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Friday, October 24, 2014

Thoughts About “The Decision”

As one of the millions spurned by the false advances of LeBron James, I know that it’s easy to get involved in the emotional aspect of “The Decision.” But now that some time has passed perhaps some of the passion has subsided, it’s time to look at the move from a more even headed perspective. (And if your anger hasn’t subsided, then here’s a great way to let everyone know how you feel.)

Naturally people are resistant to change, and LeBron’s choice shocked the public. At the surface was his egocentric media circus. There’s no doubt that James turned some people off based on how he handled this decision. Stringing along a few million fans, having a prime time show in his honor, hand picking the host, then proclaiming “South Beach” in front of children from the North East showed a disconnect from the common person. Had he made his decision humbly, profusely thanked the people of Ohio, and didn’t celebrate with a Heat jersey in July like he won an NBA championship then LeBron’s image might have survived the move largely in tact.

“The Decision” seemed unfathomable; it was a radical departure from history. Last year, the New York Times’ Howard Beck wrote:

[A team signing a free agent superstar] is probably doomed to fail because of one immutable, rarely acknowledged truth: superstar free agency barely exists in the N.B.A.

It has been almost 13 years since Shaquille O’Neal jilted the Orlando Magic and altered the N.B.A. landscape by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a modern anomaly, not a precedent. Few superstars have made free-agent moves since then.

It is not an accident.

“It’s built right into the system,” said Lon Babby, an agent whose client list includes Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Ray Allen. “They don’t want guys to leave.”

By “they,” Babby means N.B.A. officials, whose quest for parity and cost control has created a market that rewards superstars for staying put and punishes them for leaving.

Combine financial self-interest with the N.B.A.’s complex salary-cap rules, and a result is a market in which superstars have little incentive to move.

“This succession of agreements has resulted in a hard salary cap,” said Arn Tellem, one of the N.B.A.’s most influential agents, “and has really, I think, eliminated for the most part free agency for the high-end players.”

The most critical element at work is the cap on individual salaries. Those limits did not exist in 1996, when the Lakers outbid the Magic and signed O’Neal to a $121 million contract.

Today, no team can be outbid for its own free agent unless it wants to be.

The best example is Nash, who in 2004 left Dallas to sign a five-year, $60 million deal with Phoenix. The Mavericks could have matched or exceeded the offer, but they were worried about Nash’s age (he was 30), health and breakneck style.

If the system is a burden to elite players, it is a boon for the league, which prizes franchise stability, and for fans, who almost never have to say goodbye to their heroes.

The choice of James has taken common wisdom and stood it on its ear. It was such a departure from the established definition of “a great player” that even former NBA stars came out against LeBron. Michael Jordan said he would never have called up Bird and Magic in a quest to win a championship. Charles Barkley noted that James tarnished his legacy by going to “Wade’s team.” While Knick great Walt Frazier succinctly stated that LeBron “took the easy way out.”

James’ choice was an affront to the sense of competitive balance. The average fan saw the trio of James, Wade, and Bosh as the playground equivalent of putting the three biggest kids on the same team so they can run the court all day long. For children, there’s no fun in stacking the odds to beat up on the weak. But playground ethics goes against the professional athletes’ rule of winning at all costs. Players are lauded for whatever will bring their team victory, including bending the rules. Fans often enjoy the hometown player who gets away with a fistful of jersey. Players are valued for wins the team earns and on a more granular level the number of rings they own. Jordan validated this theory when he pronounced Kobe to be superior to James, even though Bryant’s only real edge is better teammates.

The problem is that championships are a function of team, but they are often applied as measuring sticks for an individual. In some ways the public has themselves to blame for irrationally setting such odd standards. Jordan didn’t win a championship until he was teamed with Pippen (and Phil Jackson). Frazier played alongside a gaggle of Hall of Famers en route to his two championships (Reed, DeBusschere, Bradley, Monroe, and Lucas). Barkley chased a championship in Phoenix, and later as a third fiddle in Houston. The rules are clear: players are expected to do everything they can to win, and championships define players. Since good teammates win championships, then the most logical conclusion for an athlete is to find the best teammates possible in order to maintain their individual legacy. LeBron’s choice is simply the next logical step based on the criteria by which he will be judged.

But can the hatred last? True Hoop’s Henry Abbott likens LeBron’s case to Kevin Garnett who languished in Minnesota before teaming up in Boston with Allen and Pierce.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself what your end goal is: To win the individual sport of being the man, or the team sport of basketball? They usually go together. There’s a reason Bryant and Jordan have all those championship rings.

But sometimes the best thing for basketball is to not put everything on your shoulders, and instead get some help.

Think about Kevin Garnett. There are several different really smart analyses to show that when he was in Minnesota losing all those games he was literally the best player in the NBA (the same analysis, over the last two years, would say James is that player now). If you use some kind of smart objective metrics, Garnett’s is the name that comes up most from those years. But Garnett had no help! After he grew distraught with the team’s endless rebuilding, the Timberwolves found him a home in Boston with some serious help in the form of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Even though Garnett did not play his best basketball in Boston, he did his best winning there, and the result has been a profound transformation of both how the world sees Garnett and how the city of Boston feels about basketball in the 2000s. It’s a model anyone would want to copy — a new home with talented teammates became a story of pure, unrestrained basketball joy for all involved who aren’t Timberwolves fans.

Although at the time, much of the vitriol was aimed above Garnett’s at Minnesota GM and former Celtic player Kevin McHale for handing his former team another trophy. Nevertheless today the Boston trio is no more or less hated than expected. In fact as Henry asserts, Garnett is viewed more positively for his role on a championship team.

Baseball’s Curt Flood, a pioneer of free agency for athletes, was vilified by his actions not just by the public, but with fellow players as well. Flood once returned to his locker to find a funeral wreath on it. In fact there are parallels between Flood and James. Both players simply sought the ability to go where they wished, and the public recoiled because they felt that decision would ruin the game. And although there will be many people who resent LeBron no matter what he does (mostly in Cleveland, New York, Chicago, and whatever cities he defeats on the way to a championship), there will be others who after he wins a title will view him in a positive light. Because as the old saying goes, everybody loves a winner.

More important than how this decision affects LeBron, is how it affects the choices athletes will make. Free agency in a capped league, like the amateur draft, is meant to help the weaker teams become more competitive. Teams with superstars should already be near the cap, and those without should be far enough below to sign them. However reality paints a different picture. Star players bypass the cities they wish to avoid and instead force their way onto a preferred franchise. Kareem did it to the Bucks in the 70s, Shaq did it twice, and Kobe did it before he was even drafted. As a result, the rest of the league usually ends up overpaying for the non-super stars.

Already with the ability to chose their destination (within reason) players have an upper hand in a game considered to be run by front offices. It would be like Karpov and Kasparov sitting down to play, but Karpov’s queen decides it would be easier to win if she decided to play alongside Kasparov’s queen. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh’s choice could start a trend in the league. The Heat were in no shortage of finding talented players with which to surround Miami Thrice. Other superstars like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have been rumored to wish to team up in order to create their own super team. In a few years, building teams with multiple superstars could be the norm around the NBA. In other terms what is going to stop Karpov’s rooks, knights, and bishops from all seeing better odds by going elsewhere, leaving a bunch of pawns and a defenseless king?

Perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic on the course laid out in the future. Change usually brings the negative out in people, and I’m sure there were fans that thought the worst of every change, whether it be racial integration, the three point line, or instant replay. The end of the reserve clause in baseball was supposed to be the death of sports, but just about every league has survived post free agency.

Maybe the NBA can thrive under these new conditions. It didn’t seem that the league was hurt by the dynasties of the Celtics, Lakers, or Bulls in the 80s & 90s. Nor did the rivalry between the Spurs, Lakers, Mavs, and Suns bore fans in the 00s. Perhaps franchises will aim for loads of cap space instead of overpaying for marginal talent. A handful of super teams would make the latter rounds of the playoffs much more interesting. Furthermore any Cinderella team, one without a group of superstars, would instantly become a sweetheart to all cities without playoff representation.

By creating a super team, LeBron has changed the rules of the game. Potentially he ushered a new era in sports where the best athletes choose their team and teammates. Although by doing so, LeBron has unintentionally recast himself as the league’s villain. However if this trend of creating teams of multiple All Stars pioneered by James becomes established as the norm, then history might view him in a more kind light.

49 comments on “Thoughts About “The Decision”

  1. Loathing

    Good article Mike, as always…but in Garnett’s case, he was traded…not like he picked his next destination. LeBron had the luxury of going where he wanted. Yeah, Garnett landed in the NBA version of the Red Sox or the Packers, but what if the Wolves decided to ship him to the Clippers? He woulda moaned and groaned about it, but the professional he is, he woulda played his heart out, like he always has.

    LeBron went and formed a gang with his Olympic buddies in South Beach. I still say (even after all this time) that this was a conspiracy, and Miami was the fitting destination…if NY had the bigger space it woulda been NY. If the CLIPPERS had a totally gutted roster, it woulda been there.

    And you know what? I’m ok with that…Miami’s big issue now is the lack of a legit interior defender…teams can pound them inside all day and night and all the Heat will be able to show for it is Bosh in constant foul trouble…and once the other two start helping on the inside you’ll have guys open for a nice game of inside-outside. I get this feeling Miami’s gonna be a poor team defensively…unless they get a bangin’ defensive center…Z ain’t it anymore.

  2. tastycakes

    I can’t see this becoming a trend.

    For all the much-deserved criticism towards LBJ, he (and Bosh and Wade) took significant pay cuts (tens of millions of dollars!) just so they could play on the same team.

    If they were all Knicks today, I’d probably be defending them, saying that it’s incredibly rare that star athletes, at their peaks, would choose to leave money on the table just so they could play on a winning team.

    For the incredible egomania on display during “The Decision”, it takes some serious self-confidence to decide, as LeBron did, that he can go to “another man’s team” and be one of the guys to help win a championship (the “beta dog” perhaps?).

    I think what they chose to do was unprecedented and isn’t likely to be repeated. Circumstances lined up perfectly — friends who played on the Olympic team together, all from the same rookie class, 2 of the 3 in situations they wanted out from .. a guy of LeBron’s ability (the best ball player on the planet) deciding that he does not NEED to be the clear top dog? He doesn’t receive nearly enough praise for that; I suspect he will in six months when that team is cruising and he’s put his mark on it and the horror of the ESPN special has faded into distant memory.

    They are mortal. It will be fun to root against them. As a fan, I’m still disappointed he didn’t choose my city. The competitive balance in the East would be so much better with LBJ in NYC. Oh well.

  3. xduckshoex

    @1 Garnett did, in fact, choose where he was going. As I recall there was a Garnett trade in place before the Ray Allen trade but Garnett wouldn’t consent to going to Boston to play with a bunch of guys who were just coming off a 24 win season so he vetoed the trade. Then the Celtics acquired Ray Allen, and suddenly Garnett was willing to pack his bags and head over to Boston.

  4. Loathing

    Ok, then there goes my argument…thought it was the other way arou nd, Garnett going first then Allen…did Garnett have a no-trade clause in his contract?

  5. supernova

    Great insight Mike.

    I believe the anger towards LeBron is not going to subside no matter how many rings he earns. For one, that media debacle will haunt him for the rest of his life. Obviously, Clevelanders will boo the heck out of him forever, but how about NY, Chicago, and LA. Yes, only the three biggest cities in America and he managed to collectively piss them all off with “The Decision”. Also, middle American and many smaller market NBA teams will have sympathy for Cleveland after what Lebron pulled. I can’t see him earning much love outside of Miami now.

    Secondly, collusion is not something tolerated or even allowed from the owners side, but players do have the right to hatch such a scheme as pulled by the Miami Thrice. Collusion though, whether permitted or not permitted has a negative connotation. That word collusion and that negative connotation will stay with him in the eyes of many sports fans. Basketball fans realize what he did was within the rules, but many will perceive this whole arrangement as somewhat unsavory and improper. You could argue that they all took less money in order to win championships and that is somehow noble, but the other side is that Lebron did not believe he could do it without help and when I say help I mean lots and lots of help. If he truly wanted to be seen as one of the greats of the game, he will ultimately be in competition with Magic, Kareem, Bird, Jordan and Kobe to name a few. None of those greats ever stepped away from the challenge by hooking up with one of their equals, and taking less money via free agency.

    Ultimately I believe, Lebron will win championships, but he will forever have the doubt hanging over his head that he would not have won anything unless he hooked up with maybe the second or third best player in the league in Wade. He will no longer be looked as a dominant player, but one who had to defer to another great to gain him a championship. That alone will tarnish Lebron’s image. Will his tarnished image in terms of his legacy ruin his marketability and his quest to earn a billion dollars? That is debatable and one that I cannot answer. On that I will have to wait and see.

    If Lebron’s goal was to simply win championships then he can probably say to himself “mission accomplished”, but in terms of his image and legacy I believe he will more than likely regret “The Decision”.

  6. Mike Kurylo Post author

    “None of those greats ever stepped away from the challenge by hooking up with one of their equals, and taking less money via free agency.”

    Is it fair to give credit to Magic & Bird for having great teams around them? What if Bird was taken one pick sooner and had to win with Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown instead of McHale and Parrish? Would Bird have been OK with his career withering away in the Bay Area?

    Kobe nearly “stepped away from the challenge” post-Shaq – remember his flirting with free agency and his comments about Jason Kidd/Bynum? Had Los Angeles not traded for Gasol, there might be a very different image of Kobe Bryant. And don’t forget that he was drafted by Charlotte and forced his way to the Lakers.

    I think it’s a fine line to say who did & didn’t step away from the challenge. As I noted above, some of those that critiqued LeBron had plenty of help (Frazier, Jordan) or did nearly the same thing (Barkley didn’t stick it out in Philly, and tried to make his own trio with the Rockets).

  7. supernova

    @7

    I am not suggesting that those others did not have solid teams surrounding them. Then again, Lebron was on solid teams in Cleveland, and even went to a championship. He was not exactly wallowing in losses all these years before he decided to make his move.

    Did Magic or Bird have someone on their teams that were their equals whom they shared the spotlight? Maybe Magic Johnson with Kareem, but you could argue Kareem was much older and not the focal point of the team at that point.

    None of the greats previously mentioned came together with the aide of free agency. It is this dynamic and the following reasons that I believe will forever taint his legacy:
    1) In his quest to find a team to win championships he sacrificed salary. Again you can look at this as either noble or desperation by someone who figures he cannot do the heavy lifting unless he has one of the best players next to him.
    2) He decided to share the spotlight with someone who is in the prime of their career and almost his equal with someone like Wade.
    Magic and Kareem played together, but they won championships when Kareem was much older. I believe Magic was the real key to those later teams.
    3) None of the other greats used free agency to find a superstar team and join that team. This is unprecedented. I guess the closest would be Shaq leaving Orlando, but he joined ONE other great player. I am not though mentioning Shaq as one of the all time greats as I would Bird, Magic, etc.
    4) He publicly and completely humiliated his old team, with a ridiculous media event. He didn’t just humiliate his old team, but his home state, when he made “The Decision”.

    Hey kudos to him for deciding that championships were the most important thing and winning was the key. I can’t argue against his move to Miami. In my opinion though the set of circumstances surrounding Lebron’s move to the Heat does tarnish his legacy forever, and he will no longer be perceived in a good light by most fans.

  8. Jafa

    Mike, you convinced me. If Miami wins a couple championships in the next 3-5 years, we will all forget about “the Decision”. Why? Because the off-the-court things great players do are sometimes trumped by their on-court achievements.

    Did Barkley’s controversial comments on athletes not being role models define his legacy? What about when he spat on that girl, albeit by mistake? And he did leave Philly because he wanted to play on a better team in his prime.

    How about Kobe and his rape charges? And he did make headlines in a bad way when he requested a trade and bashed Bynum. Who here thinks that defines Kobe’s basketball legacy?

    How about Jordan’s gambling problem? Or Magic’s promiscuity? Or Karl Malone’s 100 kids?

    Nobody cares or remembers this things anymore. These guys are hall-of-famers, and their on-court success trumps everything. So it will be with LBJ. If he captures a couple rings, “the Decision” will simply be a footnote in his legacy.

    And yes, LBJ just started a trend that I think will stick for some time, especially if the Heat win some championships.

  9. cgreene

    Nice insights, Mike. Hard to tell where exactly you net out on your approval or disapproval of the outcome.

    A couple of things to note.
    1) @8 started to get at this briefly. Comparing LeBron so closely to Garnett is off base. LeBron was on the best team in the league for the past 2 years. That team won big games against the Lakers on the road, the Celtics, Magic and other elite teams throughout that 2 year period. Not winning in the playoffs especially this year when LeBron at best choked and at worst…. GASP… tanked the series against the Celtics has absolutely added to the tarnishing of his reputation. If we had seen a player dominate for a mediocre team and will them further than they should have gone then we might have a different view. That was not the case here. His teams underachieved in the playoffs the last 2 years. And that’s a lot on him that we mostly don’t associate with other greats, underachievement that is.

    2) This point is much more theoretical. But the synthetic manner in which Miami Thrice was created (including the persistent buzz on how Bosh and LeBron had their heads out the door) is what is leaving a bad taste here IMO. Michael and Scottie lost a lot before they won. So did Isiah and Bird actually did too his first year. We watched teams evolve, mantles pass and history made. This is like taking (insert hot girl name) Brooklyn Decker and cloning her with science instead of watching her grow into the beauty she is today. This was not natural. It has no story. When they win we will say “that’s what they should do. they are the best players.” When they lose we will say “Told you LeBron doesn’t have what it takes.” Either way it’s an inevitable tarnish.

    …but ask us again in 10 years when they have won them all and maybe we will feel differently. (-;

  10. JK47

    “LeBron left money on the table so he could win” is one way to look at it.

    “LeBron just bought himself a handful of NBA titles” is a more accurate way to look at it.

  11. Jafa

    Supernova,

    I’m gonna try to rebut your points in post 8:
    1) In their quest to win a championship, many players sacrifice salary. It happens all the time. The difference here was that the best player in the league did it. KG did a lot of heavy lifting in Minnesota and got nowhere until he went to Boston to play with others who could do some heavy lifting as well.
    2) Kobe decided to share the spotlight with Gasol. Who here thinks Lakers win the last two championships with Gasol? Also, KG decided to share the spotlight with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. No shame there, as they won as well. Magic didn’t choose Kareem or any of his teammates because he did not have that ability to do so – he was simply drafted by the Lakers. You cannot make this comparison to LBJ’s situation, because LBJ had a choice.
    3) None of them had the luxury of using free agency in this way. And which great player did Shaq join? Kobe? He wasn’t great when Shaq got there, just a rookie who couldn’t steal the starting role from Eddie Jones for a couple of years I think.
    4) Well, here is something we both agree on.

    What other great player did Shaq join? Kobe? He was a rookie when Shaq went to LA, and was considered promising, but needed some time to shwo

  12. Mike Kurylo Post author

    “Nice insights, Mike. Hard to tell where exactly you net out on your approval or disapproval of the outcome.”

    True because I’m not even sure. Right now I’m disgusted by how it all played out. I’ve certainly lost some respect for LeBron. But on the other hand, how many athletes do even more reprehensible actions (criminal, social, etc.) that I’ve given a free pass on? Additionally what if Paul and Melo come to New York? Would I feel that they all sold out as well?

    In essence the question boils down to: what criteria do I use to judge whether or not I like an athlete? And in a way, I’m not sure how to answer that. But one thing I do know – that definition changes over time based on the environment. Mohammad Ali was flat out hated by some during his time, but today you won’t find many people willing to say a bad word about him (save for Joe Frazier). If more athletes start to pull moves like LeBron of joining their All Star friends, then James’ image will benefit from it.

  13. Frank

    It’s not that he went to Miami that bothers me. It’s not even so much that he made that ridiculous 1 hour special and backstabbed Cleveland for 60 full minutes on national television.

    What it is, is this — Since he was in junior high, he’s been sold as the “king”, the best player of his generation. He WAS supposed to take over Michael Jordan’s throne as the arguably the greatest player of all time — someone whose individual greatness (Scottie Pippen notwithstanding) is enough to bring those around him to the promised land, the championship, etc. He did nothing to dispel that notion in Cleveland, what with the 25 points in a row against Detroit a few years ago, the crazy turnaround 3 pointer last year in the playoffs. So what if he didn’t win a championship yet — this is all part the heroic struggle that Jordan, John Elway, Peyton Manning, etc. all went through before finally breaking through. Losing doesn’t destroy the mystique. Even Kobe’s rape thing, Tiger’s ridiculous cheating, Michael’s gambling etc. — those things don’t really destroy the mystique (even if they should) because they don’t touch the reason we admire them to begin with — their greatness at their sport, their individual will to overcome any obstacles. Seriously – what’s probably hurt Tiger even more than his philandering is his totally average play since then. If he had come back and won the Masters and the British, he’d be on top of the world again — and people might even deify him more (rightly or wrongly) because his greatness was able to overcome all these personal problems etc.

    So my problem is that Lebron, the NBA, LRMR, whoever — they SOLD LBJ as a Hero, a King. And so that is why this whole fiasco is so disappointing. Can you imagine in Braveheart if William Wallace said, you know what, I’m just going to join the English because it’s just easier and more fun that way? Or in Gladiator, if Russell Crowe’s character decided to join Joaquin Phoenix in ruling Rome? Or if the X-men decided to join Magneto and subjugate the human race? Etc. Etc. (Sorry, those are the first examples that came to mind, strangely).

    And in the end – that’s how I feel about Lebron. There’s no doubt he’s a great player. He’ll probably win 2-3 championships during his 6 year contract. Yes he took less money so he could win which I guess is commendable although he’ll never notice the difference. But he’s lost that “hero” aura forever. He’s just another great player now — but not the global icon, King, or Hero he supposedly wanted to be.

  14. danvt

    It’s only good that guys are thinking about more than bottom line dollar amounts in negotiations, now. Lebron (also Wade / Bosh) changed this. The biggest baddest free agent ever TOOK LESS. Name me anyone else who has taken less money for a better situation.

    Not calling the Cavs personally was bad form, clearly.

    Amazing that on a Knick blog, in a thread like this, no one talks about Ewing. Toiling away next to CBA’ers, underperforming overpaid vets, ex football players, and J.R. Reid. I guess Charles Smith got some blame for getting stuffed and Starks when he went 3-18, but Ewing got all the blame, for the most part. Do you think he would have joined Jordan if given the chance? Someone should ask him that.

  15. mase

    i dont agree that lebron-wade-bosh is on the same suprestar level as paul-melo-amare…the latter group is in the shadow and under the radar of that first group and coincidentally may be a better and more formidable trio because of it… there is a fine line between starphucking and balling. thats where i think lebron went wrong, he should have believed in his own talent and created a legacy, instead he joined one.

    its like when paul newman says to tom cruise’s character in ‘the color of money’, “pool excellence is not about excellent pool!”…meaning lebron had too much power and not enough maturity to make the right decision which was to play against wade and bosh, if for no other reason than for the greater good of the game.

  16. John Kenney

    The Kevin Garnett comparison is interesting to me not only because of the reasons mentioned, but also because current criticisms of LeBron- he’s not alpha enough- are quite similar to the criticisms KG received while at Minnesota. Commentators repeatedly stated that KG didn’t want to be the one to take the shot at the end of the game, that he couldn’t be the true number one on a team.
    More interesting still- remember these comments?
    “‘Loyalty is something that hurts you sometimes because you can’t get youth back,’ Garnett said of his Timberwolves career. ‘I can honestly say if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know with [the Celtics] organization, I would have done it a little sooner.'”
    Garnett is the cautionary tale to LeBron. The reports about LeBron’s fears about “waking up at 31 with bad knees and no championship” cannot be separated from Garnett’s experience in Minnesota.
    At the end of the day, I think LeBron really does care about winning (if a little less than KG). I’d say his desire to be the one with the ball in his hands at the end of the game is stronger than Garnett’s . I just tend to believe the reports that he wanted a supporting cast so good he could, as he repeatedly mentioned, go 6-24 and still win, and that even if he had to sacrifice some of his alpha image to get there, he trusts that by being the best player on the Heat he’ll win that image back.

  17. Thomas B.

    How is this much different than what the hated Yankees do every year. They go out and buy the highest talent free agent, or trade for the highest talent player with a huge check, every year. How many Yankers have been hurt by this? Not many. Hell last year seemed to wash away a lot of the hate people had for A-Rod.

    I can’t call LBJ and beta dog now because I sure would have cheered if he came to NYC. I would have cheered more if Dirk and CP3 decided to join him. So I cant say this was the move of a Beta Dog.

    Having said that, I did boo when he announced Miami. As a Knick fan, I hate the Heat. I also boo the whole reality showesque-this-is-the-most-important-free-agent-signing-so-I-need-my-own-show-moment that made up the TV special. Its not the what so much as the how.

    I don’t see how this hurts the game. So for the first time the players get to call the shot over where the dynasty may be. So what? We’d applaud the GM and owner who drafted or traded for the same group. Why get upset and say the sky is falling when the power shifts to the players?

    What this does do is give me hope that any team that can make itself an attractive landing spot for several top level free agents, can now put itself in the running to lure top level free agents to their location. Of course, until Dolan exists I don’t see how that place gets to be NYC.

    What NYC has to do is hope that Gallinari and Randolph (holding breath and crossing fingers) develop into star (WS/48< .199) or near star (WS/48<.175) level players. Plus STAT needs to stay at his current level of production. That way we can tell an elite level player that they have the best chance to beat Miami by joining the group we have assembled.

    The Knicks have enough young talent under the age of 22 to give us hope that one or more of them can become a star player or close to that level. I think that puts us in a better position long term that a team like the Magic that employs a star player (Howard) an above average player (Lewis) an aging and fading former star (Carter), and a point who is probably playing his best ball right now. They don’t have a ton of young talent. I think an elite player looking to join a team on the rise would give the talent on the Knicks a very close look.

  18. Frank O.

    We also forget that Magic had James Worthy, and Jabbar, among other very good supporting cast members. Bird has McHale and Parish, and Johnson.

  19. Die_Hard_Knick_Fan

    As a Knick fan I wanted Lebron to come to the Knicks, but I would have understood if he went to Chicago, New Jersey, or if he stayed put. Going to Miami, in my opinion, was punk move. He will never have Legacy status in my mind. If he went to a team that was rebuilding and would have had money to give him a few pieces to work with, that would have been entertaining to watch. He could have become the new face of the Garden, the second coming in Chicago, a super star in Brooklyn, but instead he’s just another player that signed to be on Dwayne Wades team. I don’t think it’s going to be exciting to watch the heat. I would rather watch the Bulls and see how there talent is going to come together, it’s going to be great to watch the Knicks this year who finally have a legitimate chance to make it to the playoffs. Will Wilson Chandler continue to improve, will Amar’e be as dominant as he was in Phoenix, will Raymond Felton continue to improve at point? And then there’s Lebron, playing on Dwayne Wade’s team, while he COULD have been creating a real legacy to show that he can put a team on his back and take them all the way. Not to mention the way he did Cleveland with that stupid “The Decision” idea was completely disrespectful. Cleveland treated him like a God pretty much, and he couldn’t have the decency to handle this with any sign of class.

  20. pattherat

    But LeBron could have had Rose and Noah, or Kamen and Griffin, or Harris and Lopez, or Amar’e and Gallo, or Jamison and Williams. If he was half the king he thought he was, any of those sidekicks would be enough.

    He’s got his cake now, but he’ll never be able to eat it.

    At least not until Wade gets hurt, and LeBron will carry the team.

    But Miami minus Wade is no better than last years Cavs, so still no cake eating.

    Poor decision.

  21. BucketsOverBway

    1. One big difference between KG and LeBron is that all those years that KG lost in the first round, his team was never favored. If your team can’t build a contender either though incompetence (The Twolves) or because they won’t pony up the $ (the Hornets or the Clippers), then I understand leaving.

    2. A lot of the above conversation seems to be focused on the search for all-star teammates rather than winning. One can’t forget the fact that LeBron’s team had the best record in the league for the past two years, so his franchise served him well in terms of building a winner around him. One could argue that it was solely the brilliance of James that brought about all those victories, but regardless he was on the best team during the regular season so probably only tweaks were necessary to translate that into a ring. KG in Minn, or when Kobe was complaining a few years ago, they needed a big boost if they were to genuinely compete. Barkley is further proof that it’s about winning, not simply big name teammates, as he had far less success in Houston. That’s not to say I don’t think LeBron will win a ring in Miami. Having all-star (or in Wade’s case, super-star) teammates will certainly help. But I also feel fairly confident that had he stayed in Cleveland he would’ve won eventually too.

    3. Since a bunch of people keep bringing up Jordan, Bird & Magic, continuing my point further (sorry if it’s repetitive), again they were about winning not big names. MJ passed to Kerr and Paxson in the clutch, not just Pippen. I don’t believe any of those three would’ve left their teams if they had the best record for two straight years. However, had they been on a team as mentioned above like the Hornets, Twolves or Clippers, you can bet big bucks they’d have wanted out. In fact, MJ’s second retirement was ‘cuz the Bulls were no longer committed to spend the money to keep winning & they weren’t gonna bring back Phil Jackson.

    4. That said, I agree that over time if LeBron and Wade start winning rings, he’s gonna win back most of the non-Cleveland fans. The Kobe rape trial is a perfect example. Also equally important is that based on how they played in the Olympics they likely will be fun and exciting to watch. When Pau first joined Kobe, it was a pleasure to watch them go to work in the triangle (although it sure got ugly this year by the team they played against the Celts in the finals). Likewise, everyone loved watching the Suns ‘cuz of their style. If this was a less flashy group, like say if Tim Duncan and Chauncey Billups teamed up, then they’d have trouble winning back fans. However, even haters will feel compelled to go daaaaamn, at least once a game.

    5. A lot of people like to play up that LeBron and Bosh agreed to take less money, and while it’s true that they could’ve made more, due to Florida’s lack of state taxes, they didn’t actually sacrifice all that much dough than if they’d stayed on their former teams. Additionally, there were those reports that the one definite way for LeBron to increase his net worth would be to win a ring, so one could argue that by going to Miami he may end up making more money than had he stayed in Cleveland where it might’ve been less assured of winning a championship.

    6. If the trio had decided to come to New York, I would take all the above back. Okay, no, truth is I think if they all did join the Knicks that while I would’ve been elated, there would be part of me that also felt a bit guilty, like I was winning with a stacked deck or something.

    7. Pimpin’ time! If anyone’s interested in more thoughts on the whole thing, check out this post I wrote on Buckets Over Broadway, the Knicks blog for the FanSided network: http://bucketsoverbroadway.com/2010/07/09/the-five-tragedies-of-lebrons-decision/

  22. Brian Cronin

    I did not think that it affected my thoughts on Lebron that much, but I discovered just how much the other day when I was skimming through upcoming games on ESPN Classic to see if there were any worth Tivo-ing. I came across the Cleveland/Orlando game, the one Lebron won with that amazing last second shot. Well, I loved that game at the time, but I found myself not really interested in seeing it again at all. So I guess he really did change in my mind.

    On top of that, I find myself a lot more interested in Durant now, as well, as a sort of anti-Lebron.

    It’s weird, I really did not expect to feel this way.

  23. yehudi3000

    i realy loved lebron b4 that move. i would have loved him if he went to chicago/nj/clipers/stay put/knick. i realy hate him right now

    i think his decision is stupid, because he had a beter chance to win a ring at chicago, and a beter respect.
    if he won a ring at the knicks he would realy be a king, now he can win 10 rings and stay a prince

  24. Loathing

    18 Thomas B. –

    The difference is, in Baseball there is no cap, so teams with big pockets (and not just the Yankees, the Red Sox do this too) can spend as much as possible to get the best team in the league. The NBA is different, where you get a very finite amount to spend on talent, with the intent of parity, especially in the smaller markets. Sure, if there was no cap in the NBA, then the three going to Miami, fine. Warm summers, no sales tax, etc. I get it. No problem. But where this draws the line is this: Did A-Rod ever hold a special to announce that he’s backstabbed his former team to jump on board a new one? A team that already grabbed Albert Pujols and Roy Halliday?
    No. What LeBron did was abysmal and downright sleazy.Even if HE didn’t do it, per se, his handlers, Maverick Carter and World Wide Wes set this up…and if you are judged by the company you keep, then being surrounded by skeezes makes you one too…and THAT’S what LeBron has turned himself into. In one fell swoop he ruined his carefully cultivated image, and THAT’S what has everyone up in arms.

  25. ess-dog

    The first thing is the shock. I don’t think anyone ever thought this would be possible, and those teams that helped give the Heat the cap space to do this should feel embarrassed.
    But really Miami was the only team where this was possible, and those three clearly wanted to play together, and took less to do it. I think it easily could’ve been NYC if we’d had the space. Maybe we should’ve traded Curry/Gallo last year for more space? Hindsight is 20/20.
    I don’t think the “fairness” of them teaming up is an issue. Life’s not fair. The Decision was pretty stupid though. They should’ve just quietly made their choices. Now they are league-wide targets. Every game they play this year will be hard fought and there will be animosity in every arena.
    I can’t say I was ever a fan of Lebron per se. Would’ve been had he come to NY. Definitely am not now. I don’t think he has a personality that transcends the sport like Shaq or Reggie Jackson or somebody like that. I think that’s why he gets the A-Rod comparisons. He is clearly the most talented player. But there’s something just lacking – that classic “star power” that Babe Ruth, Walter Payton, Magic Johnson etc all seemed to have.
    Now we have to figure out how to defend that team. Gallo/Wilson will have trouble with LBJ that’s for sure. Amare could be ok on Bosh. Who do you put on Wade though? Maybe that’s why they are looking at Shannon Brown? Azubuike? Sheesh, those will be tough games. Maybe Randolph is the wild card for us? I still like the team we have though – especially if we add Fernandez or Brown to the mix.

  26. massive

    This is off-topic, but check this out:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=feltora01&y1=2010&p2=kiddja01&y2=1999

    Kidd was actually a worse shooter than Felton. In fact, Jason Kidd didn’t post a TS% over .540 until he got to Dallas. Of course Kidd is a better play maker and rebounder than Felton, but I feel like this is proof that regardless of what Felton’s shooting numbers look like, he should do well if he can blossom as a playmaker.

  27. JK47

    @30 You’re right, LeBron James has very little charisma and/or sense of humor. Shaq always had that great winking sense of humor and gentle giant personality. Even Michael Jordan, who is pretty much a total prick, had an aura about him, even before he started winning titles. LeBron is of course a brilliant player but he’s rather bland personality-wise.

    A-Rod is not a perfect comparison, because A-Rod actually has negative charisma– he is utterly phony and unlikable. A-Rod can’t help himself… He’s just a flat-out D-bag.

  28. kaine

    let’s stick to the facts:

    -lbj and bosh quitted on their team, just to have a reason to go to miami. you’ll never know for sure, but if analize the details, that’s what happened

    -lbj fucked up the state of ohio in a Gargantuan way, and with a cold heart. a state and a team that gave him everything

    -lbj was scared to go to new york, scared to face the perpetual media attention

    -lbj flirted with every team, while he had already decided, just to feel himself “wanted”

    -lbj was pissed off that Rose from Chicago didn’t try to recruit him.

    Now close your eyes and try to picture Kareem,Magic,Jordan, Russell,Bird,Kobe,Shaq or Duncan in lebron’s place.
    no one of them would have acted that way.
    no one.

    something it’s clearly wrong.
    lbj lacks the mental toughness, the iron-core to be the “once in a generation” player.
    he deferred. he stepped down. he is afraid.

    in fact, he didn’t take the easy way out.
    maybe he tought so.
    but in reality he just dug himself in a deep hole.
    if he doesn’t win soon or enough, he will face a tougher and harded pressure, now that is no more everyone’s golden boy.

  29. Mulligan

    Maybe I’m going off the deep end here, but it seems to me like there’s a difference between “winning” and “having won.” Winning brings to mind competition, struggle and perseverance, etc – all the things that people posting hear are associating with Jordan, Bird, Magic etc.
    “Having won” comes with winning, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the same. If you play with cheat codes, you might win the game but it doesn’t mean much. I think it’s the difference between the two that rubs me the wrong way. Something about this move makes it seem like Lebron is more fixated on having people simply acknowledge that he won championships, instead of being on the team that could compete in the best way. In a weird way, it kind of reminds me of the Bad Boy era Detroit teams, which people rarely hold on the same level as the other championship winners before and after them. The way they played made it seem like they weren’t really abiding by the same rules that everyone else was, which could very well be said for James & Co.

  30. Brian Cronin

    There’s probably something to be said for that Mulligan, but really, I am pretty sure that once/if the Heat start winning titles, people will start to treat Lebron differently in the media.

  31. Thomas B.

    @ 28

    The difference between baseball’s cap and basketball’s isnt as significant as you’d think. Basketball has a soft cap, not a hard cap. Team’s can spend forever and a day, the lone significant difference is that in basketball has to work a little harded to get the player in the door, but it can be done. The second difference is the hard cap on player compensation (something sorely needed in baseball).

    Players go to the Yankees so they can win and get paid. The Yanks have the cash to get any player. The player can say no to the money and sign elsewhere. Most folks would not leave cash on the table. SO if you can win and get paid why not do it?

    LBJ took a spot where he had the best chance to win and still get great compensation. He will have bird rights in a few years and he will get an extention from Miami to the limit of the hard cap on player compensation.

    LBJ did not stab the Cavs in the back as you said. He didn’t pull a Boozer. He has not obligation to stay if he does not want to stay. How many football players sign a 5 year deal, get hurt, then get cut. Few people call the team backstabbers.

    This discussion really isnt about what he did rather than the forum he created to do it. I found it self serving. I think a descreet personal announcement to the Cavs ownership was the right way to go. He lacked sensitivity to the Cavs but he did not owe it to them to resign there. As such, your description of him as a backstabber is well off base.

  32. d-mar

    My biggest problem with LeBron is not him leaving the Cavs but the way he checked out of that Boston series toward the end (and I think rational Cavs fans may feel the same way) I truly believe he knew he was outta there and possibly even knew then he would be part of Miami Thrice for 2010-2011. It’s the reason I’ve always hated Vince Carter, he stopped playing for the Raps his last season because he wanted out of Toronto. I believe that if you’re a highly paid professional athlete, you should always give 100% no matter what the circumstances. There’s no way LBJ was giving his all at the end of the Boston series, and to me, that”s unforgivable.

  33. Z-man

    Right on, D-mar.

    Mike K, postingandtoasting.com posted a link to your post above, along with some nice words. There are some links therein to a couple of other links there to some new ESPN posts regarding AR and Azu.

    On the LBJ front, I don’t begrudge him but wonder why he would choose to play with such similar players, especially Wade. I think it makes them vulnerable to a big, long, athletic team with good lateral defenders and shot-blockers. I also think that the way the game is called will be a factor. Game 7 of the finals was very physical, and if that is a trend, I wonder if Wade and Bosh hold up physically.

  34. DS

    I agree most w/ Prof. Clyde Frazier. LeBron’s 25. There was still time for Cleveland to build and for LeBron to grow into the role of a great leader but “he took the easy way out.”

    The A-Rod comparison holds up in that neither one knows how to act when it comes to public scrutiny or when it comes to being a dominant force in their sport. They are two of the most talented athletes the world has seen but they are clueless as entertainers.

    What LeBron has set up is not morally wrong, it’s just boring to watch. I hope the new CBA prevents this from becoming a trend. Despite Mike’s compelling reasons, I think the American League’s duopoly must be painfully boring for every other city.

  35. Z

    Agree, DS. LeBron at 25 joining Wade instead of beating him is not the same as Barkley, Hakeem, and Pippen joining forces at 35, or of Payton and Malone signing minimum deals at the end of their careers with the Lakers.

    For LeBron to declare “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” at the age of 25 is gutless. An admission of failure.

    @23

    re: Wade getting hurt: you may be right, but since he won’t have to carry much burden now, Wade’s body will probably hold up a little better. But let’s just say he does get hurt. Is Bosh, LeBron, Miller, Chalmers, Haslem, House, Ilgauskus, Arroyo, Juwan Howard, Magliore, 2nd rounders really much better than what LeBron played with in Cleveland the past few years? Possibly not.

  36. Z-man

    A-Rod and LeBron are also similar in that they went to teakms with established veteran superstar 1st ballot HOF homegrown franchise players AT THEIR POSITION! A-Rod deferred and went to 3rd base; will LeBron defer to Wade? It’s harder in hoops because in baseball you have to wait your turn. On the Heat, who gets the rock when the game’s on the line?

  37. DS

    @42 Agreed. I also found it funny that A-Rod was happy to go to the Red Sox a couple of weeks earlier and then was just as happy to join the Yanks. It shows that these guys just want to latch on to a good team regardless of anything else.

    While A-Rod’s individual stats don’t suffer (if he could ever get to 600 HR) I think it would be fun to watch LeBron chase Kareem’s scoring record and/or Stockton’s assist records and I wonder if he’ll be able to do that in Miami. Potentially.

    As far as who will take the last shot, I think he and D. Wade will hit a rhythm. As much as I’d love to watch them fail, I think they’ll figure out how to win. And whoever has the best chance to hit the shot will get it.

    @41 IMHO, Chalmers-LeBron-Miller-Bosh-Udonis is much better than Mo-LeBron-Hickson-Jamison-Varajaeo. Bosh is a huge upgrade and the rest is somewhat even.

  38. TheRant

    I think it’s important to separate the decision itself from the way it was presented.

    Or, if you will, call them the decision and “The Decision.”

    As far as the decision goes, 60% of me thinks that these guys put in their time, the rules is the rules, and they had a right to go anywhere they wanted, collusion or not.

    The other 40% knows that Bosh gave Toronto a weak effort late in the 09-10 season — and LeBron’s surrender in the final minutes against the Celtics June 2010 was truly telling. Both of them will be perceived as quitters/non-closers and that perception won’t change when Wade takes the winning shots.

    Then there’s “The Decision.” That was just character suicide. From the TV show, to the whole talk of going town to town to have everyone court him, the whole thing was just an exercise in brand destruction of the highest order.

    For all the press about LeBron’s relationship with Warren Buffet, “The Decision” reminded us that some of these kids (NBA players in their 20’s) are willing to trust their finances, their PR reputations, and more to their friends, “associates,” and others who have no idea what they are doing. In a month when one NBA player was found shot dead in a forest, and another was publicized as a former NBA great, recipient of millions in wages, now homeless and bankrupt, it’s a reminder that quality accountants, marketing, and PR executives might just have actual skills to justify their salaries.

    These things don’t go away. LA still sells a ton of Kobe jerseys, but lots of people see him as a rapist who skirted a trial. Crazy Ron Ron was charming winning a title, but many recall the image of him in the stands in Auburn Hills. I don’t think these things go away as fast as others might.

  39. Mulligan

    @ 45, don’t think Sheed is coming back, which is too bad since Sheed and Shaq on the same team would be pretty ridiculous in terms of personalities.
    They could also have eating contests and the opportunity to engage in a season long game of one-upmanship to see who can put forth less effort and “save it” for the playoffs…those two would really push each other to new heights.

  40. stratomatic

    I had no problem with Lebron leaving the Cavs, though I think the process was way over the top and revealed some unattractive things about him personally.

    The problem I have is him specifically joining with Wade.

    All great players need an excellent supporting cast. It’s not unusual for the best teams to have 3 all star caliber players. However, most of the real incons of the game were the leaders of their team. As leaders, they were often relied upon to take over critical games or at least take over the last few minutes with great playmaking, scoring, defense, shot blocking, steals, or a combination of the above.

    Wade has already demonstrated that ability.

    You can argue that Lebron has to some extent also, but he has never done it against a team with similar overall talent and another elite player under championship caliber pressure.

    Maybe he has that ability, but we may never find that out because with Wade, the pressure and demands on him will always be muted.

    I think that’s the complaint that guys like Jordan, Barkley, Magic, Miller and others are making. This argument may not be considered vital on a stats based forum, but I think virtually all elite competitors in every sport would understand it quite well.

  41. Thomas B.

    Mulligan:

    Man, no Ted Nelson weighing in? We must truly be in the dog days of summer..  

    (Quote)

    Careful!! If you type Ted Nelson’s name three times he appears behind you and crushes you with a 20K word post on Anthony Randolph’s “upside.” Or so the legend goes…

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