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Friday, October 22, 2010
LeBron James: Sticking it to ownership

By Kevin Arnovitz

The response to LeBron James' move from Cleveland to Miami has been measured along every imaginable line. We know that Clevelanders, by and large, are both outraged and hurt. We've learned that despite the public outcry over "The Decision" from a large swath of the NBA fan base, black Americans have few qualms with James. Pundits have engaged in pop psychology, positing that James joined forces with two A-list stars because the dynamic in Miami will absolve him from having to be The Man.

Know whom we've heard very little from?

Current NBA players.

Player X is an actual NBA player who writes a semi-regular column for ESPN.com. From his perspective, the events of July were never about Cleveland vs. Miami, sloppy public relations or bad taste.

It was about a leading NBA star asserting himself:
While the fans hate, the players applaud, because symbolically, the Summer of LeBron was a blow to the owners. And a blow to the owners is a win for us. We love that LeBron ran the show from start to finish, called every shot. That's a welcome change from the owner-player dynamic, which we all think should operate more like a partnership. It's about time the owners were forced to recognize that we are the ones bringing value to their investments.

With a lockout looming, James' actions this past summer served as an anthem in an increasingly contentious battle between players and owners.

As much as players revel in James' ability to turn the tables, they also fear the Heat, according to Player X:
Yes, we're still trying to gauge the Heat's chemistry, but that doesn't mean we're not all scared of them. LeBron and Co. say they're keeping a checklist of haters. I know guys who refuse to say anything negative for that reason. If you talk trash, those guys will bust your ass with a vengeance. They'll be in the Finals this year, for sure.

Anonymity is a convenient luxury, but rarely do you hear a player make predictive statements like "for sure" with so much certitude. That's true whether he's being quoted on the record with the name his mama gave him -- or as Player X.