By: S. Davis
I feel Michael Jordan is the GREATEST basketball player ever! Most fans, journalists, and others who follow sports as we do – want our stars to be great and not latch on; chasing a ring towards the end of a career is acceptable but James is 25, still hasn’t hit his prime, and joins a good-looking team in Miami. Do you think Jordan would want to team up with Barkley, Ewing, Stockton or Malone? Beat your rivals, don’t join them. We like to see our stars fight through the tough times and finally ascend to a title (or titles) because of the ride; it’s riveting. However Jordan didn’t do it alone; Pippen was also and all-time great. The basketball decision was a great one, the way he chose to decide…not quite.
Last month – July 8th – The Decision aired and it was centered on which team James would choose in his quest to expand his “global icon” aspirations. WE all know what the final decision was and I give him credit for finally providing an answer. Let me mention this before I continue: I’m a fan of his and I consider him one of the 2 or 3 best players in the league (Kobe is CLEARLY #1, in my opinion), and he’s amazing to watch. With that said, he absolutely hosed the state of Ohio! Now we all should pay attention that he specifically mentions Akron (over Cleveland) when talking about his love (for the state) and that has always stood out to me. Maybe if the Cavs belonged to Akron we wouldn’t be talking about his exit.
As a free agent who decided to join Wade and Bosh, he made a smart basketball decision, he wants to win and no one can fault him for that. Doing it in that manner, on a national broadcast was tasteless, at best. For a superstar as polished and prepared to engage with the media (as he his) that hour-long special was cringe-worthy (I watched Terminator 2 while it aired)…I was tired of the frenzy. The replay I watched online – all I wanted was the question and his answer – made me feel bad for Ohio and they way he left them. Like that, really?
You don’t hold the world’s interest – to this degree – and just dump on your former team, not like that. He’s always exuded class and seemed personable so seeing him do that was surreal. You leave your team in a nondescript manner, maybe in a face-to-face meeting with Dan Gilbert and I get that his goal of the broadcast was to donate the money from advertising to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, but it went over terribly. His marketing company and advisors, I’m sure, didn’t anticipate the vitriol which emanated from all over the media spectrum. The Boys and Girls Club benefited to the tune of 2.5 million (by most estimates) but the opposite can be said of James’ image. While the charitable portion of this story was supposed to be highlighted, unfortunately, it was completely overshadowed. With that being said, the fact that he wanted the proceeds to go directly to one of the foundations he works with further drives the point home that he has a good heart. That makes this all the more revealing and it comes across in a backhanded fashion.
When I first got notice of this special, my immediate thought was “there’s no way he puts himself on a platform such as this and bails on Cleveland.” As I stated earlier, he’s too savvy with the media (and his image) to cast himself in such an unsavory manner, yet he did. My friend, J, called me once I finished watching T2 to discuss it and he was amazed. As a life-long Magic fan he was excited to see the Heat in the next version of video games, but he was totally surprised…as were the people in Cleveland.
I genuinely feel that there would’ve been a backlash with his choice of the Heat over the Cavs, no matter what, but he could have released a statement on television, in an interview, on ESPN or a small press conference at the Quicken Loans Arena. I mean where was his awareness? Who the hell told him that this decision, on TV, was a good idea? Does he care about fallout? Because, if so, this guy isn’t the person fans want him to be and his credibility is gone, at least for the time being. He cannot be that naïve to ponder this idea, put it out to the masses and then run with it…eyes closed, right? Was anyone in his circle thinking rationally? And that’s one of the other topics because I’m not sure I’ve seen an athlete go from beloved to having his character meticulously denigrated so swiftly and passionately. But you know what? Maybe he does not care. Cavalier fans are probably in-line with that last sentiment.
There had to be little (or no) thought of the ripple effects; does he get this? Again, it’s not what he did…it’s HOW he did it. Ugh, it just smells rancid, beneath him I thought. My heart goes out to Cleveland and the entire state of Ohio. Let’s look at the organization he left: They cannot do anything (in terms of team building) as they spent the last three seasons attempting to put everything – and everyone – in place to help James. Owner Dan Gilbert, former GM’s Jim Paxson and Danny Ferry spent time and (Gilbert’s) money to surround him with the pieces to build a contender. Side note: FUNNY how the sports media is calling the Cavs players inadequate but these are the same talking heads that REPEATEDLY picked this team over the last 3 or 4 YEARS to win the O’Brien trophy; everyone’s jumping off the ship now…whatever. Cleveland is built to be a regular season team, not a post-season one and very few talking heads saw that, yet they now view his ex-teammates like oddities.
They’ve screwed up their cap space by taking and moving bad contracts to win NOW because of the 3-year extension James took a few summers back to keep management honest. Also, Cleveland isn’t a sexy destination for players as it was widely reported that James was lobbying Bosh to join him there and he was rebuffed. Bosh wanted to play with James, but not in Cleveland…that hurts.
What do they do now? Hope this year’s college season produces a few stud players as they’ll be picking in the lottery (more likely than not) and rebuild once more. Start at the beginning, scale back on all those alternate jerseys because the meal ticket took his “talents” to South Beach, start giving their young players minutes, let Scott coach and be…patient. It’s a tough pill to swallow going from a contender to a likely lottery participant but sports is cyclical, akin to life.
The letter that Gilbert put online was an angry rant from an owner who’s watching his investment depreciate exponentially. Some of the things he wrote were bush league for a businessman and it probably won’t help him recruit in the future, but he was going on raw emotion. It all stings, Dan.
Also, it’s been reported that ever since the Cavs were eliminated by the Celtics, James avoided attempts by Gilbert to keep communication lines open. I understand he needed to have distractions kept to a minimum but to ignore the man who worked to build a franchise around the “King” wasn’t the best of moves. The Celtics sent them home the second week of May and the free agency period began July 1st…hmm; that’s five to six weeks of no communication…not a good sign of things to come.
The program has to be one of the most shortsighted decisions that a professional athlete has ever made and a month has passed so I’m choosing to believe that James is cognizant – at least now – of the damage done. Fans got irate at an Indians game (July 28th) when someone wore his new Heat jersey, and I understand the emotion still tied to this situation, but when police had to escort the man out of the stadium my thought was “this is too far.” Time will pass, the raw emotion will calm and hopefully the basketball team will be able to keep fans interested and those businesses on their feet; however I do worry about the latter.
We put athletes on pedestals that most don’t care to be on, want any part of or deserve to have. Fans are emotional, it’s just that way but we cannot be upset when those same athletes’ decisions don’t coincide with the things we want. That’s just how it works out sometimes.