The Black Man, White Man, And The Preacher Man
Some perspective on LBJ, Dan Gilbert and Jesse Jackson.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
There are two kinds of information in sports. There’s information that comes from the “inside” which for the most part tends to be accurate and detailed if you’re fortunate enough to be privy to it. Then there is information that gets reported on the “outside” which is the information that the general public consumes. This kind of information however tends to be more or less “incomplete” than it is inaccurate.
In the case of LeBron James versus Dan Gilbert, most people are basing their opinions on what happened off of this incomplete information.
First, let me start by clearing one thing up, I AM NOT apologizing for the actions of Dan Gilbert. While I found his tirade against LeBron mildly entertaining, that does not mean that I don’t think it was inappropriate and I feel he was way out of line and did more to hurt his own public image than to hurt LeBron’s which is clearly what he was aiming for. So if people are now accusing him of being a racist, then it’s of his own doing.
Before you begin to take sides on this issue which is clearly what Jesse Jackson—based on his recent comments— and others would like for you to do, I implore you to think bigger than just “The Decision” and “The Letter.” “Something” happened that caused both James and Gilbert to take the actions they did. Who will be more affected by it in the long run is completely irrelevant to the fact that both men handled this clearly “personal” matter inappropriately. Each felt justified in their actions, but that doesn’t make either men right.
In fact, I actually expect LeBron to handle this situation incorrectly because we tend to forget that for as big of a superstar as he is, he’s still just a 25-year-old kid. How many of us can say that at 25 you would’ve handled things more appropriately given the extreme circumstances?
I know some may be questioning why I feel that LeBron handled things the wrong way, and what qualifies as extreme, so let me explain.
If you believe that something really did happen between his mother, Gloria James, and Delonte West, (and we’re not saying SLAM does–Ed.)then you also have to believe that there is absolutely no way humanly possible Dan Gilbert and others in the organization didn’t know about it. LeBron James was obviously the LAST one to know. I’m sure he felt betrayed by not only his mom and his teammate, but by the entire organization. There is no way he felt he could’ve remained in Cleveland and with Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley pitching “family” and “loyalty” within the Miami Heat organization. At the end of the day, I think his decision was less about winning a championship or an opportunity to play with two of his friends, he just wanted to be in a situation where he felt like he was around people he could “trust.”
People accuse him of quitting against the Celtics (I am no exception), but if any of what I said is the truth or even close to it, can you really blame him? A feeling of betrayal lends itself to a well of emotions so powerful that it makes rational thought virtually impossible. Revenge then becomes the order of the day. I imagine when LeBron found out (which from the looks of things came in the hours just before Game 5) his initial reactions were ones of shock, sadness, and anger. “F**k these motherf***ers! I ain’t doing sh*t else!”
If you’ve ever felt betrayed by someone, can you sit there with a straight face and say you didn’t have those exact same feelings? I’m not saying that’s right, but it is what it is; especially for a 25-year-old.
Go back and look at the post-game pressers from Games 5 and 6. While people accused him of being nonchalant about both the losses and his own individual performances, look again. There was clearly something on his mind. Something was weighing very heavily on him. Many say that his supporting cast sucked and that he got tired of carrying them, but I don’t doubt for one second he didn’t feel he could’ve led the Cavs to victory against the Celtics. Trust me, he could have. He just didn’t want to.
Where things became inappropriate was the TV special.
I truly believe he loves Cleveland and the fans there. How could he not? They’ve supported him not only during his seven seasons as a pro, but essentially since he hit the basketball scene. Yeah, I know he’s technically from Akron, but it’s basically the same thing. It’s not like he’s from Columbus, or Dayton or even Cincinnati. Akron is more or less a suburb of Cleveland. When Jim Gray showed him images of those fans in Cleveland burning his jersey, did you peep how uncomfortable that made him? Even if it was just for a split second, did you see how much that hurt him? He didn’t seem too comfortable about saying he was going to Miami either.
I know fans in Cleveland are going to take it personal and probably hate him for the rest of his life, but “The Decision” while ultimately a bad one, wasn’t directed at them. It was directed at Dan Gilbert.
I don’t think he really wanted to hurt Cavs fans like that even though he had to know that by going through with this epic spectacle, he would. But again, betrayal inhibits rational thought and opens up feelings of revenge which in and of itself is an irrational emotion. You screwed me over so here, take this. I’m sure that as the day approached he was beginning to have second thoughts about it, but he was in so deep by that point that he couldn’t turn back. He had to go through with it. It was just a poorly calculated move and I’m sure if he had the chance to do it differently, he would.
As it relates to Dan Gilbert, he gave LeBron James more than probably any other owner in any sport has ever given a superstar athlete. From building the Cleveland Clinic Courts out of his own pocket which is a mere 10-15 minute drive from James’ home in Bath, OH, to giving his friends and family whatever they wanted and needed within the organization. Gilbert allowed them to fly on the Cavs charter for crying out loud. How many guys can say that their owners allowed their friends and family to do that?
Without even mentioning the other things he did to try and keep LeBron happy, his feelings of betrayal were just as strong and in his mind, certainly justified.
But back to the alleged incident which seems to have sparked all of this, if you’re Dan Gilbert and you know something extremely disgusting and foul went on, how do you tell LeBron? How do you have a conversation about such a touchy and emotional subject? I truly believe that more than anything, he was just trying to protect LeBron and not hurt him. Sure it looks bad on the surface and maybe he should’ve alerted him to what allegedly went on, but I believe his intentions were good. LeBron may not see that right now, but over time, I’m sure he’ll understand.
As for Gilbert’s reaction, it was about as unprofessional as anything I’ve ever seen and like LeBron he lashed out because I’m sure he was just as angry and hurt. Their thoughts were probably almost identical. “I did all of this for you and this is how you repay me?” Obviously, he wasn’t thinking clearly and acted out of that anger. It’s not unreasonable to think that being perceived as racist even crossed his mind and instead of waiting and sleeping on it, he did what I can’t sit here and say I haven’t done a few times in my own life; reacted out of the moment with little regard for the consequences.
Does that make either of them bad people? No. Just two people caught up in an extremely emotional situation. So give them both a break. Dan Gilbert is a businessman and LeBron James is a business, man. They’d both do it differently if they had the chance.
Jesse Jackson on the other hand…well, what can I say about him? As usual, he’s jut trying to spark something. He never passes up an opportunity to fan the smoldering flames of racial hatred that still exists in this country. If he really wanted to, he could’ve lent some sort of perspective in the exact same vein as I did. But that’s not his M.O. Comparing LeBron James and the way Dan Gilbert feels about him to “a runaway slave”? Give me a break.
The last time I checked, slaves work for free. They don’t get paid millions of dollars.
Ignore him and his rhetoric.