Michael Pina is a contributing writer for Hardwood Paroxysm. Here’s his voice joining the chorus of disgust towards LeBron. My own manifesto about James is still percolating and should be ready for publication right when the timeliness has past us by -Ed.
A few nights ago, after the most egomaniacal, self-centered, inconsiderate hour of television ESPN has ever aired mercifully ended, pundits, analysts, and professional journalists (or so they say) spent hours exploring the semi-shocking decision Lebron James had made to leave his hometown team for more silicone prevalent pastures in Miami.Â James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were each hailed by the network for sacrificing their respective financial incomes to accommodate one another as future teammates.Â The three were treated as selfless heroes; as if theyâ€™d renounced all their material possessions for the rightful cause of winning a championship.
James, unsurprisingly, received the most praise.Â By signing a six-year, $110 million contract (Wade’s contract is six-years for $107 million) Lebron will be leaving roughly $15 million dollars on the table.Â $15 million that he could have earned had he re-inked with Cleveland, but lets not be naÃ¯ve.Â James has endorsement deals with McDonalds, Nike, Glaceau (makers of Vitamin Water), Sprite, and State Farm (to name a few).Â Five years ago he had earned approximately $135 million from endorsements alone and as of 2008, his worth was speculated to be at least $270 million.Â In 2007 he was named number one on Forbes’ 20 under 25 list, beating out movie stars and other athletes alike.
Heâ€™s previously stated in interviews that his focus is 80 percent on basketball and 20 percent on business, and with his financial income from endorsements upstaging his NBA contract, a loss of $15 million dollars over six years isnâ€™t the end of his world for him, the most popular athlete on the planet.
Now that financial matters have been covered (consider that point this columnâ€™s dead horse), lets now move onto basketball related concerns.
His decision to spend at least five years in Miami is groundbreaking (Wade, Bosh, and James each have player options on the final year of their respective deals).Â Looking at the public persona James and his team of managers and agents have created, could anything else really be expected? By replicating what Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen did in the latter stages of their career in the prime of his, James has made the most grandiose move imaginable, all the while looking like championships are the central source of his motivation, when in fact, his move seems to be most predicated on fear.Â By moving onto Miami, a team that already boasts one of the gameâ€™s most consistent scorers in Dwyane Wade, James wonâ€™t be the only one on the hook should they disappoint in the postseason. The blame will ultimately be shouldered by both Wade and James (Chris Bosh will never have to worry).Â Had he gone to Chicago or New York, within two yearsâ€™ time his team would be one of, if not the best team in basketball.Â Thatâ€™s how talented he is.Â But by choosing to join forces with a rival as opposed to salivating over the chance at going head to head against him, James revealed to the world that he simply doesnâ€™t have that inner aura about him to lead a team to a championship.
No superstar has made a move like this, in his prime, for a reason.Â Itâ€™s selfish, risky, and to be frank, not worth it.Â Today James stands alone as the most hated man in his sport. (Somewhere, most likely all by his lonesome, Kobe Bryant is cackling.) Heâ€™s trailblazing a path no once-in-a-generation talent should take because it not only demolishes his chances to be the greatest player to ever live, but it does a disservice to the game of basketball.Â Â The titles will come, but not this year.Â With the Celtics, Lakers, and Magic all molded, experienced units familiar with each others idiosyncrasies, chances of winning a title are slimmer than Vegas seems to think. (Odds in Vegas have the Heat prohibitive favorites at 9-5.)Â But two or three years down the road, when Wade, James, and Bosh are cocooned by a solid, savvy bench, what does the league have to look forward to? The Miami Heat are clear cut favorites to dominate basketball for years to come. Unless, of course, Oklahoma City can play the good guy.
Now that the move was made and this inconceivable team was created, the respect level for Lebron James goes straight to the cellar in the eyes of former players and basketball purists.
Kevin McHale called it a reality show, Charles Barkley questioned why at 25 Lebron didnâ€™t want to be the man, and Reggie Miller accurately speculated that one ring in Cleveland would symbolically equate with two or three in Miami.Â Itâ€™s almost as if those greats were saying to themselves, â€œWait a second. I could have jumped ship, burned bridges, sacrificed millions of fans, and thrown loyalty in the garbage all for a ring, but thank goodness I didnâ€™t.â€ (As was the case with Reggie Miller.)Â Not to take anything away from Steve Kerr or John Paxon, but Michael Jordan wasnâ€™t feeding Miller in crunch time. They went against each other.Â Itâ€™s the fundamental element that makes the league so wildly popular and intriguing.Â Competition.Â What do you do when your leagueâ€™s best player isnâ€™t interested in going to Chicago, where rebounds arenâ€™t an issue and the point guard is an all-star? Instead of facing off against Wade and Bosh with his own troops, Lebron chose the easiest, least stressful alternative.
From a legacy perspective, James is pitiable. In the end, he figuratively canâ€™t win.Â Should the Heat go on a dynastic tear over the next four or five seasons (impossible to say with their current makeup) and win ring after ring, doubters will always point to his admittance of help as proof of him being a third-rate competitor.Â Isnâ€™t it the role of a superstar to start the party instead of jumping on board like a mercenary once the dust has settled?Â Is Lebron not a great player?Â That question, to anyone whoâ€™s ever watched him play, is obviously hilarious.Â Lebron James is going to the Hall of Fame.Â But by moving onto Miami with not a single finals victory under his belt, Lebron can never be as great as heâ€™s had us believe these past 10Â years.Â Truly a shame, because physically thereâ€™s no question he has it all for the taking. But mentally something is clearly missing.
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