment, failure, heartbreak, misery, doubt, bitterness, and plenty of suffering for everyone who lived and died with LeBron and the team he led. Personally, I wouldn’t trade those seven years of watching LeBron play for anything in the world.
So Bosh decided on Miami, and Wade decided to stick around because of it. Not a bad choice for Bosh at all. He gets the money he wanted, he gets to live in Miami, and he gets to play with Wade. Not the most loyal move he could have made, and not the best basketball choice for him. (I think Cleveland, Chicago, or even Houston have better all-around rosters.)
The Heat have one great player, one very, very, very good player, a great city to play in, and some cap room. The motivations for Bosh’s decision would be essentially the same reasons LeBron would decide to sign in New York, with the caveat being that Miami actually has draft picks.
Judging by the timing of these signings and LeBron’s ESPN announcement, it looks like LeBron made his decision based on what Wade and Bosh did. As of right now, LeBron’s options are:
-Suck it up, take the extra cash, and try to make it work without another superstar in Cleveland.
-Go to Chicago and be part of a Rose/?/LBJ/Boozer/Noah team. Not a super-team, but a darn good one.
-Go to Miami, possibly taking a pay cut, and do the trio of doom thing. Might take a year or two for the team’s roster to fill out, though.
-Say “screw it,” join Amar’e on the Knicks, run some great pick-and-rolls, make a lot of money, possibly become the A-Rod of basketball, win relatively few playoff games.
-Go to the Nets, for some reason.
-Pretend the Clippers’ front office doesn’t exist, join their team.
Right now, I think it’ll be Miami or Cleveland, and neither one is really an ideal option for LeBron. Sigh. I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what happens.
-I know that, officially speaking, this is when NBA fans are supposed to be hating LeBron. Having said that, can we take a second out of our busy anger schedules to get a little pissed at Chris Bosh?
I’m not saying that Bosh isn’t a great player. He’s an absolute force offensively. He can score efficiently from multiple spots on the floor. He can play pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. He’s a quality rebounder. I even think he can become a plus defender if he has the right center behind him, like Rashard Lewis did when he came to the Magic. He’s a fantastic player, and the best thing about him is that he’d only be more effective on a good team.
However, it may behoove us to take a look at Bosh’s NBA career to date. He was drafted in 2003, just like LeBron was. He has won a total of three playoff games in seven seasons. He has not played a playoff game since 2008. He has been named to the All-NBA second team once. He has fewer player of the month awards than LeBron has MVPs. He was the starting power forward for the worst defensive team in basketball last season.
This dude is NOT a franchise player, but he’s become part of the “LeBron-Wade-Bosh” trinity because he’s a very good young big man in the summer of 2010 and doesn’t have Amar’e Stoudemire’s baggage.
Since he’s become a free agent, Bosh has made it clear that he won’t return to the team that drafted him, and isn’t returning his former GM’s calls. He’s made it equally clear that he won’t settle for anything less than the absolute max. Now he won’t join LeBron James in Cleveland because he doesn’t like the city enough. He could become the second-best player on a potential NBA dynasty, but he doesn’t want to spend a few months out of every year actually living in Cleveland.
Yeesh. Obviously, Bosh has every right to try and get as much money as he can and go to a city he wants to live in, but could somebody hold him a little bit accountable for it? LeBron has been acting like a jackass throughout most of this free-agency process. This I do not dispute.
But when it’s all said and done, LeBron has been trying to stay in his home city and take the team that drafted him to the promised land. Chris Bosh has come off as much less of an attention whore, but his priorities are a max deal and an apartment in or near a city he likes.
I’m not just saying this as a Cleveland fan; If I were a Chicago fan and a LeBron/Bosh pairing didn’t happen because Bosh demanded the max, I’d be pissed about that too. Or a Miami fan hoping to see a LeBron/Wade/Bosh superteam. Or a Houston fan, if he doesn’t end up pushing for that sign-and-trade. This dude is not a superstar, but he has the power to make one team truly great this off-season. And he’s dragged his feet up to this point. I’ll wait to see how everything plays out (and hold out some hope that an 11th-hour CLE-TOR sign-and-trade comes through), but right now Chris Bosh is not my favorite athlete.
In other news, I’m very sad that the Clippers went with Del Negro over Casey. Casey just can’t get a break, and he can really coach. Just another example of how the Clippers were/are non-players in the LeSweepstakes despite the fact they can put tons of talent around LeBron and play in Los Angeles. That’s all for tonight. Tomorrow, LeBron Eve.
According to several sources, LeBron will announce his free agency decision during a one-hour ESPN special scheduled to air at 9 PM EST on Thursday night.
Yes, it’s another example of how LeBron is an ego case and loves the attention his free agency has brought him. We have known about both of these things for some time. I’m just glad that there will be no announcement, and there won’t be a race between writers trying to break the story or a series of crazy rumors and hearsay. It’s a stupid way to have to get the information, but at least we’ll know where LeBron is going immediately after the announcement is made. Good enough for me.
Also, this event suggests that LeBron is staying, right? It would be impressively cruel to announce he’s leaving to this kind of fanfare.