While the fire is hot, let’s dive right in (and hope not to get burned)…
- And let’s start right there — getting burned. We all remember Cleveland Cavaliers fans burning their jerseys with “James” and “23” adorned on the back as well as their “Witness” t-shirts. Let’s take this moment to remind them that there are a whole host of reasons why no one should ever burn clothing that they own.
- You paid for it, so by the transitive property you are – at least in some sense – burning your own money.
- If you received it as a gift and didn’t pay for it, you’re burning someone else’s money. That’s very rude.
- There are literally millions of people around the world who would have loved to have had that piece of clothing because they don’t have enough – or any – clothing at all.
Oh, and then today happens. All of the Cleveland Cavaliers fans return to being LeBron James fans, return to being witnesses, return to worshipping in front of the throne of King James. And they don’t have a jersey, or a t-shirt anymore. Someone is going to have to pay up, and someone is going to cash in.
- While we’re talking about getting burned, let’s return to the land of unanswered questions, myths, and hypothetical scenarios. Remember less than a few hours ago when no one knew where LeBron was headed, when it was down to Miami or Cleveland, when people were camping out near LeBron’s home and tracking the movers of exotic cars and photographing police vehicles in a place now so adoringly referred to as “Northeast Ohio”? Hopes were incredibly high in Cleveland the last few days, so let’s embrace one of those aforementioned hypothetical scenarios and imagine LeBron James had chosen to return to Miami for at least a couple more seasons. There had seemed to be an expectation, furthered by this media frenzy, that Cleveland fans would have their hearts broken all over again, and to that I ask one question: why? Did I miss a LeBron James press conference in the last few weeks when he said, “Get ready, Cleveland Cavaliers fans. I’m coming back soon!” The man himself, the person with far and away the greatest idea of what could and would happen, had given no indication. And yet, hopes and dreams and emotions were built upon each other in a town of less than 400,000 that sits along Lake Erie. So no, Cleveland Cavaliers fans, you had no right to feel disappointed and burned all over again if LeBron had not come back. None of us forced you to become so expectant and hopeful. That was your own doing.
- Let’s continue the theme of “getting burned” by venturing south to a team that is known as the “HEAT.” The team that plies their trade in Miami is currently looking at a team with Shabazz Napier, Norris Cole, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts. So yes, throw my hat in the ring of “oh man the Heat are gonna be in the lottery next year” tweets. Oh, and Dwyane Wade. Remember him? Remember his three NBA Championships? Remember his scoring title in 2008-09? Remember his 10 All-Star games? But most importantly, remember his performance in the 2013-14 NBA Finals when he looked old, lifeless, and on the verge of a very steep and quick decline? He is a free agent, who opted out of a contract that would have seen him receive close to $20 million each of the next two years. Dwyane Wade is a future Hall of Famer, not only because he has had a solid career, but because everyone gets into the Basketball Hall of Fame. With LeBron taking his talents to The Forest City, however, Wade’s chances of future career success have now plummeted.
- There are two coaches involved here, among the whole host of people who are a part of this story, and I’ll start with the 43-year old University of Portland alum who coaches in Florida. This is your test, Mr. Spoelstra. No one thought anything of you when you were given the reigns of the team, just as (likely) no one thought anything of you when you first walked through the doors of a Miami Heat building as a video coordinator in 1995. We are a long ways past that, however. You have proven yourself to be one of the better coaches in the league, having amassed a record of 314-189, reaching the playoffs in every season, and winning two titles. Some will point to the fact that you won those titles with “The Big Three” on the floor, but not many coaches would be able to properly handle those talents, balancing them correctly and efficiently with the correct blend of role players — rookies and veterans alike. You have done a masterful job so far, all the while having a man as your superior who had won seven titles before becoming an executive. Now is your true test, your proving ground, your moment to shine. You will have a roster with considerably less talent, with less fans in the building, less media following your games, and lowered expectations. Now is your chance to show us all how great of a coach you truly are.
- The other coach involved in this story is David Blatt, a man who I wrote about previously, who will now enter his first year in the NBA with the greatest player in the world playing for him. David Blatt, your task is both enviable and unenviable. You will have at your disposal a premier, world-class talent — a blessing and a curse. You must now figure out how to make this all work. Your owner, Dan Gilbert, may be completely out of his mind, and you may also have a noteworthy man named David Griffin as your VP of Basketball Operations, but now the spotlight will be on you. LeBron James is not coaching this team. David Blatt is, and it is time for you, Mr. Blatt, to show us what you are made of.
- Before I stepped away from Twitter as quickly as possible following this news, I did catch a tweet from a former Major League Baseball player who made a great point.
So many have reveled in their hatred of LeBron James over the last four years, fueled by the infamous broadcast on ESPN known simply as “The Decision.” The concept of Free Agency is one of the great things about American professional sports. These players are not slaves, nor even indentured servants. They, just like all of us, have the freedom to choose where they will be employed and who will employ them (provided, of course, that their prospective employer is interested). LeBron was not the first and will not be the last free agent to be chastised and derided vehemently for leaving the team he had played for. Because that’s what happened. He didn’t do it “for the money.” He didn’t do it to win titles. He didn’t do it for the Miami weather, or the lifestyle, or because his friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were down there. He did it for all of those reasons, and such was his right. But in the wake of LeBron’s choice to return to Quicken Loans Arena, the public at large is falling all over themselves in an attempt to congratulate LeBron James in his decision and laud him with praise. Why do we feel so strongly about these offseason choices? Should not the praise and criticism come from on-court play, or off-court incidents — both those of the criminal and of the charitable nature? What we can be sure of for now is this: there is an unwritten code, perpetrated by fans of sport in this country, dictating what a player can and cannot do when selecting a team as a free agent. Today, LeBron James did not break any rules of that code, and for that he has the praise of a nation.
- For the very select few of you who have read the content I have contributed to this site, you have likely gathered that I enjoy following many sports’ offseasons and their transactions but particularly soccer, baseball, and basketball. With this morning’s news, the NBA’s offseason can kick up once again, and for that I am grateful. It is now time for many more decisions, from Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, from Isaiah Thomas and Pau Gasol, from Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Now, things get interesting, as if they weren’t already.
- Ah, yes. Las Vegas. A town in the desert in Nevada to whom we look when we feel the need to gamble on all things related to sports (or to gamble in general). With LeBron re-joining the Cleveland franchise, they have jettisoned the Cavs to the top of the list of teams most likely to win the 2014-15 NBA Finals. There is a team down in southern Texas, however, who I don’t think cares very much. You see, no one has ever paid as much attention to them, favored them, put them on as many billboards or as many video game covers. The San Antonio Spurs don’t seem to care. In the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs and particularly the Finals, the Spurs played some of the most attractive basketball most any of us have ever seen. They have now followed up this triumph by bringing back all of their players and extending their coach’s contract for multiple seasons, moves that in the grand scheme of offseason transactions are about as boring as it gets. And yet, even with that “boring” title still somewhat seemingly attached, I doubt the San Antonio Spurs much care. You can rank someone else as the favorite to win it all. They’ll still go out and do what they do best: play beautiful basketball.
- Beautiful basketball. That may lead me to one of my last points. In the last few days, many had voiced their frustrations on social media for how much coverage the pursuit of LeBron James was getting, especially on a network who refers to itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” We must remember, however, that behind all of these artificial stories of hype and hoopla is a basketball player who is better at basketball than (arguably) every other player of basketball in the world. LeBron James is a man who is unique because of his size, his skill, and his talent, and he has parlayed all of that into two NBA Championships. So yes, while much of this coverage has been absurd and at times bordering on nauseating, at the heart of it all was a basketball player whose talents are so dynamic, the media coverage may just be warranted.
- Which brings me to my last point — a tip of the cap to a man who I share a last name with and the website on which his work is published. Lee Jenkins pulled off the scoop of all scoops – this on the heels of his brilliant profile of Adam Silver – surely catapulting himself to the elite status previously held only by the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski, Chris Broussard, and precious others. He and his work are not alone in the greatness displayed as part of Sports Illustrated and SI Now. Other important branches of the publication include SI Longform (home to their significantly longer but no less worthy reads), 120 Sports (a unique app and online service providing sports video content through a partnership with all major leagues with the exception of the NFL), Peter King’s The MMQB (dedicated to great coverage of the NFL), Planet Futbol (home to quality soccer writings from the likes of Grant Wahl and Brian Straus, among others), and Edge (where I have enjoyed the contributions from Tim Newcomb on things like jerseys, gear, and stadia). Amidst a myriad of average and even truly awful sportswriting and sport coverage, Sports Illustrated has proven innovative and adaptive, and for that I salute them.
Until Next Time,