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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:

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

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:50 PM

15 comments

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15 Comments:

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...

WOW.

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.

Dennis

 
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...

Vednam:

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...

Vednam:

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...

Vednam:

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...

Vednam:

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...

Vednam:

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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