Friday, July 9, 2010

Do Do Lebron-bron, Do Do Lebron

This whole Lebron James saga is very interesting to me. Such emotion, such visceral reaction. Geez, the guy made a career decision already. Let it go.

First, two caveats: 1) everyone knows how I feel about today’s mercenary professional athletes, and their general lack of sportsmanship, or in many cases, class; and B) other than following the fortunes of my nephew as he pursues his NBA career dream, I generally could care less about the league, but that said…

I am sick of everyone skewering this guy over his decision; and it’s only been twelve hours! He chose to go somewhere else, for whatever reason. It obviously wasn’t money—staying in Cleveland was worth $30 million more to him over five years. Maybe it was opportunity? Maybe it was realizing all that he could be? Maybe it was just that it’s a really screwed up organization and he didn’t want to be a part of it any more?

Has anyone out there ever switched jobs? Left a town, place and people you really loved because it was just "over" there? I did; just a year ago this week. Trust me, it ain’t easy. But I had to do it, regardless of what everyone thought. It wasn’t about money; it was about opportunity and potential. There were a lot of circumstances that most people didn’t realize, and I did what I had to do. People were shocked, angry, confused. But they weren’t in my shoes and they didn’t know all of the facts.

Sound familiar? Less than two months after lambasting the greatest player—maybe ever—in the NBA for NOT winning a title; everyone in Cleveland is surprised that Lebron has left. Well maybe Lebron didn’t have what he needed to fulfill their dream or his for that matter? Maybe it’s deeper than you think.

As an aside, take a gander at this link:

This is an actual letter that the owner of the Cavs posted on their official site just minutes after Lebron’s decision. Classless? Crass? Childish? Amateurish? This public letter makes today's professional athletes and their mercenary approach look like Cary Grant in 1955, wearing a tuxedo and sipping a chilly martini with Ingrid Bergman at his side.

Think about this: in the last three months this owner has fired an NBA Coach of the Year who—along with the help of one particularly great player—had turned an NBA laughing stock into one of the top three or four teams in the league; had his very successful GM who is highly regarded in the league resign; been turned down by Tom Izzo—who would have doubled his salary to coach the Cavs; and now been rejected by a local boy made good who’d have made a third MORE money to stay.

Hellooooo!!! Seems to me the problem might not be Lebron…maybe it’s this owner, vying for the title “Al Davis of the NBA”?

And enough already about narcissism and ego. I haven’t seen Lebron on ESPN pimping his case. I’ve seen fans rallying in four major cities and TV coverage and news updates and “Lebron Watch” and hourly reports for weeks. He didn’t ask for this or produce any of it; and every time I’ve seen him asked I’ve seen him respond “I’m considering the options and will make an announcement when I’ve decided.” He was making a decision. Is it narcissistic that he held a press conference? Everyone does when they make a decision like this. ESPN’s the one that covered it in primetime. How many people watched? Why is that Lebron’s fault? Keep in mind, this is probably one of the four or five most recognizable people on the planet. Narcissism as an adjective in this scenario is about 4000 mileposts back.

Here’s what I know: this kid (yeah, he’s 25) came to the NBA at the age of 18, and starting with day one, he’s averaged 28 points and 7 assists per game. From his first game in this league at the age of 18. He’s very good. He gave his hometown a shot, and it didn’t work out. Did they do everything they could to support him? Well, they did sign an aging and over the hill Shaquille O’Neal this year to help bring Lebron and Cleveland their title. Wow. Underwhelming.

I feel bad for Cleveland. But just like when the Browns left—which completely sucked by the way—maybe everything they could have done to keep them wasn’t. All Art Modell wanted was the same kind of stadium/deal that every other team in the league was getting. He was losing money. And after he left, the city got together and made that happen for their “next” franchise. You like the tradition and history and team so much, why not get that done before they leave?
You want Lebron to stay and win you a title, well maybe your owner needs to stop being a jackass and work on doing the things that would have made Lebron stay in the first place. Even with today’s athletes, it very often isn’t all about money. My longtime favorites the St. Louis Cardinals prove that on a regular basis. The Cavs have not only NOT done everything they could have, they really put on a pretty pathetic attempt.

So, while I’m the last guy to sing the praises of today’s professional athlete, I’m also an objective realist. We’ve all created this landscape; these guys are the ones that are playing in it. Sometimes we get exactly what we deserve.

Good luck Lebron. Tough call, and I wish you all the best.