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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bryant Gumbel Blasts LeBron James

Courtesy of HBO Sports, I received advance copy of Bryant Gumbel's closing remarks from tonight's episode of Real Sports, which airs at 9 p.m.:

Finally tonight, a few words about championship rings. Just when did they become the all-important barometer of who does or doesn't count in sports? When did they supersede personal excellence or exemplary character as a standard of greatness?

I got to thinking about that the other night after the self-anointed chosen one, LeBron James, embarrassed himself as he tried to make his decision to seek rings in Miami sound like a search for the Holy Grail. It's when he essentially admitted to placing a higher priority on winning than anything else.

LeBron's decision is typical of our immediate gratification era, but it flies in the face of history. Even though he never won a title, Dan Marino is still the biggest hero in Florida. And in Boston, all those Celtics championships are dimmed by the unforgettable brilliance of Ted Williams, who never won anything. In Chicago, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus have legendary status despite playing on losing teams. And even in the NBA, where guys seem obsessed with being viewed as "the man," real men like Barkley, Ewing and Baylor are ringless, but revered.

Despite such evidence to the contrary, LeBron James seems to think he needs a ring to change his life and secure his legacy. Maybe he'll get one, maybe he won't, but it's probable that no amount of rings will ever remove the stench he wallowed in last week. LeBron may yet find that in the court of public opinion, just as putting on a tux can’t make a guy a gentleman, winning a ring can’t make one truly a champion.

It is sad and inexplicable that LeBron James boldly trumpets how loyal he is and he claims that he is willing to sacrifice money and statistics to potentially win championships in Miami yet he blatantly quit during the 2010 playoffs when the Akron, Ohio native had a tremendous opportunity to lead his (quasi) hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship; it will truly be ironic if James never gets closer to winning a title than he did in Cleveland from 2007-2010 when the Cavs made one Finals appearance and twice posted the best regular season record in the league with a deep, talented and well balanced roster coached by a defensive-minded head coach.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:52 PM



At Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


who is bryan gumbell to blast lebron james? lebron is the best or second best player in the nba. all athletes are narssisitic but this lebron bashing is too much. in the nba championships define your career it always has. to say he would be revered if he never wins a ring is a lie. people will blast lebron for not winning the big one like barkley ewing etc. yeah he had a great career but he came up short when it counted. i dont think that will be the case with lebron anyway he will go down as one of the 10 best players and win 2 or 3 titles i believe.

the cleveland sports fan must understand and respect that lebron alone made you relevant you wasnt relevant ever in your franchise for 40 years till lebron came along. to take his mural down and spit on his name like you have is crazy. if lebron stayed in cleveland was 35 and never won title and was loyal to cleveland but then cleveland let him go would the fans rip the organization and stop going to games? of course not everything in life has a course lebron time in cleveland passed.

At Thursday, July 15, 2010 2:06:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

This says it all:


At Thursday, July 15, 2010 5:21:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Gumbel did not dispute that LeBron is a very talented player. You are wrong if you think that LeBron needed to win a ring to be a hero in Cleveland: look how the fans pleaded with him to stay even though he had been there for seven years without winning anything. Not winning a ring would have hurt LeBron nationally--and will really hurt him nationally now if he cannot win with Wade and Bosh--but had LeBron stayed in Cleveland he would have been a hometown hero even if the Cavs never won the title. If LeBron had led the Cavs to a championship then LeBron would probably have been the most loved athlete in the city's history or at least very close to Jim Brown.

The mural belongs to Nike, not the Cavs or the fans. Why would Nike keep up a LeBron mural in Cleveland after LeBron signed with Miami?

Look at the outcry from Cleveland fans when the team traded Z for Jamison even though the plan was to bring Z back in 30 days. If LeBron had stayed, tried his best but not won a title and the team just dumped him for no reason you can bet that there would have been a huge outcry from the fans. When Bill Belichick correctly but coldly said that Bernie Kosar had diminishing skills the Cleveland fans rallied around Kosar even though he never led the Browns to the Super Bowl.

LeBron had every right to leave but he handled the situation poorly: he did not try to recruit players to the team in recent years and then complained about his supporting cast, he quit versus Boston and he dragged out "the Decision" in a way that prevented the Cavs from making any other moves.

At Thursday, July 15, 2010 9:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long time cavs fan(before LBJ was born) I feel that we have every right to criticize him. I agree that he had the right to make a decison however here are the problems: it was VERY arrogant to hold a 1 hour special to announce his decision- I don't know of anyother athlete who has done such a thing. By witholding his decison from the CAVS until approximately 9:01 doesn't leave us many options for free agents-we could not make a move until his decision was made, He is not humble or grounded, He is obsessed with the limelight and stars. This move has been in the making for a while. No matter what your job is in life you have a responsibility to tell people in a mature and respectful way that are not returning to a job. He probably will win a title or 2 and it will sting here in cleveland, but unless you grew up here, knew who LBJ was and watched him grow up then you really aren't in amy position to sound off. I saw clips from part of the big welcome party in Miami-all 3 of those players stod up there like a bunch of idiots-acting like they really are important. I actually felt embarassed for them. Granted LBJ has done alot for kids in Akron at the end of the day he isnt any better than any of us. I think my job is pretty important and I dont carry on like that- I save lives for a living. LBJ should be embarassed to be acting like that. He should remember where he cam from and realize that if it were not for his god given talents no one would care who he was.

At Friday, July 16, 2010 5:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Lebron should have held out and refused to play for the Cavs like Kobe, Eli and Elway did when they were drafted by traditionally poor organizations. I will admit he handled the whole situation bad but I don't think it is on the level Tiger's fall from grace or Kobe's legal/Shaq incident(where even Phil Jackson had negative comments on Kobe in his book).

At Friday, July 16, 2010 6:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Thursday AM Anonymous,

I'm guessing you do not live in Cleveland or do not support the Cavaliers...this is a well written piece by Mr. Gumbel that reflects the feelings of many many Cleveland fans who supported James and helped pay his salary. He was revered here the minute he signed on the line, and lost a lot of respect by not having the decency to tell his boss, and his fans, that it was time to move on before he made an embarrassing spectacle of himself on his self-promoting ESPN LeBron commercial. Yeah, we kind of knew this was going to happen, his handlers leaked enough information to keep us from feeling to shocked, but still... No one will argue that he is a great basketball player. Maybe he and the well stacked Miami Heat team will give him the coveted hardware that he thinks will seal his legacy as The Great One. Maybe the young Akron kids that play in his gym will continue to root for him. The City of Bath will continue to get his property tax payment on his mansion, that's great for them. I for one wish him well and also say good riddance. I thought he was an exceptionally classy kid. But in fact, he's just a kid who can play really good basketball, who is managed by kids who share his lack of class.

We can agree to disagree and it really doesn't matter because it's a done deal. Thank you Mr. Gumbel for saying what a lot of us are thinking in a very concise way.

At Saturday, July 17, 2010 12:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


he wouldnt of been revered in general for career david. cleveland would be happy yes because they never had nuthing thats why they didnt want to see the person who made them relevant go. theres no way he could of left on any good term with cleveland to me if he would of let them no ahead of time or not. as jesse jackson said dan gilbert thought he owned lebron and cleveland did too. i dont think it is racial i think that is ridicolous but from standpoint that because he was hometown boy and it was a sentimental story to take cleveland out there misery sportswise. they felt he should of stayed there under any circumstance to say the way he left is why they mad and not that he left is hogwash to me.

your right on the mural. but this new bar drink they got quitness is ridicolous. NO ONE CARED he quit if he woulda resigned with cleveland there hyprcritcal. he couldnt recruit anyone there because they only had enough money to sign him. and bosh didnt want to play in cleveland or toronto does sign and trade for him. they missed stoudamire? cleveland should of been proactive prepared for life without lebron as possibility, they did not and now left in this position where your terrible for another 20 years.

At Saturday, July 17, 2010 1:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Your comment makes no sense: LeBron was a free agent, so he did not have to "hold out." Kobe did not "hold out" when he was drafted; the Hornets traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac less than a week after the 1996 draft.

No one here compared LeBron's situation to Tiger's, Elway's or Eli Manning's. Kobe's legal situation--which resulted in a complete dismissal of the charges against him--is completely irrelevant. Jackson's comments about Kobe were from a diary of one season and reflected the day to day ups and downs of their relationship; Jackson obviously did not have a significant issue with Bryant because Jackson came back to the Lakers and has guided them to two more titles with Bryant winning the Finals MVP both times.

LeBron's conduct has been disgraceful, from quitting on his team during the playoffs to dragging out his decision so that the Cavs could not make any moves to embarrassing his home town on national TV.

At Saturday, July 17, 2010 1:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Dan Marino, Ernie Banks and Ted Williams spent their entire careers with one team and they are revered legends even though they never won any championships. LeBron could have attained that same status--and if he had won even one title in Cleveland, which was very possible, then he would have been an even greater legend.

You are right that some people would have been mad regardless of how LeBron made his announcement but it should be very obvious that he handled things poorly and thus has generated far greater resentment than he would have otherwise. As Dan Gilbert recently said, if LeBron had his heart set on leaving then he should have met with the Cavs face to face, explained what he was going to do and thus gave the Cavs more time to make other moves. Instead, LeBron drew out the entire process just to hijack ESPN for that stupid, classless show.

LeBron could have recruited players to Cleveland in previous years but he would never commit to re-signing. Also, if LeBron had made his announcement earlier then the Cavs could have done a sign and trade or found other uses for the salary cap space his departure would create. Now there is no one for the Cavs to even pursue because all of the top players are locked up.

In hindsight, you are right that the Cavs should have made contingency plans for life without LeBron; when he refused to commit to the team they should have not bowed to his every wish by signing veteran players to try to win now: when Wade refused to commit to Miami but then complained about his supporting cast Pat Riley essentially told him to either sign an extension or shut up. Riley stood up to his star player and emerged as the big winner, while the Cavs tiptoed around LeBron and ended up losing.

At Sunday, July 18, 2010 9:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ian Thomsen: Sports Illustrated

According to the media, Kobe was "unpopular" (and "selfish"), four years ago, by resigning with the only team he ever played for; which may explain why the media almost selected Shaq as "MVP", after the sign/trade to Miami, as Lebron just did.

Oh, regarding Lebron passing to Marshall in Game 1, of the 2007 ECF; What about how Kobe passed the ball to Fisher for three in Game 4 of the 2009 Finals, and Artest for three in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals?

At Sunday, July 18, 2010 2:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't think that Kobe was viewed negatively because he re-signed with the Lakers.

Shaq should have won the 2005 MVP; he was more valuable and dominant than 2005 MVP winner Steve Nash: the Mavs had to double team Shaq during the Finals, which opened things up for Wade to win the Finals MVP. Shaq led the NBA in FG% and ranked sixth in both rpg and bpg in 2004-05.

As I have documented in several articles here, LeBron is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history; I don't buy the idea that he plays more like Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan, though perhaps the move to Miami does indicate that LeBron does not relish the pressure of being the number one guy the way that Jordan did.

Kobe is an unselfish player who consistently makes the right basketball play, whether it is a shot or a pass. As Charley Rosen noted recently, LeBron likes to make passes that lead to assists and is less apt to make passes simply to promote ball movement. It is also worth mentioning that when Kobe was struggling last season due to his many injuries he said that some players sit out to preserve their statistics but that he insists on playing because he thinks that his presence can help the team win even if in the process his individual statistics suffer.

At Sunday, July 18, 2010 4:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all of your points. I just related Kobe's "unpopularity" with the reason he was snubbed on "MVP" ballots. Kobe's "popularity" has not changed with "winning." Kobe was voted as a starter to the all-star team before he was promoted as a starter on his own team. Ian's statement only makes sense in the context of MVP balloting; because over that period, he still recieved the most all-star votes, he had the top selling jersey, and he was--the most--recognizable athlete on the planet (see: Beijing). Its the MVP voters that have warmed up to Kobe. I just think this is the first time a writer has openly admitted the MVP voting is a "popularity contest." Its as Jeff Van Gundy said during the 2010 Finals,

JVG Cont.
JVG Cont.

If Kobe had a different personality, then he would be treated differently in the media. I reason that JVG was--specifically--referring to Michael Wilbon's comments.

At Sunday, July 18, 2010 5:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


JVG's comments are right on the money and I cited them in my 2010 Finals recap article.

At Monday, July 19, 2010 9:33:00 AM, Blogger Dre Reads said...

Who is Greg Gumbel--for that matter, who are you or I--to question LeBron James for valuing championships over being revered? What Gumbel did is question the object of James' desire. We, as people, do not have the right to do that.

At Monday, July 19, 2010 3:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The quoted comments are from Bryant Gumbel, not Greg Gumbel, so I wonder how carefully you even read the article.

No one is questioning James "for valuing championships over being revered." It is not even clear that this is in fact the choice that he made; some would argue that James would have had a better opportunity to win a title this year by staying in Cleveland, while others would say that had he joined the Bulls he would have had better long term championship prospects than he will have in Miami. I am not saying that I agree or disagree with those particular sentiments but it is not clear that your assertion is right, namely that James chose winning "over being revered." James clearly loves being in the spotlight, he loves being courted and he loves, in your words, "being revered."

You and many other people who are trying to defend James are missing the point. Gumbel and other critics are not questioning the free agency system in general or James' right in particular to choose to play for a team other than Cleveland; they are questioning the way that he went about the process and the hypocritical way that James spoke about loyalty while stabbing his hometown in the heart. If loyalty were truly James' top priority then he would have stayed in Cleveland and the Cavs would have been a legit contender once again this year. Furthermore, if James truly had been loyal all along then he would have spent the past several years actively recruiting for the Cavs as much as he has spent the past few weeks recruiting for Miami.

James has every right to sign with Miami, whatever his reasons are--and commentators have every right to call him out for his narcissism, his hypocrisy and, above all, for the obvious and deplorable way that he quit during the Boston series when the Cavs had a chance to take a 3-2 series lead. Are you aware that teams that take a 3-2 lead in a best of seven NBA series win that series more than 80% of the time? If the Cavs had won that game they almost certainly would have advanced to the NBA Finals, where they would have enjoyed home court advantage against a Lakers team that they pushed around during both regular season meetings.

Maybe James will win one or more titles in Miami--but it is also very possible that he will never have a better chance to win a championship than he did this year when he quit while playing for the team with the best record in the league. If that scenario comes to pass then James will have no one to blame but himself.

At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 10:36:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

marcel.....gumbel has only been in the business 35 years. he has earned the right to say that.

when did bryant become an unselfish player?

At Tuesday, July 20, 2010 11:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Bryant has been the leading playmaker for five Lakers' championship teams, so I'd say he "became an unselfish player" quite some time ago.


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