Think Before You Speak

by July 12, 2010

by Jeremy Bauman

“This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up and become.”

Dan Gilbert, Majority Owner

Cleveland Cavaliers

Well Mr. Gilbert, since you have probably been busy with your business at Quicken Loans Inc. and Rock Financial, let me be the one to tell you that for you to make this inconceivable statement about LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers, you need to be familiar with how grassroots basketball works these days in America.

You see Mr. Gilbert, AAU organizations and prep schools all over the country recruit and pluck talent from both the area that they are based in and anywhere else that they can get the best possible players to join them for a tournament, a season, or a high school career. This works for both parties involved: the kid gets seen by potential suitors, and the team gets the added talent that they might not be able to find in the region they are based in. Also, if it is a prep school situation, the kid could be shifting his whole life to a place that could give him the best shot at success.

One tournament that I know of—IS8 in Queens, New York—has seen players fly in from all over the country to participate in maybe just one or two games on a single weekend. Furthermore, they might even be playing with teammates that they have never played with before. The goal is to put the best talent on the floor to create an entertaining brand of basketball and to hopefully win the game.

And where does this concept tie into the astonishing comment—the only comment that I will dissect in this particular piece—made by the man who had been making great money off of Ohio’s former King?

In AAU these days it is possible for the best players to end up together to win on the summer circuit or in prep school, which is something that isn’t so different than what LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade just pulled on the rest of the NBA. They just happened to do it at the highest level imaginable. And it could turn out to be a genius move for all we know—all of them (including the maestro Pat Riley) could turn this into something special that we have never seen before.

And, Mr. Gilbert, it’s not something that we want our children to do? Please! Kids are fed into systems that require top tier talent to compete at a young age! Some of the prep schools that I speak of have the talent to beat some lower level Division I teams because they scour the entire country to come away with the best talent possible. Kids should be learning at younger and younger ages that they need to have talent around them to be successful. In the NBA you need to have the best talent around you to be successful in a place that you are comfortable doing so. Mr. Gilbert, LBJ was totally at liberty to his opinion that winning and comfort will happen in South Beach for the Miami Heat.

The manner that he announced “The Decision” was not the most professional or appropriate, I will agree with you there. But it was his choice to either stay or go—and he will live with the weight of his choice for the rest of his life.

Give credit to LeBron, who learned at a young age that to get noticed, you have to win—exactly what happened when he began playing with the cross-country Oakland Soldiers after his freshman year in high school and subsequently ended up ranked as the number one player in the country.

LeBron leaving wasn’t a “shocking act of disloyalty” but rather could be attributed to a lesson that he may have learned at a young age. It happened by chance that he even got to play in his hometown for seven fun-filled years and I’m sure that he truly did not want to pack his things up and leave. I respect him for making the choice to leave; it takes balls to make that kind of decision knowing that you might be the most hated man in your hometown since Art Modell.

‘Bron has shown amazing vision on the court in his short but electrifying career thus far. I think he sees something that many other people refuse to see. He sees that he will be able to show off the natural intangibles—blocking shots from the weak side more, making the extra pass more, leading the break and finding teammates more—because he won’t have to worry about shouldering the scoring load each and every night. As Chris Deaton stated in his recent article, LBJ can now use his “unique skills to the max.” LeBron knows that he wouldn’t have been capable of running through the Bulls and Heat year after year had he stayed put in Cleveland. He knows that he will be better off creating plays for other fantastic players who will make life easier on him and potentially allow him to win ring after ring in a spot where he can live his own dream.

If you’re still not soaked in your tears of anger, isn’t that what this game called life is about Mr. Gilbert?

***Note: As I finished this article up at midnight while watching the NBA Summer League last night, I heard Kevin McHale say “I don’t know if it’s the AAU influence or not but maybe players are realizing that they can’t win on their own and they need to be around other great players to win,” when talking about the Miami Heat scenario.