In our other lives, some of us would choose to live one much like star basketball player LeBron James.
He’s rich, famous, is at the precipice of one of the most popular sports globally, and within the last four years has twice achieved the most coveted prize in all of sports: championships.
LeBron even seems to be a pretty good guy- unlike some of his recent predecessors as the greatest, James has a seemingly good family life and has no reported gambling problems.
From what I can tell (which is only what he reveals to the media), he seems like a good role model.
No matter what, being great at something, whatever it is, breeds contempt. In the workplace, the CEO is disliked for his fancy office and monster paychecks. In sports, the top players are often vilified because they win, beating the teams you root for. Outside of the city they play home games in, these players are either loved or hated, with not much middle ground.
LeBron James is no different. Once beloved in Cleveland, he departed and instantly became public enemy number one. Now he’s left Miami and I expect things to be no different.
I’m not sure I’d expect any hate mail from Pat Riley, but it’s possible. After all, when your team goes from a 5/1 favorite to win it all to a 200 or 300-1 longshot, smiles are hard to come by.
But when your team goes from having the number one overall pick to an instant favorite to win it all, you certainly are smiling as Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is right now. Last year, Gilbert had to endure his number one overall pick being arguably the worst top pick ever, a major free agent acquisition that underachieved in Luol Deng, and one of the coldest winters in the Midwest since I’ve been alive.
But getting LeBron James back will turn that frown upside down.
And NBA fans frowns’ should turn around too.
LeBron doesn’t deserve to be hated. Yes, he left for Miami four years ago, but I may have done the same thing. He was the best player in the NBA in his prime and he deserved rings. The Cleveland brass showed him over and over again that he wasn’t going to get the help he needed, so he left. He got his championships. I say good move.
Now, once again free to roam the free agent waters, James did just that. Again, he made the decision I may have made. The one that anyone may have made- he returned to his hometown team to try and win championships for the team he grew up rooting for.
Sellout? Traitor? Come on. Did LeBron ever have any allegiance to Miami? No. He went there to get rings and he did. Miami served its purpose for LeBron. He got the championship monkey off his back.
And don’t try to tell me that Miami was still in a position to win it all, because they weren’t. Dwyane Wade is not going to take the paycut necessary to bring in another top-level talent and Chris Bosh isn’t worth the max, even though someone will give it to him. LeBron is great, but with those two eating up $35 million per year in cap space, LeBron’s decision was easy.
And my decision would have been just as easy. Would I rather play with Wade and Bosh or Irving and Wiggins? That’s a no-brainer. This Cleveland team would have been pretty good without LeBron this year. With him, they could win 70 games.
Why should we as fans hate a player for wanting to win? Don’t we all want the same exact thing? As a Pistons fan, I know this to be true- the Palace once sold out something like 100 straight times back in the glory days of 2004-2008. Now, the place is lucky to have 100 bodies in the seats.
We all want a winner- unless his name is LeBron James. In that case, he’s a good-for-nothing flip-flopper that can’t win without other star players.
But wait, was there ever a superstar to win all by himself? Michael needed Pippen and Rodman. Bird needed Parish and McHale. Magic needed Kareem and Worthy. Kobe needed Shaq and Pau.
Even the mighty King James can’t win it all by himself, although he tried. The fact that the Cavs teams he played on ever made the finals is remarkable; outside of James, those teams were among the worst in recent memory.
LeBron has a chance to not only cement his legacy as one of the greatest players ever, but also as a hometown hero. He’ll have the opportunity to bring the city of Cleveland, his city of Cleveland, a championship for the first time in more than 50 years.
That’s right, Cleveland hasn’t won a trophy since the Browns won the NFL Championship (no, not the Super Bowl) in 1964.
But James can change all of that. He is the one man (sorry Johnny football) that can bring a title to Cleveland in a hurry and give his hometown fans something to cheer about.
Isn’t that what you would want?