“I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”
Unfortunately, fans of our generation will forever cringe when hearing those words. They reflect a hometown star with divine talent sacrificing his path for glory and greatness for a chance to play with his buddies in Miami. His poor, disrespectful choice of words was poked fun at from all forms of media ranging South Park to the View.
But now, months removed from the offseason-that-went-wrong, instead of emotionally chastising the greatest physical specimen of our era, let’s use a little bit of hindsight vision to dissect his decision.
51 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists. These were Lebron’s stats last night in a win against Orlando. Contrary to popular belief, his statistics have not dipped considerably. He’s averaging over 26, 7, and 7. Last season, as an MVP, he was averaging 29, 8, and 7. In terms of the statistical discussion that analysts love to overhype, Lebron’s choice to bolt from Cleveland will not cripple him when comparing him to other legends. In fact, I argue that the short loss of production will actually add to the longevity of his career, thus allowing him to record outlandish stats for a longer period of time.
8 wins, 41 losses. They suck. The Cavs are the worst team in the NBA by far, and they don’t have the talent to at least have hope. I completely agree that Lebron’s actions were part of the reason that he had no legitimate supporting talent. No free agents would ever consider living in Cleveland if Lebron would walk around in a Yankees cap, tell the media he’s considering leaving, and call Barkley “stupid” for holding Cleveland fans hostage on the contract issue. But the lack of talent around him was in no way primarily his fault. It was Gilbert’s, Brown’s, and Ferry’s. You have an arrogant kid as your star; at some point, an iron fist will lead more to his success than a gentle touch. By allowing Lebron to say whatever he wanted to the media, give into his “win now” demands, and make purely bad basketball personnel decisions, they destroyed their chances for a championship. The team they built around him will have more than 40 losses than it did with just one extra guy. Why would Lebron continue dismantling his own body for a garbage team?
Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol, Bynum/Odom. Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins/Shaq. These two teams provide his greatest competition. How could he beat teams this deep without at least two other stars? Even with his team now, nobody is crystal clear if they’ll make the Finals because of Boston. Yet for some reason, fans who blasted his move to Miami, seriously believe that he could have beat the Celtics and the Lakers with the addition of solely Bosh in Cleveland. If you don’t think he’ll beat a 4-all-star Boston team with two superstars and a great supporting cast, how was he supposed to get past Boston with Bosh and a cast that goes 8-41 alone?
Lastly, Lebron’s change in demeanor resonates the most with me. There’s no more dancing, singing, and giggling on the sideline. Of course he says things that you wouldn’t ever consider a legend saying, like complaining that he’s playing too many minutes after a home game against the Celtics. However, he’s finally playing with a chip on his shoulder. I recently had this discussion with D. Mase: Lebron actually has to play to win himself into positive light for the first time in his career. Almost every other superstar has to win a championship to be considered a legend. Just ask Dirk and Nash. Lebron was crowned King without the jewelry because of his immense talent. Now that he’s finally out of the spotlight, he feels compelled and determined to win to grasp the attention he craves once again. His play is not about having fun anymore; it’s about reestablishing his legacy.
In truth, I’ve always been disgusted by Lebron James. I never thought he had the psyche of a legend even though on the court he has the myriad of skills of a Renaissance Man. Moreover, his nationally televised “Decision” was one of the dumbest-image-killing-moves of any player’s career. But I can’t fault him for leaving for Miami. Nobody questioned the stars on Boston for coming together after their annual playoff failures (Garnett won only 2 series as the star for the Twolves, Allen never won a series in the Western Conference). Yet, we hold Lebron accountable for destroying the dreams of Cleveland fans.
And as much as the old school NBA fan hates to admit it, if he wins the 2+ championships with Miami he’s projected to win, nobody will even care about his decision outside of Ohio when defining his legacy 20 years from now. But if he never won a championship in Cleveland despite his gaudy statistics? He’d be a Dan Marino or Ted Williams. Guys that we will always respect, but unfortunately never associate with the title of Greatest Ever.