‘The Decision’ Was the Right One
Why LeBron made the only choice that made sense.
by Irv Soonachan
It’s been established over the past few weeks – for those who hadn’t already noticed — that LeBron James is a narcissistic, supercilious spoiled brat whose delusions of grandeur would make Napoleon blush. He played it left-hand but made it too far.
But another part of the story is equally clear: LeBron came to the only conclusion possible when he decided on Miami. Most of the arguments why he should have stayed are bunk. Such as:
1. He’s not a real superstar because he didn’t stay in Cleveland to win a title “on his own,” or the “Magic and Larry stuck it out” argument.
Magic and Larry were drafted by teams run by people with unassailable credibility: Red Auerbach and Jerry West. Both teams had the No. 1 overall pick within three years of drafting their respective stars. The Celtics traded their pick for two future Hall of Famers: Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. The Lakers drafted future Hall of Famer James Worthy, creating a starting lineup featuring three former No.1 overall picks with Kareem at center. Both Magic and Bird walked into situations where they were surrounded by talent. It’s usually not possible to win an NBA title without two or three near-their-prime Hall of Famers. The Cavs never cleared that hurdle, and aren’t anywhere close. Did Bird and Magic make their teammates better? Absolutely. But were their teammates awfully good on their own? Make no mistake about it.
Let’s not confuse Jabbar, Worthy, McHale and Parish with Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison or Anderson Varejao. And you wouldn’t want to confuse West, Auerbach or Pat Riley with Danny Ferry or Jim Paxson in a card game, either.
2. He could have signed with the Cavs for four or five more years and still had time to leave and start over.
The Cavs have shown no ability to put together a solid front office. Will owner Dan Gilbert ever hire anybody as proven as Riley to run things? If he hasn’t so far, it doesn’t seem likely.
And tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. High school-to-pro phenoms can age quickly after years of wear and tear. Look at Kevin Garnett and Moses Malone, both Hall of Fame caliber players: By 33 they looked 40.
3. LeBron should have stayed to help his hometown.
If I were 25, still lived my hometown and had never gone away to college or lived apart from my family, and somebody offered to move me to Miami … not that I don’t love my family or my hometown, but I’d be on the next bus. Wouldn’t you?
Granted, even if I could walk across Lake Erie I wouldn’t market myself with as much religious imagery as LeBron has… he shares responsibility for the trope about Saving Cleveland.
I’m not a LeBron apologist. I’ve spent time in the Cavs locker room over the years, and can definitively say that his hubris these last few weeks was not an act. But he came to the only decision he could: The Cavs are unlikely to improve with Gilbert as owner. If you want to blame someone, blame the enabler who let LeBron act like a (gifted) child, while surrounding him with sub-par personnel. Which might explain why Gilbert is shouting the loudest against LeBron.
On the flipside, Riley had the catbird seat from the very start. He had a man on the inside (Dwyane Wade), whom nobody else did. He brings stability to the Heat front office, while his competition either didn’t have long-term execs or were searching for new execs simultaneously to recruiting LeBron. Florida has no state income tax, giving the Heat flexibility in negotiations. From every angle, it would have been hard – and probably the wrong move — for LeBron to say no to Miami .
So here’s hoping that being a 25-year-old gazillionaire celebrity in South Beach works out for LeBron, and maybe teaches him a little humility. Or at least works out for him.