As tough as it is, I am not going to completely blame LeBron James for the course of actions that he took during these past few weeks of Free Agency. There was so much hype built up about “The Decision” that it would have been foolish for anyone advising LeBron not to take advantage of the opportunity for further advance his brand. Politicians, players, fans and teams were bending over backwards to try to convince him to come play for their city, all in hopes that he would deliver a championship title. If everyone is able to see just how desperate you are, you will get taken advantage of and one would be foolish not to take advantage of you.
Take the New York Knicks or the New Jersey Nets for example, who saw their mayors making pleas, had politicians in fan-supported videos and people taking out billboard ads – all in hopes of landing what some may call the greatest free agent in American sports history. You would have to think most of the off-the-court attractions were of little significance in helping LeBron determine as to where he wanted to play. A person set to sign a $100 million contract probably will not worry about what is in his backyard as he probably will still have his primary home in Ohio, will travel across the country and do whatever he wants.
This is a 25 year old boy who has already played seven years in the NBA without having a single person in his life step up and say something to his face. He had a hand-picked coach who was basically afraid of him. None of his teammates were remotely good enough to challenge him on or off the court and this allowed a child to develop a very egotistical personality. He never had a mentor to help him develop professionally and even though Shaq did join him for a couple of seasons, he was well past his prime and seemingly did not make much of a difference on him through leadership alone.
He has stayed loyal to his friends from his high school days, something which could be commended as many forget their roots as they hit Big Time. However, you can also say that has also become his downfall. By surrounding himself with a bunch of Yes-Men, he has yet to really encounter a real challenge in his professional life.
Even this entire free agency period seemed like just a soap opera with his mind already determined on where he wanted to go, or at least where he didn’t want to stay – Cleveland. It is a tough break for a city that hasn’t seen a major championship since the mid 60’s but you cannot blame an athlete who was there for seven years and took you to the championship round once. Miami, without a doubt, provides a better opportunity even if they three superstars are surrounded by minimum salary guys. Players will start to flock their way now they know they have a chance to play along side those three, plus a team under the helm of Pat Riley can do wonders even if he is no longer the coach.
It may have been a cop out for him to go to Miami but when you look back on history, none of that will matter if he wins several championships. The last thing LeBron wanted was to go down as the greatest player who never won a championship and this move was more about taking the pressure off of him than anything. He doesn’t have to score 40+ every night now but he can just go back to being the playmaker and with two other premier players with him, you can easily see LeBron averaging a triple-double this following season.
All that said, LeBron is going to someone else’s city, on a team with other talented superstars and on a team where he won’t necessarily take all the shots. I don’t see sharing the ball being as big of a problem as others have stated but sharing the spotlight for someone trying to further their brand can be a major issue. The big 3 all playing together a few games, every couple of years for their nation is one thing, but when you play together for 82 games plus playoffs in an era where everyone tries to further solidify their own legacy, that is completely another.
As for the other teams in the East, it does suck to be a Knicks fan right as they suffered through miserable seasons, cleared out massive cap room – just so say they can say they signed Amare? The Nets also didn’t land anyone big but the Bulls did well by bringing in Boozer with an already solid PG in Rose and a great role player in Noah. I want to see how the Raptors rebuild by losing Bosh, as they suffered last year in the games he was out. It still is relatively easy to make the playoffs in the East but advancing far has become much more difficult. You can lock up the top four seeds with Heat, Bulls, Magic and Celtics in any which order but the bottom four can be a tossup with so many teams being just mediocre.
Personally as a fan, I want to see this team succeed. Maybe this is a new model that teams are trying to follow in order to build successful teams. The Celtics tried this a few years back by bring in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to play alongside Paul Pierce and surrounded them with low paid guys. People questioned that would “this Rondo guy” develop enough to play with these three big guns and help them win a championship. Well that question was answered and maybe out of this roster mess in Miami, another great talent will emerge.