The following is a guest contribution to Cavs: The Blog. Follow me on Twitter @TomPestak
Part 3: You Already Know How This Will End
LeBron quit – and left a wake of misery in his stead. No no, not game 5. Not ’09 game 6. Not in the tunnel. Not while generating mass nausea with the help of ESPN, Jim Gray, and that shirt. With apologies to Dan Gilbert, there was never a QUInTessential event – no smoking gun, no reason to cherry-pick a growing collection of choke jobs. But what there was, and what remains, is the simple fact that LeBron quit before he started. He quit because he never went all-in. He quit on his teammates, he quit on the Cavalier franchise, he quit on Cavs fans, he quit on NorthEast Ohio, and he quit on the game of basketball.
LeBron didn’t quit on his teammates in the box score – he quit when he made himself bigger than them. When he preached to us about his love for his teammates for years and then left them with the same constant anxiety as us fans. They had no idea what his plans were, where he was going. He didn’t fill them in at all. He didn’t even hint at it. Mo Williams went into a post-decision depression. His first reaction: “I can’t believe this is really real. This is surreal. So many emotions on one man decision. I wonder what is our next move.” LeBron kept any and all information about his mindset and his future away from his teammates. He never commit to them, left them wondering how to pick up the pieces, and then threw them under the bus for good measure – feeding into the (errant: see part 2) conventional wisdom about the Cavs lack of talent. While LeBron was piling up MVP awards and individual accolades his teammates were content to stand back and let him have it all. He repaid them by disrespecting them as colleagues and treating them like the inferior also-rans that the media had portrayed.
Oh but i should just “get over it” since LeBron gave me 7 good years and all we did in return was get spoiled by him. In honor of my getting over it I think I’ll compile a list. Below is a list of all the things LeBron recruited for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise.
Hopefully you haven’t worn out your mouse wheel yet. Below this is a list of everything LeBron has recruited for someone or something OTHER THAN the Cleveland Cavaliers…in the last 12 months.
- High School Prospects for John Calipari
- Zydrunas Illgauskas for Miami Heat
- Mike Miller for Miami
- Mike Bibby for Miami
- Jawad Williams for Miami
- Chris Paul for Leon Rose
- A Rapper for John Wall
- John Wall for LRMR
- Terrell Pryor for LeBron
- Terrell Pryor for Stupidity and the rest of the Big Ten
While LeBron was busy, you know, becoming a global icon, high profile free agents like Ray Allen, Michael Redd, Trevor Ariza, and Ron Artest were turning down the Cavs in droves. Antonio McDyess actually chose significantly less money and chose to return to a putrid team instead of joining up with everybody’s favorite recruit. Think about that for a second. He left millions of dollars and a chance to win a championship on the table to go back to DETROIT. He’s not even FROM Detroit. Also not from Detroit? Michael Redd. Michael Redd’s from Ohio. He chose sunny Milwaukee over a chance to play with “Yo, this is King James.”
So the Cavs did what they could. They turned Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall into Ben Wallace, Delonte West and this highlight, Damon Jones’ leg kick into Mo Williams, and then Ben Wallace and this highlight into Shaq. They added talent. They took on salary, tens of millions in salary. Dan Gilbert went all-in, Danny Ferry went all-in, Mike Brown went all-in. LeBron counted his chips, splashed the pot a few times, and came up empty selling his hometown to the annual crop of free agents. Of course the irony of all this and the most maddening aspect is that not only did LeBron fail to bring any valuable free agents to Cleveland, not only did he, himself a free agent, vote “No” on C-town, but by waiting until 8 days after the start of Free Agency, the Cavs missed any chance of making offers to the other esteemed free agents and were left hoping Houston wouldn’t match an offer for restricted FA Kyle Lowry. Misery!
LeBron quit on Cavs fans. See Part 1 for details. He also quit on the region. See Part 2. It’s worth noting that LeBron spoiled us with his play (6:12) and that we have to go back to our problem-filled lives.
I often read from the most “objective” of basketball writers and analysts that LeBron made a good decision for the NBA. That ratings and by causality interest were at an all time high thanks to his decision to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. I’m not sure there is any way to prove this right or wrong and I vehemently object to “ratings” as a bottom line in qualifying the strength of professional sports. What I do know is that a whole lot of LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh, Stoudemire, and D-Will Fat Heads are no longer being stared at by starry-eyed youths draining laundry 3-pointers in their rooms. A prolific amount of superstars, in the primes of their career, rejecting the teams (playoff teams!) that drafted them can not be good for the long term health of the sport – killing the kind of grassroots interest that captivated me and my friends when we were young. But maybe it is, what do I know. Philosophizing aside, we may never see LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing NBA Jam against each other again. The drama in sports comes from the struggle, and LeBron and Wade had incredible drama over the years. But it’s gone – prematurely, and it’s not a good thing.
Fortunately, something else recently came to an abrupt end – LeBron James’ swagger. And despite many writer’s best attempts to channel our opinions, the 2011 NBA Finals were just so rich in symbolism and irony that the story wrote itself. Dirk, the oft-criticized superstar quietly re-signing with his team after another disappointing first round exit. LeBron, the entitled icon that make a mockery of the NBA season by overshadowing it with his own off-season, trying to bully his way to a championship. Dirk, the relentless competitor being supported by a great depth of quality (albeit aging) role players vs LeBron, the guy that raised the white flag on depth and roles players.
Here is that story(or at least the highlights), written by karma, narrated by the people of NorthEast Ohio.
There are No (Meaningful) Shortcuts – A Tale of Vindication
Dwyane Wade held the pose. So endlessly long. In front of the Mavs bench no less. That’s the thing about showboating – you’re either pumping up your team, showing off to the fans, of showing up the other team. In baseball, you don’t stand motionless to admire your home run, but feel free to take a pie to the face at home plate or entertain a curtain call. There’s a difference, players know it and fans know it. Dwyane Wade was posturing, preening – showing up the Mavs. He puffed his chest and inflated his ego a little too much. Par for the course for these Heat. LeBron James came rushing over to get in on the act. Vindication. This is why he fled to Miami – to be saved by Dwyane Wade win a championship. LeBron bobbed his head in approval. His swagger at an all time high. But he made a mistake. He playfully punched Wade in the gut…and…POP!
How quickly things change. Already up 1 game with a double digit lead on the blitzed Mavericks, the Heat could taste the champagne. Throw in home court advantage in a 2-3-2 format and this had all the makings of a beat down and just like that, it vanished. Miami was done playing. They had worked hard enough today – the clock would wind down and grant them an almost insurmountable series lead or so they thought. One problem, Dallas forgot they were supposed to lose. A 20-2 run turned the sporting world upside-down. It shouldn’t have, because the Mavs had done this before. To LA, and OKC. It’s like Brandon Roy’s 1-game miracle was somehow passed onto the Mavericks as a tool in their arsenal. But this time it was supposed to be different. No way the Mavs could beat the Heat. The Mavs are what LeBron left, a quality team with the depth to play different styles, and quality shooters to spread the floor and open up a devastating offensive attack. A good “regular season” team. That was the Cavs. That wasn’t enough, that was impossible. It was about to become an excuse….
With each passing quarter LeBron got more passive, less interested, more interview-defiant, and more ridiculed. In those moments where LeBron jump-passed his way to another Bill Simmons-inspired youtube clip, Dirk and the Mavs seized greatness. They ran offensive clinics around the Heat’s suffocating defense. They backed up their trash talk, and they talked before wins, not after humiliating losses. They demonstrated team work over talent, effort over entitlement, skill over athleticism, relentlessness over shortcuts. All the cliches that we’ve buried in the wake of advanced stats and words like “length” came marching back into focus. The movie Hoosiers made sense again. In the final moments of it all, after the last buzzer sounded and the few remaining Heat fans wondered where the Mavs would be partying, Dirk leaped out of the arena to have a moment to himself. If anyone was entitled to showboating, to finger wagging, to head bobbing, to gut-punching, to grandstanding, to preening – it was Dirk. But he’s above that. He’s not in a constant state of self-promotion, he’s in a constant state of improvement, and at this point, with these teammates, his hard work paid off in the best way possible. Meanwhile, LeBron James, the least of all people entitled to be finger wagging thought it appropriate to inform people of how unlucky they are not to be him.
For at least one year, I will enjoy the story. I will tell it, over and over. There are lessons here, lessons that don’t always lend themselves well to professional sports. There is justice here. A healing (perverse as some may see it). This is vindication. For Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and Marc Cuban. This is vindication for the Cavaliers of 2008-2010. This is what is supposed to happen when you try to game the system, try to take the easy way out, try to put the cart before the horse.
LeBron James will win an NBA Championship and we wont celebrate it in NE Ohio. It will really hurt especially if Cleveland stays the course on title starvation. I know that with time the excitement of cheering for our sports teams will greatly outweigh the joy we got from watching LeBron fall from grace. Today may be the start of that – and if Kyrie Irving is our guy I’m very happy he shunned LeBron. It’s a shame and a waste that LeBron abandoned an opportunity to do something truly historic to win something cheap, but how someone wins and how someone becomes famous has been replaced by winning and being famous. At least right now, LeBron isn’t winning. I hope he never does.