July 9, 2010 2 Comments
Let me start out by saying I’m glad it is finally over. And what an ending it was. Since 2008, the sports media has been waiting for “The Decision”, and it didn’t disappoint. Arguably, one of the best-kept secrets in sports (until a few hours prior at least). I do believe it was only fitting to conclude this circus with a hour long ESPN special 10 times more hyped than the Super Bowl. I heard theories that Lebron was purchasing villas in Miami to him sending his taxes to Chicago. Trust No one. But the most relevant information was Jay-Z buying courtside Heat season tickets for next season prior to “The Decision.” So did Jay know beforehand?
In fact, the only one who seemed surprised by all this was Dan Gilbert. With the Bulls, Knicks, Heat, and Celtics improving, Gilbert believed that Lebron would stay on a mediocre team. I don’t even have such high hopes for my fantasy team. However, I will admit there was a point last week where I was positive he would stay in Cleveland. But then I thought, why have a one-hour special to announce that you’re staying. That’s like inviting 100 people to your house for a party, and when they arrive announcing there is no party. In the words of the great wise man, Chad Ochocinco, “When a free agent leaves he is a traitor, but when a team cuts you it is part of the business.” Doesn’t seem fair. Could you really blame Lebron for leaving an owner like this? Does Dan Gilbert really believe that his angry tirade will attract future potential free agents? Even my boy Kevin Durant said that was very unprofessional. Come on Dan, you should have sold the team while your stock was high.
You are going to have parts of the media saying how Jordan and Kobe never left, but then again their supporting casts were heads and shoulders above Cleveland. They might fail to realize that Kobe had Shaq and Gasol, and Jordan was Michael “Air” Jordan. Enough with the Jordan comparisons, the man played in six NBA finals, won MVP in all of them while averaging 34 PPG in his playoff career. My best example would be Shaq, who changed teams from Orlando to LA to Miami, nobody questioned his move… four rings later. So if Lebron truly meant that he cares about winning above all else, he made the right decision. What’s an extra $20 million when you are leaving multiple rings on the table.
There will also be the bandwagon critics who urged Lebron to leave Cleveland, and then bash him right after leaving. Think about it, would you rather be a perennial 2nd-3rd round playoff exit, or part of something great. Not to mention, the quality of life in Cleveland is far different than that of Miami. As I think about it more and more, it starts to become clear. Lebron never went to college, he was never recruited by college coaches; he wanted that sense of belonging. He wanted to see how much all the teams truly wanted him, he wanted to get away from home. And I imagine nobody could be more persuasive than Pat Riley.
With that in mind, I would like to take a minute to praise Pat Riley, and his hall-of-fame recruiting skills. How he convinced one of the biggest stars in the game to leave his hometown and take less money is beyond me. It might be his classic slicked back hair or his Al Pacino resemblance, but something worked. On that note I love making “Godfather” comparisons. In the Godfather Part 2 this situation is very much like when Michael gave his brother Fredo control of the family casino business. It wasn’t until Fredo messed up, where he had to pay the consequences. If I was Erik Spoelstra, I wouldn’t go on fishing trips with Pat Riley anytime soon. Because believe me, if the Heat don’t win now, expect to see Riley take over as coach ASAP. Stay tuned, Pat Riley has a couple more roster spots to fill. On that note, I’d like to go on the record and say that Pat will bring back Shaq for another Miami homecoming.
After “The Decision”, this is unlike anything I’ve seen in sports. When have three of the top 10 players in the game played on the same team. If I could compare this to anything, the 2009 Yankees come to mind. Dwyane Wade is the Derek Jeter of Miami, Chris Bosh is the Mark Teixeira, and Lebron is the Alex Rodriguez. Two players coming from being the King of their respective cities to become second or third fiddle. Its unreal.
And for those critics who said this trio can’t play together, I have a one question: Did you watch the 2008 Olympics? These guys have been friends since their draft day in 2003, they aligned their contracts so they could all be free agents at the same time, and this was meant to be. As for who takes the last shot, I’m still saying Dwyane Wade. Wade has a better career resume in the final minutes of a game. Trust me I know, I’m a Mavericks fan. So when you are trying to convince yourself of the lack of role players on the Miami Heat, remember the 2008 Boston Celtics. I’m sure not many were aware of the potential of Rondo and Perkins, so lets wait to see what the Heat have to offer.
The NBA is entering a different era. Since the Celtics title in 2008, it has become the year of the super team. Whether it is trades for veterans like Boston or acquiring elite players in one-sided trades like LA, something drastic must be done to win championships. This is no longer the league where one person can carry a team to the Promised Land. Ask Kobe post Shaq and pre Gasol. They were struggling to get out of the first round.
As for Kobe, this should open up a whole new rivalry in the NBA. Since the times of Shaq vs. the Lakers, the Heat-Lakers rivalry has been renewed. This might prove to be a 2011 NBA Finals preview, after all Las Vegas sure thinks so. After hearing “The Decision”, Vegas now has the Heat as the favorite to win the NBA title at 4-5. Before the Wade and Bosh decision, they were 25-1 long shots and afterwards were 6-1 odds. The Lakers are now 5-1 odds to win it all, and the stage is set for a West Bay East Bay showdown. On a more humorous note, the Cleveland Cavaliers odds fell from 12-1 to 75-1 after “The Decision.”
So as I prepare for a shift of power in the NBA, I will remain a “Witness.” Not a witness of Lebron, but I am curious to see how all this plays out. This is unfortunate for most teams in the NBA who don’t currently have a “Super Team”, but to the die-hard sports fan, it is always a pleasure witnessing sports history.
I have one more thing for Lebron James and Chris Bosh…in the words of Will Smith, Welcome to Miami.