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The King Wants Rings

Sometimes, I make myself sick.  I waited for the LeBron James ESPN special, “The Decision,” like it was a Michael Jackson music video premiere.  (Remember the time?)  I sat in front of the television and waited for LBJ to moonwalk, spin, grab his crotch, and scream “Shamon,” at Jim Gray.  But, alas, that never happened.  Instead, LBJ broke northeast Ohio’s heart, and told the viewing public that he planned to take his talents to [W]ade County, Florida, thereby turning the Miami Heat into some kind of NBA version of the United States circa the middle of the 20th century: young, rich, and with world domination on their minds.  Of course, the analogy probably doesn’t hold all that well, but still, if I may borrow my friend jmscott’s hashtag, it’s #nbaimperialism if there ever was.   I guess that makes the Boston Celtics England or something.  I don’t know. I digress.

Although the super homies, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, and King James have yet to adopt a nickname, I’m inclined to refer to them as Miami Thrice (kind of wack, I know, but you know you want to see those three dressed like Crockett and Tubbs.) or as The Triumvirate.  I don’t know if that makes the Lakers the senatorial elite or something, but Wade especially better watch his back.

A worthy sobriquet, of course, is only part of the post-Decision conversation.  There are many ways of looking at this blackbird, and sports writers and pundits have all thrown in their two cents.  Since I’m just a lowly blogger, I’ll just dip my toe into the water.  I’ve no desire to wade in a pool of sharks.

Here are some things I learned:

  1. There are 50 ways to leave your lover.  Breaking up on television isn’t one of them.  This is what LeBron had to say about leaving Cleveland: “You know, you built a lot and you’ve done some things, you’ve done great things. You had the ups and downs. It’s almost like a relationship you may have with a lady where you’ve been with that person for seven years and you’ve seen it all. You’ve grown together. You’ve been through the ups and downs. And one day you guys just don’t see it the same way. You have to move on for the better. And that’s how I feel. It hurts. It definitely hurts. It hurts me to say that I’m moving on. But I have to do what’s best.”  Indeed, LeBron does have to do what’s best for him, but what’s best probably wasn’t dissing Cleveland on national television.  With the decision and everything thereafter, it was almost as if LBJ broke up with his girl, then showed up at her usual hang out with his younger, hotter new lady.  It was tacky–and we all watched it.  I’m not talking about image here; I’m talking about tact.  Anyone with a modicum of interest in sports knows that white Jesus seemingly hates Cleveland professional franchises.  Their favorite son not only dumped them, but did so in such a manner that, with the help of ESPN, the world could see their reaction.  NOT.  COOL.  AT.  ALL.  To add, James’ decision to leave not only hurt Cleveland’s pride, but the city’s bottom line.  With his departure, the restaurants and shops in and around Quicken Loans Arena will likely suffer.  There will–must?–be a casino in Cleveland soon.  All this makes me think that Cleveland sports are indeed cursed.  Not cursed like the Cubs, but cursed nonetheless.  I still root for y’all, though.
  2. ACL does not spell loyalty.  Personally, I wanted to see LBJ stay with the Cavs or come to the Bulls to maintain some balance in the East, but I refuse to call his decision to leave disloyal or, as Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert put it, a “cowardly betrayal.”  Questions of loyalty only arise when players are involved, but not when owners expunge these players from their books if/when the injuries mount.  The NBA isn’t like the NFL, but still there’s no loyalty there. If LeBron James blows out both of his knees tomorrow, and recovers, but is no longer the explosive, freak of a basketball player that he once was, the Cavs, the Heat, any other team would get rid of James before Gilbert could have lowered James’ Fathead price.
  3. Deion Sanders said it must be in the money, but in this case it isn’t.  In a culture where we go on and on about the greediness of professional athletes, but rarely if ever say anything about these billionaire team owners, LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami for what? Less money.  That’s right.  Less money.  As egotistical and selfish as he might have seemed by agreeing to participate in this television special, we must acknowledge that he joins the Heat for fewer dollars.   So, I suppose, his narcissism has its limits–or a price.  Take your pick.
  4. There was a moment during the decision special when LeBron James said he didn’t want the “pressure” of having to be the guy every night.  Personally, that’s not the kind of thing I want to hear from the best player in the NBA.  As much as we’ve talked about LeBron’s ego, it sure is lacking at times.  What I loved about Jordan, Magic, and all the greats was that they thrived under the pressure.  They welcomed it.  They wanted to be the guy to make the shot, or pass, or steal, or rebound to win the game.  And the fact that LeBron enjoys the thought that somebody else on the team can be the man on any given night gives me pause.  But I guess making some scrubs and an aging Shaq look like all-stars takes its toll.
  5. Ko-be!? Ko-be!?  I swore that if LBJ joined the Heat I’d root for the Lakers, because I just couldn’t stand that much talent on one team.  I might have to back away from that statement, because I’m just not sure that I can muster the courage to cheer for the Black Mamba.  I don’t know about you, but I felt kind of dirty about rooting for the Dream Team in ’92.  I think rooting for the Heat might make me feel the same way.  Yet, while the King and Co. are partying it up in South Beach, KBB is up getting better.  Kobe Bryant is a basketball nerd, and The Triumvirate are coming off like the cool kids.  How can I not root for the guy?  Still, watching Kobe pout is one of life’s pleasures.  I might need to rethink my position.
  6. G.Q. Pat Riley is the man.  And I would cheer for the Heat if he agreed to coach them this year, especially if he let LBJ play point guard.  It could be Showtime all over again, Pat. Think about it.
  7. Dan Gilbert is rich, but he has no class.  Seriously, dude.  Comic Sans?  How professional.  It is not a “cowardly betrayal” if your best employee finds a better job, especially if you’ve spent years wasting his talent because you didn’t find better workers to join him.  Sure, LBJ didn’t officially give two weeks notice, but if everyone else saw the writing on the wall, Gilbert was just remaining willfully ignorant.  Get a grip, dude.  To add, I find it highly disturbing that this is the reaction we got when a young athlete actually used his leverage to his own benefit.  So sorry LBJ didn’t wait for you to trade him, Gilbert.  Who does he think he is?
  8. Why Jesse Jackson is weighing in on Dan Gilbert’s rhetoric and not the Oscar Grant trial would be surprising and befuddling if the good reverend hadn’t been so ass backwards in the past.  Rev. Jesse was a trending topic on Twitter yesterday, so I knew he had said something crazy, and he ticked quite a few folks off by saying that Gilbert had a “slave master mentality.”  But is it really that crazy?  Are professional athletes slaves?  No.  They are legally free.  They make money.  If they are lucky, they can exploit their free agency in the way LeBron did.  Still, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the plantation model endures.  The fact is professional sports are constructed in a way where young men’s, especially black men’s, bodies are exploited until they can’t be used anymore.  And no matter how much money these athletes make while they do it, someone else makes more money off of them, and at the end of the day the latter still have their knees. LeBron James wants to be a billionaire.  Dan Gilbert is almost a billionaire.   How much money do we think Nike has made off of LeBron James?  Is professional sports like chattel slavery?  Absolutely not.  Yet the rhetoric survives. Listen to SportsCenter around draft time or during the next free agency period or near the trade deadline.  All the talk about trading players, the market and how much players are worth, or what their pre-draft numbers tell you about their bodies is alarming and will remind you of that horrible institution.  Pro sports may not be slavery, but the rhetorical and situational commonalities deserve conversation that doesn’t simply result in calling people who make such analogies morons.

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