The ‘Disappointing’ Decision
The Commish comments on the past two outrageous weeks…
Through it all, I held out hope that LeBron would either choose staying home, bearing the risk that’d he’d either go down as a Cleveland Hero or Cleveland Matyr or go Chi-town and LEAD a loaded squad to several titles. To me, those were the two most compelling and admirable decisions. When Bron chose Miami — even though I already knew it was coming — I was disappointed. I even kinda stewed for a while. That disappointment, however, quickly started morphing to anticipation. I even e-mailed some friends that, by Christmas, I might even be passively rooting for this squad, if they’re razing the League. It’s basically like, “OK, Bron, you made your decision. Now, let’s see how this goes down.”
In the meantime, let me offer some punctuation to what has been an outrageous two weeks that will reverberate in the NBA — and sports, really — for generations.
“THE DECISION” SPECIAL: I didn’t begrudge LeBron anything throughout most of the free agency process. The mixed-signals, the downtown Cleveland meetings — nothing. About the only thing that somewhat struck an off chord with me was Bron rocking sweatpants to a meeting with Miami brass, but that was just trivial “optics” stuff.
The hour-long, nationally televised, primetime ESPN special — “The Decision” — was, point blank, egregious. For the life of me, I can’t fathom why LeBron thought that was a good idea. The two things that would get him the most criticism — 1) Leaving Cleveland; 2) Hopping on a championship train in Miami — he chose to announce in a special that, before it even aired, was viewed as quintessentially self-indulgent.
Why not make the announcement during SportsCenter? Or why not leak news early in the day and then set up a 15-minute interview on SportsCenter? Why block out an hour of primetime television and make us sit through 20 minutes of preamble drivel, only to broadcast a decision that the majority of viewing public would deride?
The whole ordeal was in line with how I perceive LeBron to be somewhat clueless. People always talk about how LeBron is so self-aware. And he is, to an extent. He’s aware of his celebrity, aware of his earning-potential, aware of a lot of things. He is not three-dimensionally self-aware, though. LeBron, because he is self-involved, is not always aware of how his behavior is perceived by others. That’s why he can walk off courts without congratulating his opponents at the end of his season and why he would initiate “The Decision” even though it would inevitably transform him in to a national pariah.
DAN GILBERT AND THE CAVS FANS: Moments after LeBron’s announcement, extra-angry and scorned Cavs fans started burning his jerseys and T-shirts. I think that’s wrong and melodramatic, but that’s about it. Dan Gilbert on the other hand? The open-letter he penned to the Cavs fans was so full of classless, bush-league, unprofessional, deranged, delusional, spiteful bile and invective that, even now, after the Cavs organization has confirmed its authenticity, I still think it could be a hoax. This man, the owner of a professional franchise, called his former employee — that simply made a decision, well within his right, to leave — a coward, a traitor, a bad example for children, a narcissist and, in telling him he had to “die” to get to heaven, a front-running sissy. Even if you agree with him — which would make you deranged, as well — you can’t agree with his tact.
And here are some biggies…
How dare you, Dan Gilbert? Last month, Patrick Rishe wrote this piece for Forbes. It included this paragraph. “Dan Gilbert bought the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005 at $375 million. Their current estimated value is $476 million, and the team’s operating profits for the last five seasons have been $16, $24, $32, $13 and $5 million.”
Gilbert has paid LeBron about $55 million in salary. In that time, his franchise’s worth has appreciated $100 million and he’s seen about $90 million in operating profits during a period when so many teams have struggled to even break even. You owe LeBron, you d-bag — not vice-versa. LeBron was Gilbert’s employee, not his slave or indentured servant. This is 2010, not 1810. The audacity of that moron to rail on LeBron, as if it is LeBron that is somehow ungrateful, is almost unbelievable.
And then there’s this: Forget that the Cavs organization was one that was rumored to have turned a blind eye and stayed mum about some allegedly untoward things going on between one of LeBron’s teammates and a member of his family. Forget that. Yesterday, I tweeted a question. I asked why on earth would LeBron want to return to a team owned by a man capable of that vindictive, small, appalling letter? Exactly. Blame Gilbert for LeBron’s departure, Cavs fans.
And one more thing. People are castigating LeBron for not phoning Gilbert and informing him and the organization of his plans before the televised announcement. Well in the 10 minutes between LeBron hanging up and him announcing, you can bet Gilbert would have leaked the announcement out of spite. So, I feel LeBron’s secrecy.
Ultimately, Gilbert is on the same level as Marge Schott, so he can kick rocks.
(Random aside: Both in his physical resemblance, temperament and vengeance-quest, Gilbert reminds me of Syndrome from “The Incredibles.” Check the Tube clip…)
LEBRON THE VILLAIN: Between Cavs, Knicks, Nets and Bulls fans and their sympathizers, LeBron has suddenly become somewhat of a villain. But, I don’t think it’ll last because LeBron won’t embrace that roll the way Kobe has or Reggie Miller did.
I feel like we’ll see him in two roles…
The Hitman: DWade handles the offense-orchestration while LeBron plays off the ball and is unleashed to averaged 30-35 ppg and devour the best perimeter scorer. Their statlines will look like this: Wade (20-22 ppg, 7-8 apg, tied for 4th (with LeBron) in MVP race), LeBron (30-35 ppg, 4-6 apg, 8-10 rpg, Defensive Player of the Year).
The Funny Cop: DWade plays the straight man, the responsible cop and LeBron is the magnetic, affable cop. He’s the “Rush Hour” Chis Tucker, the “Beverly Hills Cop” Eddie Murphy. They’re going to perfect this routine. We’ll see it all spring at Playoff podiums for the next five years. Trust me, they’ll be at those podiums together.
WHAT THE MIAMI DECISION MEANS: Last week, I wrote why I thought a LeBron-Wade team-up was “A Bad Idea.” Now that it’s no longer an “idea,” I’ll tell you why “The Decision” was disappointing.
People who defend LeBron’s decision have noted that he’s done “what we always say we want athletes to do: be about winning, not money.” Negative. If LeBron went to Chicago, he’d have left the same $30 million on the table for a shot at multiple titles. In fact, Chicago’s full roster will probably always be better than Miami’s. Put it like this: Derrick Rose, on some nights, is almost as good as DWade; Carlos Boozer is, on many nights, just as good as good and productive as Chris Bosh; and Miami has no chance to attract role players the caliber of Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, no youngster as promising as Taj Gibson. There’s no way that, at the start of the season, Miami’s 8-man rotation will be as good as Chicago’s 8-man rotation would have been with LeBron.