In Defense of Mo
by Chris Deaton / @umlikedude
This could easily be a dung-stirring post, but I won’t do it for the act’s sake. Mo Williams has a point. My eyes are closed, and I’m standing in his shoes. Trying to.
‘Bron left. He left under the most unusual of circumstances, announced his intentions in the most self-aggrandizing, heart-stabbing, patently unforgivable of ways. He was like Vinny Chase on a house hunt. He declared his selection — $6-million digs in Pacific Palisades! — on national television before a studio audience of Newport Coast schoolchildren, and also told Queens to shove an A train up its ass.
Cleveland bled tears. Championship dreams vaporized, superhero became supervillain, and the subsequent fracture — no, the chasm, the Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris — separated the once-adored native son from his roots. LeBron James’ departure from the Cavaliers was one of the ugliest events in basketball history. And it was unique.
So couldn’t the fallout be, too? George Steinbrenner was oft a loon and fired Billy Martin 98,000 times, but did he ever, “in a blaze of Comic Sans glory” (h/t Mutoni), publicly thrash the manager ten miles beyond the threshold of tasteful? Nope. Leave that brand of crazy to Dan Gilbert. Did Magic fans burn Shaq in Los Angeffigy when he westward ho’d? Of course not, because LeBron did far worse: He was the Colts leaving Baltimore in a Mayflower van at 2 a.m. He was Mola Ram ripping out hearts. Clevelanders were incalculably crushed, and no one could predict the severity of their response.
The owner, the guys grabbing a beer at Dive Bar, the die hards and bandwaggoners alike — all were going to react irrationally, because this kind of stuff is Newtonian. LeBron acted irrationally, and so the reaction would be in kind.
What excludes Mo Williams from this law?
He’s 27, a seven-year veteran, and on stats alone, a sort of emerging Mike Bibby: more of a scorer than a playmaker, and even then, not the type of prolific points-filler that carries a team. He’s a complementary piece, one who found his game in Milwaukee and his place of TempurPedic comfort in Cleveland. LeBron James’ point guard — the equivalent of John Rambo’s bodyguard, a guy whose typical job description would seem redundant in this instance.
What a life. What a chance, since there was only one LeBron to go around, and Mo had the privilege to play a supporting role. He was in a position to win, and that’s all that mattered: “You play to win games and win championships,” said by the man himself.
All of the sudden, the Cavs went from perennial contender and home of the League’s preeminent force to the 1998-99 Chicago Bulls. I don’t know how much Mo Williams personally attached himself to LeBron James, but this I do: He attached himself to the significant success and overhype LeBron James’ presence in Cleveland beckoned. Who wouldn’t have? And when the lights go out that quickly — not a graceful fade, but a pull of the plug and an axe to the wire for good measure — the lessers’ hopes are lost in the dark.
Just consider this utterance about the whole ordeal: “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Present tense — ouch. He still hasn’t figured it out. And though posters like Eboy have a point — “… wouldn’t you want to try and take the mantle of being ‘The Man’ for your team[?],” or more broadly, carpe diem — Mo doesn’t have it in him: right now, the heart, and forever, the skill.
“I was happy with my role,” he said. “Everybody can’t be the star.” In most any other circumstance, we’d be lauding such an admission, because too much we’re compelled to berate players for selfishness. Mo Williams, via the heart on his sleeve, isn’t one of those guys.
And unless he finds his way to Durant’s, Kobe’s or LBJ’s side once more, his niche is gone. He tasted the good life, and the good life intoxicated him. The opportunity of a lifetime vanished abruptly, cruelly — in his late-twenties, right when he hit his stride.
No one should make an excuse for a whiner, and Mo Williams is, no doubt, in the midst of a pouty fit. But here I am, eyes closed, standing in his shoes — trying to. And if I had been spoiled to think that winning 60 games, playing nightly before sellout crowds, attracting a national audience, sidekicking to LeBron James was my birthright, and all was taken from me in a whirlwind of betrayal and cold business, yeah, I’d be pissed and “lost” and all that Miles Davis, too.
So I’ll cut Mo a break. For six more days.