By J.A. Adande
As a conclusion to LeBron Week, and with a nod to Henry Abbott, here are a few Friday afternoon bullets as I try to clear my mind of all things LeBron:
If Dan Gilbert really thought so little of LeBron James then why was he prepared to offer him upwards of $120 million?
If he really loathed him, if he really questioned his commitment during the past two playoffs and believes he can win a championship faster than a team with LeBron, he would have renounced the rights to him at the start of the free agency period and told all those cap-clearing teams, “Have at him, suckers.”
Dan Gilbert doesn’t hate LeBron. He hates that he can’t make money off LeBron anymore. And if he thought it was tough attracting free agents to Cleveland before, he just made it more difficult. My thoughts as a potential Cleveland signee would be, “If the owner can do the greatest player in franchise history like that, how’s he going to do me?”
The only trashing of an ex-player by an owner that I could think of to compare to Gilbert’s comic sans-fonted rant about LeBron was the Bulls’ Jerry Reinsdorf, when Horace Grant departed to sign a free agent contract with the Orlando Magic in 1994. As soon as it became clear that Grant was leaving, Reinsdorf held a pre-emptive strike news conference in which he claimed Grant faked illnesses to miss games and backed out of a handshake deal to stay in Chicago. "I believe we failed to achieve the best record in the Eastern Conference because we lost the games that Horace failed to play," Reinsdorf said. "You might conclude that he cost us the championship
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to Miami is the greatest player-driven moment in the history of the league, the manifestation of sacrifices of all the old-timers who fought for free agency. I hope at some point James, Wade and Bosh take a moment to recognize the efforts of their predecessors, the way LeBron and Kevin Garnett did for Spencer Haywood, whose court battles paved the way for them to enter the NBA straight out of high school.
And its also interesting to see the backlash against the players joining forces to create this team, as opposed to when teams aggregate superstars via trade. As a Laker-hating friend of mine texted me: “Now I have two teams to root against.”
Did people instantly hate the Celtics when they acquired Garnett and Ray Allen, or the Heat when they traded for Shaq?
I’ve never understood the resentment toward players acquiring as much money and power as they can. They’re the ones with the limited career span. They’re also the ones you pay money to see.
With the increased salary cap in the midst of a recession and the lavish spending even before the new figures were announced, the owners will have a tough time justifying the harsh terms they’ll try to thrust on the players in collective bargaining next summer. But if the players have been paying attention to public opinion, they know they’re not going to win the public relations battle. They never do.
Now it can be told. A basketball source said it was always going to be LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
“They made a pact three weeks ago,” the source said. “All that stuff with Wade in Chicago was just posturing.”
And for all of this talk about LeBron and his brand, how could anyone not see the way this would hurt his credibility. Didn’t they “witness” the reaction to Brett Favre the past two summers? Make your choice and get on with it. Don’t subject us to reporters doing standups with non-update updates. (Poor Shelley Smith spent more time on the streets of Cleveland and Akron than a traffic cop over the past week). Sports fans like unpredictability, they just don’t like indecision.
“It’s going to hurt his business,” the source said.
How would you market LeBron going forward? If the number one goal of businesses is to create brand loyalty, how can you do that when the face of your product is a guy who created a television special to announce that he was bailing on his hometown?
It’s not fair to call LeBron going to Miami the equivalent of Michael Jordan joining the Pistons. The Heat weren’t the Cavaliers’ rivals. They weren’t the ones who put LeBron out of the playoffs the way Isiah did to Jordan’s Bulls. If LeBron went to the Celtics or Magic, that would be a greater admission of defeat.
The most astute observation of the summer came from FreeDarko’s Twitter feed. He said that everything LeBron does is derivative.
The greatest example of this is the pregame powder toss. Michael Jordan did it first, dusting Bulls color commentator Johnny “Red” Kerr before every game. Kevin Garnett mimicked it almost step-by-step. Then LeBron turned it into an elaborate display.
(That reminds me: If you’re tired of all of the contrived speeches in this free agency period then take a moment to watch one of the most genuine NBA moments of the past two years. It came on Feb. 10, 2009, when Jordan took a cease-fire in his cold war with the Bulls and made a rare appearance at the United Center to participate in a halftime tribute to the ailing Red Kerr and gave him one last powder dusting.)
And when it was time for LeBron to announce his choice, his wording – “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat” – echoed the 17-year-old Kobe Bryant’s announcement that “I’ve decided to skip college and take my talent to the NBA.”
But the format in which LeBron said it was different. It turns out that holding his own announcement TV special and joining a superstar in his prime are the two most original moves LeBron has ever made. And also the most unpopular.