Lets turn back the clock to July 2010. Everyone with even the slightest interest in pop culture is gearing up for “The Decision”. Lebron James would announce, in an hour long special on ESPN, where he had decided to sign as a free agent. When was the last time a superstar-let alone the best player in his given sport-had even considered leaving the team that had drafted him? You’re getting hyped up. For a split-second, if you’re not a Bulls, Cavs or Heat fan (the only 3 logical choices) you hope that LeBron may surprise the world and come to your team. Then you realize that that won’t happen.
Meanwhile, I’m at camp and the cabin I’m helping counsel for the week is invited to the owners cottage. Then, my own cabin is invited to watch Lebron’s announcement. Would this cause conflict? I was suddenly worried. But of course, Lebron had gotten himself primetime, so there would be no problem. The owner is expecting to us to leave at 5 past 9, since the announcement should come right away. But no, instead we get a long, stretched-out half hour that is for the most part useless. At times it feels like it will never end. Then, the decision. Lebron, and his humble self, was “taking his talents to South Beach”. The owner, in all likelihood not knowing who Lebron was previously, had probably already decided that he didn’t like this character, since he was taking too long to make his announcement.
Lets turn back the clock even further. 1962, it is announced that players would be given free agency, and the right to choose where they play. Skip forward to 2006, and knowing this, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James sign 7 year contracts with their team, but with opt-out options after 4. Each of them opt out, and each of them sign with Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. Now, in the year 1 PD (post-decision) Cavaliers hate this super-team. And I cannot blame them for that. Raptors fans too, though being one myself, it started to become more clear that Bosh would not lead us to a championship. He couldn’t even lead us to the 2nd round win. There was even a sense of relief once, out of the spotlight, he too signed with Miami.
What is the one thing that a GM looks for in signing new players? It is cliche, but it could not be more true. You need a player that wants to win. A player who is just there for the money never turns out well. All too often, we see players have huge contract years, sign even bigger contracts that offseason, and then totally fade for the remainder of their careers. Talent is obviously necessary, as you can’t have a team filled with just Darrick Martins, and John McDonalds (cross-sport reference). And we like to hold firm in our belief as fans that professional athletes go out there to win, to quote Malcolm X, “by any means necessary”. We hate said players who take the money and stop trying. We say that we respect players who will do whatever it takes to win. You see where I’m going with this, right?
“The Decision” was the worst thing on ESPN ever. It was a soulless display by Lebron James, shoving his decision in the face of a city already hard on its luck. (Sidenote: Heartbreaking aside, was this not a genius business move on the part of LeBron? Wasn’t it something like the highest rated show on television…all year?). It is almost indefensible. Even Lebron himself admitted that it was stupid, and just a brutal decision that probably ruined his reputation forever. I don’t believe that that’s entirely true.
Back to that winning at all costs thing. What is the best way to win a championship? Surround yourself with good players. Lebron knows firsthand how a cast of mediocre players leads nowhere, as does Bosh. So after a bad experience, they both felt it was time to make the change on their own. And they invited D-Wade along for the ride (it was probably Bosh third-wheeling in this scenario, but you get the idea). Now to the next decision. Lets all go play somewhere together. But where? Like anyone, they would prefer a warmer climate. Miami has that. It would be nice if at least one of them didn’t have to betray their team. Check, Miami. Now anywhere they go they will be scrutinized and criticized to the max. But where could they at least partly quell that? Not New York, but Miami.
If they Heat end up winning this thing, their super-team instantly becomes successful. Not so much if they lose. If they lose, they will not only lose all respect as people, but now as basketball players. Could you imagine if they pulled a Thunder and blew a big lead in the final minutes and that totally turned the tables on them and they ended up losing the Finals?
I know that everyone is cheering for the Disco-Dirk led Mavs. And if they pull of the upset, then everyone will claim to be happy. But all this will do is ignite a little more hate for the Heat. Because they came together to win championships, by any means necessary. And if they don’t win, then Raptors and Cavs fans feel even more betrayed. Lebron lost a Finals by himself in Cleveland, he didn’t have to leave them to do that again in Miami. Other fan-bases will be angered. Angered that the Heat spent all summer hyping themselves up. Angered that even after a terrible start, they still felt like the Heat would take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. If the Heat win, on the other hand, then I can only imagine two feelings. One, being anger that Bron, Wade and Bosh didn’t come to their team. And two, a sense of “good for them”. Because in the end, call them what you will, but you and I both know that the Heat did absolutely nothing wrong, short of wasting one hour of your precious life.