LeQuestions Answered

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After the unprecedented (and unnecessary) live special on ESPN where LeBron told the world whom he would be suiting up for next season, the ensuing fallout and chatter on TV and online has been like nothing I have ever seen before.  Twitter is full of tweets about LeBron ranging from ecstatic to murderous and everything in between.  Every analyst has a take on the situation.  Other NBA stars are chiming in including Kobe Bryant.  Over the last few hours I’ve come to the conclusion that there is simply no way to really sort through all of this in a respectable amount of time, let alone one day.  There is a lot still up in the air, such as who is going to be the supporting cast, so while the biggest question has been answered, there are still several smaller decisions which will have a big impact on the future of the Miami Heat and the NBA as a whole.  For this article, I’m going to list some of the common thoughts and analysis that I’ve heard and either agree or disagree with the statements.

“The people of Cleveland and Ohio in general have every right to be mad”

I agree, absolutely they do.  Had LeBron simply released a statement to the press informing them of his decision, then their anger would have seemed a bit over the line.  But for Cavs fans and the organization itself to find out through an hour long attention seeking fest wasn’t right.  I’m glad the proceeds went to charity and all, but this was a marketing attempt through and through and both LeBron James and ESPN had dollar signs in their eyes.

That being said, let’s keep it in perspective people.  I hope no violence comes about because of this, but people burning LeBron’s jersey in the street is a bit over the top.  LeBron didn’t commit a crime, he didn’t get caught with drugs, he wasn’t involved in a bar room brawl, yet people are reacting as if he did all of these in the same night.

The Cleveland organization was taken to levels they never could have dreamed without LeBron, and no matter how shady his departure may have been, people can’t forget what he brought to the city for his seven year tenure there.  I understand why Dan Gilbert (Cleveland’s majority owner) would be angry, but releasing an angry tirade after the announcement was classless.  Basketball is a business and Cleveland couldn’t attract the talent.  Had they landed Bosh, LeBron would still be there and Dan Gilbert would be singing the praises of LeBron.  Gilbert was ready to offer LeBron a max contract, but if he thought he was a quitter, why would he want him in the first place?  On a side not, I fell bad for a city whose economy hinges on a single basketball player.  Cleveland obviously has bigger problems on their hands than having to deal with a cellar dweller team for years to come.

“LeBron would have more success in Chicago”

Disagree.  At first glance, a lineup featuring James, Rose, Noah, and Boozer looks great and rightfully so.  I think LeBron would have had equal odds at the 2010-11 championship on the Bulls as he will on the Heat.  However, looking past that I think Miami is the better choice.  Both Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are in the final year of their contracts and will be in line for some hefty pay raises.  Had LeBron joined them and they won the championship, imagine the value of those two players on the open market.  They’d already have big money invested in Boozer and James and I wouldn’t see them being able to keep Noah and Rose for long.

On the other hand, Miami has the “younger big three” locked up for years.  They also have a proven coach (well, soon to be coach) in Pat Riley.  Say what you will about LeBron’s supporting cast or lackthereof in Cleveland and how he utilized (or didn’t) his teammates but LeBron was never on a well coached team.  Mike Brown’s offensive playbook was about as diverse as KKK rally and I make more adjustments during a game of hoops on my PS3 than he does in an entire season.  Miami won’t have a problem finding veteran players who will play for the minimum because they want their best shot at a title.  James, Bosh, and Wade have also mentioned playing for less money which will open more doors (and don’t forget the money a player saves by playing in Florida because they have no state income tax).  LeBron and Wade together is pairing arguably the second and third best players in the league together and throwing in a top twenty guy like Bosh is a pretty rare opportunity.

“LeBron’s ruined his legacy by leaving Cleveland”

Agree/Disagree.  This question truly can’t be answered until James retires and we can look at his entire body of work.  Certainly staying in Cleveland and winning a championship or multiple championships would have been the best case scenario.  It’s something special these days when a player stays with one team his entire career.  Couple that with said player actually being from that town or area and you can’t ask for a better possible legacy than that.  The Cavs would have always been LeBron’s team and winning there as “the man” would have been great to see.  But if his goal is championships, what scenario would lead to the best potential for more rings?  Staying in Cleveland and hoping to land some more help or going to a team with two other stars in their prime?  I don’t buy that LeBron left so he could join Wade’s team.  Had Wade been in Cleveland and LeBron in Miami, Wade would have left to join LeBron.  Miami was the de facto winner among the three cities.  Seriously, if you were a 25 year old millionaire where would you rather play: Toronto, Cleveland, or Miami?  This whole notion that LeBron is hurt because he’s joining Wade’s team is overblown.  I keep hearing the argument that Jordan/Kobe/Bird/Duncan never had to leave their team to win titles.  Fair enough, but all of those guys played in better cities with better coaches and owners than LeBron had, so a person can’t really compare the two.

The trouble with staying in Cleveland is, it’s Cleveland.  LeBron tried to get Bosh to go to Cleveland and I believe he wanted to stay, but not at the expense of missing out on a potential dynasty situation.  Cleveland is not a hot destination for young stars and even with LeBron there didn’t make it so (and that’s despite LeBron was chosen by other NBA players as the person they would most like to have on their team).  This is nothing against Cleveland as if LeBron was in any number of smaller market, fly-over cities it would be the same.  I think that LeBron took a look at Kevin Garnett and what he got out of years of loyalty to a franchise and decided he had to make a change.  Minnesota couldn’t get help around KG outside of aging form All-Stars and we saw what he did the year he had the most help.  Off topic, but I hope Oklahoma City proves me wrong and are able to keep talent there around Kevin Durant who just made a big commitment to them.

“LeBron now will never be called the greatest player ever”

Agree.  There was a slim chance of that happening in the first place considering all the variables that go into obtaining that title (teammates, health, etc.).  He will never be considered a greater individual player that Jordan and very likely not greater than Kobe.  However, if things go well in Miami, he could be considered one of the greatest play makers ever.  Winning makes people forget a lot of things.  Magic Johnson was surround by unbelievable talent but people don’t remember him as a guy who was a standout player surrounded by talent.  They remember him as Magic making fantastic plays and winning rings.  Kobe Bryant quit on his team in the playoffs after Shaq left, ripped on teammates, and demanded a trade but after winning two more rings since then it’s been swept under the rug.  LeBron has the opportunity to be what he was always meant to be, a play maker and a human highlight reel with others who can take the scoring load off of him.

People also forget just how much help many of the game’s superstars had in their championship years.  Jordan had Scottie Pippen, one of the top 50 players of all time not to mention other great players such as Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman.  Three of Bryant’s rings came while he was in Shaq’s shadow.  Tim Duncan probably did more with less than anyone else has for his first ring or two, but after that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were bonafide stars.  The Bleacher Report did an interesting list of the league’s best 3rd option players like Bosh will be with the Heat, and they put him at 11th on their list.

LeBron will probably never be called the greatest player ever but he has an opportunity to be part of one of the greatest teams ever.  If that is a player’s choice, it’s his choice.  People have questioned his competitiveness, his desire, and his pride, among other things.  Separating the spectacle of the decision from the decision itself, LeBron made a choice that cost him millions in terms of contract and certainly will limit his stats…but it’s an opportunity to be a part of something much bigger.  If you are going to question the pride of a guy who chose potential team success over personal success, you better question the ego of a guy who wouldn’t do it.  Basketball is, after all, a team sport.

“This set the standard for future attention seeking athletes who are free agents”

Disagree.  There are very few athletes in any sport who could gather that kind of attention for switching teams.  I’m sure it will be tried by others, but I don’t think we’ll see a spectacle such as what we just “witnessed”.  I hope I’m right, because sports doesn’t need it and my respect for LeBron took a big hit that night.

“There’s something else to this decision to leave Cleveland that we don’t know about”

Agree.  There really seems to be some underlying problems within Cleveland that caused LeBron to leave his home state in such a callous fashion and to also have the team owner bash LeBron the way that he did.  I think that the whole rumored affair between Delonte West and LeBron’s mom played a role.  We may never know all the behind the scenes reasons and choices that were made, but the way this went down I suspect there is more to the story.

As more pieces fall into place over the next few weeks I think we’ll have a better understanding of the situation.  Especially when the role players are signed and we can see what “Miami Thrice” will be working with we will be able to speculate on how far they can go and what they can achieve as a team.

Pat Lussenhop - Pat was born and raised in rural Minnesota and is currently living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He graduated from St. John's University (MN) with a degree in psychology and went on to get his masters in school psychology at the University of Northern Iowa. He's a lifetime sports fan and follows basketball and football the most. His favorite teams include any team that has "Minnesota" in it's name and he enjoys sports statistics and any good sporting debates. - Follow him on Twitter here

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  • hmph.

    LePippen is a fraud. I don't care that he left, but the manner in which he did so was dastardly. He never spoke to anyone in Cleveland management since the defeat to Boston… he had an underling inform the Cavs brass minutes before his “decision”. From the looks of this his mind was made up a long time ago, and he could have saved the people in Cleveland alot of time and man power by informing them of his decision days before. He left them high and dry with few available players left on the board. Granted there really is no player in the league to replace Lebron, but if he had informed them earlier they could have made arrangements to free up cap space, maybe sign a T-Mac or somebody and rebuild.

    I've lost all respect for Lebron. He's a coward who ran away from a challenge. When the going got tough, he got going. It would surprise me if he threw the playoff series against Boston.

  • I agree the way he went about it was awful. There's a fine line between running away from a challenge and running to a great opportunity.

  • Mattaquiline

    I think Air Jordan said it best: “I wouldn't have wanted to call them up and play on the same team.. I wanted to beat them.”