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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What Have We Learned During "LeBron-a-Palooza"?

Our long national nightmare is almost over; LeBron James and his infamous "team" have successfully commandeered the airwaves at ESPN to use a one hour time slot starting at 9 p.m. to announce which franchise will have the privilege of paying James tens of millions of dollars in the hope that in his spare time when he is not becoming a "global icon" that he may finally win an NBA championship.

My newest CavsNews.com article examines how James has orchestrated this three ring circus and explains what his Thursday announcement will reveal about his true priorities (7/10/15 edit: the link to CavsNews.com no longer works, so I have posted the original article below):

Until the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinal series between Boston and Cleveland, I had always been very impressed not only with LeBron James' obvious athletic gifts but also with his work ethic and the way that he seemed to be mature beyond his years. James seemed to "get it": James avoided off court trouble, did not disrespect his coaches and teammates and he worked very hard to improve his main skill set weaknesses (defense, perimeter shooting, free throw shooting). James evolved from an All-Star to one of the league's five best players to someone who was almost Kobe Bryant's equal to someone who surpassed Bryant in terms of regular season productivity/consistency.

My perception of James shifted after game two of the Boston series: the Cavs lost 104-86 at home and James looked lifeless for most of the contest, though he made his boxscore numbers somewhat respectable with a late scoring burst during garbage time. Anyone can have a bad game, but things really got weird during the postgame press conferences when Coach Mike Brown came out ranting, raving and (literally) cussing about how poor the team's effort was only to have James follow him to the podium and act as if nothing was wrong. In my game recap I wrote:

Are Brown and James playing "good cop, bad cop" with the other Cavs? Or is Brown’s message about the team’s lack of intensity simply not resonating with James and the other players? We will not know the answer to that question until we see what happens in game three. It is incumbent on James to not only put up big numbers in that contest but to also play with a sense of commitment and intensity that commands/inspires his teammates to likewise display energy, focus and passion. Kobe Bryant is often criticized for harshly calling out his teammates but his leadership style has a proven track record of success: three championships won alongside O’Neal (when Bryant’s burning desire and work ethic provided a necessary contrast to O’Neal’s more laid-back approach) plus a Finals appearance in 2008 and a championship in 2009. If the combination of James’ calm demeanor and Brown’s demonstrable anger drives the Cavs to victory in game three then that is all good–but if the Cavs do not respond appropriately then there will be reason to question if James’ casual response to the game two loss struck the right tone.

James and the Cavs bounced back in game three but that only proved to be a temporary reprieve that was soon followed by a horrifically passive effort by James in game five; James simply quit during that pivotal contest and there is no other way to put it: this has nothing to do with numbers (though his numbers were terrible, too) and everything to do with the total disinterest that he displayed, simply giving up the ball and standing so far away from the hoop that he did not even represent a viable threat. Though James put up better numbers and seemed to try a little harder in game six, that contest ended disgracefully as the Cleveland players literally quit en masse with the outcome still potentially up for grabs: when no Cav bothered to commit a foul to force the Celtics to make free throws to ice the game, ESPN's Mark Jackson declared with disgust, "This smells to me of quitting. You’ve given up." I cannot ever recall seeing a team just throw in the towel near the end of an elimination game if the remotest possibility of victory still existed--but James set the tone in game five and everyone else followed his lead after that.

Despite all of the talk about James' mystery elbow ailment, MRI tests revealed nothing more than a bruise and there is no indication that James required any special treatment after the Cavs' season prematurely ended; throughout the Boston series, James was tossing half court shots before games with his "bad" elbow, so it is hard to believe that he was experiencing a serious problem.

What do the preceding paragraphs have to do with James' much anticipated upcoming announcement? Prior to the Boston series, I believed that James was very focused on winning multiple championships and I did not see any advantage that he could gain by leaving his hometown team that could pay him more than any other team and that had an owner who is willing to spend a lot of money, a general manager who continually upgraded the roster's talent/depth and a defensive-minded coach who had guided the team to the 2007 NBA Finals plus the best regular season record in 2009 and 2010. Even though James clearly has always loved attention and craved the idea of being courted by various franchises, I had always thought that for all of the above reasons he would re-sign with the Cavs and I repeatedly said that I thought that James would be foolish to become Captain of the Gotham Titanic, the destination that so many broadcasters/journalists assumed/hoped that James would select.

After the Boston series, the Cavs made Coach Mike Brown and–to a lesser extent–General Manager Danny Ferry the fall guys for the team's failure to win a championship. James has no right to be disappointed with the quality of the team's roster: it is known that he gave at least tacit approval to the various transactions that Ferry made and it is also obvious that Ferry had a figurative gun to his head precisely because James did not sign a long term deal in order to create this free agency frenzy this summer; Ferry had to try to put together a championship caliber team on the fly instead of having the freedom to develop young players who could assume larger roles over time. Ferry did a remarkably good job of continuing to upgrade the roster despite the deadline looming over his head.

Many people had assumed that none of the major free agent dominoes would fall into place until James announced his decision but James will actually be among the last of the top tier players to act because Amare Stoudemire has already agreed to sign with the New York Knicks and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be teaming up as members of the Miami Heat. Wade and Bosh have both publicly said that they are willing to sacrifice because their primary goal is to win multiple championships; Bosh may be giving up $30 million or so to go to Miami if Toronto does not agree to a sign and trade deal and both players may end up reducing their scoring averages. Meanwhile, Stoudemire is clearly trying to recruit James to come to New York and Stoudemire is boasting that next summer he will be able to entice other star players--most notably Tony Parker--to join the Knicks.

James has been conspicuously tightlipped about what his ultimate goals are and/or what he would be willing to sacrifice to obtain those goals but it is fascinating to consider what his decision will say about him. The first and most obvious point regarding all of these players is that it is difficult to take seriously any statement suggesting that winning is the top priority: if that were the case, then each of these guys would have been lining up to sign with the Lakers for the mid-level exception. The Lakers have been to the Finals three straight times and won back to back championships, so the addition of any top tier guy would significantly boost the team's overall talent and depth, but the reality is that all of these guys want to make max money or as close to it as possible.

New Jersey Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov offered an insightful take after meeting with James; Prokhorov speculated that James will not join Wade and Bosh in Miami because even though the Heat could win two or three titles in that scenario it would "damage LeBron James' brand" to win championships as part of such a powerful trio. Basically, Prokhorov is saying that James would rather win fewer or nochampionships than to possibly be surrounded by so much talent that his greatness will not be endlessly praised, as if Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are somehow diminished because they each played with multiple Hall of Famers.

By the way, I am not convinced that Wade and Bosh--or even James, Wade and Bosh--will automatically make Miami the best team in the East, let alone the NBA. Championship teams generally need not only two legitimate stars but they also must have a supporting cast of solid role players; the Lakers have little bench strength other than inconsistent quasi-starter Lamar Odom but their starting lineup includes two All-Stars (Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol) plus a former All-Star/Defensive Player of the Year (Ron Artest), a solid center (Andrew Bynum) and a wily, clutch veteran point guard (Derek Fisher). Miami's plan, at least for next season, appears to be to surround two or three stars with a bunch of minimum wage (by NBA standards) players--and that formula may be good enough to win 55 games and a couple playoff series but it will not work against championship level teams like the Lakers, Celtics and Magic (or even the Cavaliers if James stays put).

Here are James' most likely options and what each choice would reveal about James' mindset:

5) New York Knicks: Even with the Stoudemire signing it still does not make much sense for James to go to New York if his number one goal is winning. The Knicks have absolutely no depth, plus Stoudemire is not legitimately a max level talent and there is a very real risk that the injuries to Stoudemire's knees and/or eyes will curtail his effectiveness in the near future (that is why the Phoenix Suns did not want to give him max money even though he played so well down the stretch last season). Also, Coach Mike D'Antoni's preferred style of high octane offense combined with tepid defense is not a championship winning methodology. If James goes to New York then he is choosing glitz, glamour and what he perceives to be potential marketing opportunities over winning.

4) New Jersey Nets: The Nets had the league's worst record last season, so even though they hired an excellent coach (Avery Johnson) and even though their talent base is not quite as bad as their putrid record suggests they still are clearly not a championship caliber team even if James comes aboard. Prokhorov has vowed to make the Nets into a championship team within five years and many people are wowed by his huge personal fortune but it is important to remember that he amassed his money in Russia by buying assets at depreciated prices in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union--essentially, he profited from insider deals because he formed alliances with powerful members of the government. It is far from certain that the "talents" Prokhorov used to become a billionaire are applicable toward building an NBA championship team. If James signs with the Nets then he is saying that his top priority is to leverage Prokhorov and Jay Z's visibility to become a "global icon."

3) Chicago Bulls: The Bulls already have a nice nucleus in place with Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer (who has said that he will sign with Chicago), Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. New Coach Tom Thibodeau is a highly regarded defensive-minded assistant coach who helped the Celtics to win the 2008 title and reach the 2010 NBA Finals but he has never held a head coaching job at the NBA level. Adding James would clearly make the Bulls one of the top four teams in the East but it is doubtful that the Bulls could beat the Celtics or Magic in a seven game playoff series if those teams are at full strength. Chicago is a more likely destination for James than New York or New Jersey if James' top priority is winning but Chicago will not have the raw talent of the Bosh/Wade duo or the deep roster that has propelled the Cavs to 60-plus wins for two straight seasons.

2) Miami Heat: The Heat offer more star power than any of the other options: Wade and Bosh are in place on the court, while Pat Riley is in the front office (and could very well decide to take over the coaching reigns, just as he did when Wade and Shaquille O'Neal led the Heat to the 2006 championship). If they team up, James, Wade and Bosh will surely say all of the right things about sacrificing and working together but when things get tough who will want the ball in the clutch and who will get it? It is obviously tempting for James to go to Miami to play alongside Wade and Bosh but I think that he should reject that option not because of Prokhorov's reasoning about "LeBron James' brand" but because it is not clear how the Heat will fill out their roster; if James returns to Cleveland the Cavs will once again be top level championship contenders even if owner Dan Gilbert does not further upgrade the roster--and there is every reason to believe that the Cavs will find a way to add some more veteran talent to help James. If James goes to Miami this will indicate that he believes that three stars can essentially win a championship by themselves.

1) Cleveland Cavaliers: It has become fashionable in some quarters to act as if James has had no help in Cleveland but the Cavs had enough talent to post the league's best record the past two seasons while ranking among the league leaders in point differential, defensive field goal percentage and rebounding--clear indications that the team was well coached and had sufficient depth to execute the coach's game plan. If James is really concerned about his legacy as a great player--as opposed to his ability to market himself or become a "global icon"--then he should stay in Cleveland. Even winning "just" one championship in Cleveland will say a lot about James' talent and character.

Byron Scott is not necessarily an upgrade over the fired Brown but Scott is clearly a very good coach who knows how to lead teams to the NBA Finals: the ironic thing about Scott is that other than his credentials as an NBA player his resume is eerily similar to Brown's: the beat writers in their respective cities asserted that their offenses were largely run by their assistants (John Kuester in Cleveland, Eddie Jordan in New Jersey), they led teams to the NBA Finals but did not win and their tenures ended when it seemed like their teams had quit (Scott's Hornets were blown out by the Nuggets in the 2009 playoffs by even worse margins than Brown's Cavs lost to the Celtics last season). Nevertheless, I think that both Brown and Scott have been wrongly criticized and that Scott is a good enough coach to win a championship provided that he has a championship caliber roster. If James remains a Cav then Shaquille O'Neal--one of the few centers who has the size to guard Dwight Howard one on one--will likely also come back and the team will have several veteran, playoff tested All-Stars (James, O'Neal, Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams and possibly even Zydrunas Ilgauskas). Assuming that Scott maintains the defensive focus that Brown established the Cavs would once again be a 60-plus win team that likely would earn homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. In that scenario, the Cavs should resist the temptation to make wholesale changes the way that they did in the past few seasons and instead simply try to develop more chemistry with their current roster; O'Neal and Jamison hardly had the chance to play together before the Cavs faced the Celtics in the playoffs.

LeBron James has proven many things:

1) He can post numbers that make "stat gurus" drool all over their spreadsheets.
2) He has a unique combination of athletic talent, basketball skill set and high level conditioning that enables him to be a dominant performer throughout the course of the grueling 82 game season.
3) When he feels like it, he can perform at a very high level during postseason play.
4) He has an insatiable desire for attention and praise.
5) He can cause wealthy, famous, accomplished people to figuratively–if not literally–grovel at his feet.

However, LeBron James has not proven one thing that is more important and more substantive than all of these things put together: he has not proven that winning a championship is his all-consuming goal. This is not about whether or not James is capable of being the best player on a championship team: he clearly possesses all of the necessary athletic gifts and basketball skills to do so. The unanswered question is whether or not James is consumed by winning the way that Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were and the way that Kobe Bryant is.

LeBron James and the Cavs developed elaborate pre-game dance routines but we have seen that all of the togetherness that this supposedly represented proved to be meaningless in terms of winning a championship: championships are won by teams with serious-minded, focused leaders. James has had his fun by dominating the airwaves with all of this free agency hoopla but that was just the "pre-game dance routine" for the rest of his career: after he makes his announcement on Thursday he must get down to the hard business of leading a team to a championship. If he fails to do so then his reputation in the minds of serious, knowledgeable basketball observers will never match the ranking that he receives from the "stat gurus."

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:50 PM



At Thursday, July 08, 2010 3:31:00 AM, Anonymous Yogi said...

Another great, lucid article.

If I was LeBron I'd stay in Cleveland. He can sign for another 3 years and if things don't work out he'll be able to do something else in another 3 years. I think the Cleveland roster deserves another chance to win and no potential team is better right now.

But, I'm betting that His Royal Basketball Highness will move to Gotham, as you put it.

In other words - we are about to learn what I suspected all along - Lebron is a douchebag.

At Thursday, July 08, 2010 5:50:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David F
Why is Lebron not realizing that by him not committing in Clevland long term, no top free agents in their right mind would come to cleveland.

If Lebron truly wanted to win and be the undisputed leader, he'll go to Chicago.

At Thursday, July 08, 2010 8:28:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

Why didn't Cleveland trade for Stoudemire instead of Jamison? At the least, this would've given Cleveland a better chance to win the 2010 title. And then Stoudemire would've had a tough time leaving Cleveland as a free agent if James re-signed.

In any case, if James returns to Cleveland, they will still have a great team that could very conceivably win a title.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 1:45:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I don't know how you can dispute Prokhorov's claim that LeBron's "brand" will be damaged by joining Wade and Bosh in Miami. You wrote "as if Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are somehow diminished because they each played with multiple Hall of Famers." While Johnson and Bird are not discredited as much as a modern player in a similar situation would be, their accomplishments are still dismissed somewhat by today's analysts due to their supporting casts. Aside from counting championship rings, the most common argument I've heard people make when they assert Jordan was better than Johnson or Bird is that the latter two had a lot more help. We recently discussed Jerry West's opinion of Kobe being the greatest Laker, which was based partially on Magic having played with better teammates than Kobe.

Kobe himself is another player whose accomplishments have been downgraded. For years, we saw people devalue Kobe's first three championships because he won them while playing with Shaq. Such talk has momentarily died down. However, I guarantee you that if Kobe ends up with six or seven rings, the Michael Jordan Fan Club will go on and on about how Kobe's first three rings don't "count" as much.

While I personally do not agree that a player should be diminished for having played with good teammates, it is undeniable that many basketball fans feel otherwise.

Anyway, there is also a crucial difference between LeBron going to Miami and players like Magic and Bird who had great teammates. Magic and Bird stayed with the teams that drafted them and it just so happened that those teams had (and continued to add) great talent. On the other hand, LeBron went to a new team (what simpled minded folks call "Dwyane Wade's team") in search of talent. LeBron will be portrayed as someone who didn't want the challenge of doing things "himself" (as if any player does things himself in a team sport, but that's another story). He will be portrayed as a coward who took the easy way out and didn't have what it took to be "the man."

People constantly talk about how winning is the most important thing. In judging individual players however, they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want players who not only win, but who appear to do so with minimal help.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 1:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Lebron chose Miami. Breaks Cleveland's heart on national T.V. I'm a Lakers fan but this . . . this is wrong. This turns my stomach.

We MUST have your thoughts on this David.

The level of backlash is STUNNING. Basically, outside of Miami, it is almost as if all of NBA fandom has joined in both commiseration with the poor fans of Cleveland and hatred for Lebron.

To use a ONE HOUR nationally televised LIVE show to basically insult your own city and fans and abandon them, that is unforgivable.

I think regardless of what he winds up doing in the future, his legacy has now truly been forever tainted. From basically just giving up on his team in the Celtics series to the self-promotion of the offseason and now this.

I thought Tiger Woods' fall from grace couldn't be greater but somehow Lebron has figured out how to match it . . . and WITHOUT the 14 mistresses!! This is stunning.


At Friday, July 09, 2010 2:14:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

With LeBron's decision to join Miami, I think it's fair to say LeBron was sincere when he said that winning was the most important factor in his decision.

I agree with you that LeBron could have won a championship with Cleveland in the near future. I think Byron Scott is an excellent coach, and few minor tweaks would have given the Cavs what they needed to get over the hump.

It is debatable whether or not LeBron would have had a better chance of winning multiple titles in Cleveland than in Miami. Obviously the Heat face a lot of challenges. Egos must be handled, and they have to figure out how to play together. Also, Miami lacks the solid role players it needs. I agree with you that they might not even make it out of the East next season.

However, a guy like LeBron having an opportunity to play with an MVP caliber player and a perennial All-Star is not something that happens too often. The Heat may not have the right role players this moment, but they can be acquired. If not in the coming weeks, then maybe next summer. The point is, the Heat are set up to contend for at least the next five years. Adding role players is much easier than adding stars. LeBron probably felt frustrated coming close but ultimately short for so many years, and he probably felt there was a better chance of Miami eventually adding the right complementary pieces than there was of either the Cavs getting over the hump as currently constructed or of the Cavs adding a star player.

It is difficult to say what the better choice would have been for LeBron. However, Cleveland and Miami were the only two choices that really made sense to me if winning was his priority, and he chose one of those teams.

Finally, I just want to say that I think Dan Gilbert went a bit too far in his harsh criticism of LeBron. I understand that sports fans are loyal to certain teams and that it hurts when players do not seem to exhibit the same loyalty. On the other hand, as people often say these days, it's a business. It's tough to portray players as being selfish, unloyal villains for leaving certain teams when there are dozens of examples of teams casting aside players when it is convenient for them to do so.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 10:06:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bhel Atlantic:

My understanding is that the proposed Amare trade was vetoed by Phx owner Robert Sarver, not the Cavs.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 10:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that the whole business about "whose" team it is when a team wins a championship is somewhat overrated. Were the 1980 Lakers Kareem's team or Magic's team? Kareem won the regular season MVP, then he got hurt during the Finals and Magic won the Finals MVP.

If the Heat win a championship with LeBron and Wade playing at an All-NBA level then they both deserve as much credit as Shaq and Kobe both deserve for winning titles while playing at an All-NBA level (I am assuming that Bosh will clearly be the third option).

Just because LeBron has conducted himself without class off of the court I am not going to suddenly change how I evaluate players. I had countless arguments with people here over the years about how much Kobe's rings with Shaq "should count" and I always said that Kobe played at an All-NBA level at that time so Kobe's rings "should count" for a lot.

Obviously, when comparing players' legacies some weight should be given to what kind of help they had but I am assuming that if the Heat win a title then LeBron will have made a major contribution.

The larger issue here that I think some people are slowly beginning to understand is why I have been hesitant all along to say that LeBron is far superior to Kobe; Kobe's skill set is more complete and he is more savvy in terms of what it takes to beat elite teams but LeBron has refined his skill set and he is more durable and more physically imposing now. I thought that Kobe was the best player in the NBA for the first month and a half of last season but that LeBron had a better overall regular season after injuries slowed Kobe down. Then, during the playoffs, we saw Kobe rise to the occasion repeatedly while LeBron quit. There is a backlash now against LeBron because of his narcissism but instead of overreacting people should simply realize that the happy medium that I have been describing all along is in fact correct.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 10:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with you that LeBron's decision to go to Miami can be much more easily justified on the basis of winning than if LeBron had chosen N.Y. or N.J.

However, I also think that the Cavs would have remained a serious title contender this season if LeBron had re-signed.

Talking about multiple titles for LeBron in either locale is looking too far into the future. Let's see him win one title and then we can talk about his chances of winning more than one; after this year's debacle versus Boston it is reasonable to ask just how much help LeBron really needs to win a title, because he had a very good supporting cast this time around but he set the tone for failure by not trying hard all of the time.

Gilbert's remarks were certainly harsh but I think he was right on target and he made it clear that he objected not so much to LeBron leaving but rather how LeBron handled the entire process. After Gilbert spent so much money to get over the salary cap to try to put together a winning team before LeBron became a free agent LeBron could have at least given Gilbert a phone call before blabbing on air to Jim Gray and Gray's ESPN cohorts.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 4:39:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

You wrote:

"I think that the whole business about "whose" team it is when a team wins a championship is somewhat overrated. Were the 1980 Lakers Kareem's team or Magic's team? Kareem won the regular season MVP, then he got hurt during the Finals and Magic won the Finals MVP.

If the Heat win a championship with LeBron and Wade playing at an All-NBA level then they both deserve as much credit as Shaq and Kobe both deserve for winning titles while playing at an All-NBA level (I am assuming that Bosh will clearly be the third option).

Just because LeBron has conducted himself without class off of the court I am not going to suddenly change how I evaluate players. I had countless arguments with people here over the years about how much Kobe's rings with Shaq "should count" and I always said that Kobe played at an All-NBA level at that time so Kobe's rings "should count" for a lot.

Obviously, when comparing players' legacies some weight should be given to what kind of help they had but I am assuming that if the Heat win a title then LeBron will have made a major contribution."

I agree with you on all of the above. However, I was not trying to argue that LeBron's future accomplishments SHOULD be diminished by him joining the Heat, but rather that they would be diminished in the eyes of a very large number of basketball fans. I think you and I are in the minority on this issue. There are all of the examples that I cited in a previous post. Also, since LeBron's announcement, numerous people have argued that LeBron took the easy way out, that he doesn't have it in him to be "the man," and that his "legacy" and "brand" will be permanently damaged. Unfortunately, things such as "legacy" and "brand" are not determined by reasonable people using sound logic but rather by the opinions of the masses. If LeBron is portrayed as having copped out over and over (as he will be), and if enough people buy it, it doesn't matter whether or not his legacy SHOULD be diminished. What will matter is the prevailing opinion.

At Friday, July 09, 2010 5:02:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

I totally agree that LeBron could have won had he stayed in Cleveland.

I think he should be given a little credit in his choice of Miami. Many people said he was too egotistical and concerned about his "brand" to go there. I'm not saying he doesn't have a huge ego (he obviously does), but going to Miami does say something about his priorities.

If LeBron wanted to swing for the fences in terms of his "brand" and his "legacy," New York would have made the most sense. Everything that happens there is magnified. Patrick Ewing and a cast of overachieving journeymen were built up as credible rivals to the Bulls. In what other city would a John Starks dunk in a series which was eventually lost go down as such a celebrated moment? Combine a huge media market with sophisticated basketball fans starving for a successful team, and LeBron could have gone down as a larger-than-life figure.

I completely agree with people who were disgusted by LeBron's decision to announce his choice on a one-hour ESPN special. When I heard that was his plan, I thought it basically meant he would stay in Cleveland. To leave in such a way would appear totally classless. I didn't think LeBron and his "team" were so naive.

Gilbert made some valid points, but let's not act like he is free of blame. Many reports depict him as an enabler who was a big part of the problem. I agree with people who say something strange was going on in Game 5 against Boston. But for Gilbert to assert that LeBron "quit" an all of the games he mentioned is a little ridiculous. The whole notion of a player "quitting" is getting out of hand. Does any loss in which LeBron takes less than 30 shots count as quitting now?

I don't think LeBron did a great job in handling the whole process. As for the actual act of him leaving, however, I think it is unfair to paint him as an ungrateful brat who "abandoned" Cleveland. I think too often players are held to standards that teams and organizations are not. Over and over, I've seen teams cast aside "loyal," celebrated players for business reasons. Where is the loyalty on the organization's part? I wish people would acknowledge how cold and calculated sports organizations are and not act so surprised when individual players exhibit the same qualities.

At Saturday, July 10, 2010 5:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I understand your point and it may very well be true that in other people's eyes LeBron's "brand" and/or his "legacy" will be diminished in some way even if he wins multiple titles in Miami but from my perspective if he plays at a high level on a championship team then he will enhance his "legacy" as an all-time great. If LeBron gets injured or something else happens to make him a significantly less valuable player then a Heat championship will not mean as much in terms of LeBron's standing among the all-time greats.

At Saturday, July 10, 2010 5:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that the value of playing in New York--both in terms of the roster/organization and in terms of marketing--is vastly overrated and I made it quite clear years ago that I never believed that LeBron would sign with the Knicks.

I agree that Gilbert was an "enabler" for LeBron and I am sure that he regrets that decision now. I wonder if LeBron's friends/hangers on will be receiving job titles and credentials with the Heat.

I can't speak for what Gilbert means when he says that LeBron quit but it is clear to me that LeBron did not play with maximum effort in several playoff games, most notably game five when the Cavs could have taken a 3-2 lead versus the Celtics. I don't gauge "quitting" by stats or shot attempts but by effort; I don't know about game six versus Orlando in 2009 (one of the games that Gilbert mentioned) but I am quite confident that LeBron quit in game five versus Boston, plus game two versus Boston as well.

You are right that loyalty is a two way street--and the Cavs could actually be faulted for not being loyal to Mike Brown--but the Cavs were very loyal to LeBron and he treated them like garbage. If LeBron's main goal was to play with two other max level players then he should have said that--to Gilbert, at least, even if he did not want to announce that publicly--and I am sure that Gilbert would have done his best to make it happen (I am not just talking about this summer but moves that Gilbert could have made in previous years if LeBron had been more forthright).

At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 8:28:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

I think the recent comments by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson reinforce my view that signing with Miami has hurt LeBron's "brand."

Of course, I think their comments are unfair. Maybe Jordan should have demanded the Bulls trade Pippen once it became clear that Pippen was a star. Then Michael would have had an opportunity to compete against one of the best rather than cop out and play with him. As for Magic, the team that drafted him had the best player in the league. Maybe Magic should have demanded a trade so he could have a chance to try to beat Kareem rather than get him the ball.

At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 11:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It does seem as if LeBron's "brand" has taken at least a temporary hit, though I suspect that winning one or two titles will mitigate if not eliminate that damage.

I am less interested in LeBron's "brand" than I am interested in his productivity as a player, both from an individual standpoint and from the standpoint of helping a team to win a championship. I am disappointed that LeBron quit during the Boston series and that he seems much more interested in recruiting players for Miami than he ever was in recruiting players for a Cleveland franchise that bent over backwards to cater to his every whim.

I agree with you that Magic and MJ's comments are unfair; the problem with LeBron James is not that he decided to team up with Wade and Bosh but the way that he handled the whole free agency process and the fact that he very obviously quit on the Cavaliers when they had an excellent chance to win a championship.


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