Thursday, July 8, 2010

We Interrupt This Semi-Regular Blog for Some Manufactured Breaking Basketball "News"

“ :( ”
“LeBronedict Arnold”
“Sell out”
“I hate you LeBron. Never show your Judas face in NE Ohio and expect love again”
Those were some of the first comments posted on the Cleveland Plain Dealer moments after LeBron James announced his intention to sign with the Miami Heat on Thursday night. Needless to say, I don’t think Cav’s fans are taking this very well. The cheering you hear from the background is coming from Art Modell’s house. He’s no longer the most hated man in Cleveland.

Do I feel bad for Cleveland? No not really. It’s not like it’s out of the blue, the last week has been all abuzz with rumors of the lanky forward absconding to South Beach with DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh. And after all, this is Cleveland aka Heartbreak City. Much like Cub’s fan they should be used to the suffering by now.

Still, I think everyone thought, or at least hoped, that James would have a last minute change of heart and stay in Cleveland. That he wouldn’t just parrot clichéd words about “becoming a man” in Cleveland or about how hard it was to leave. Guess what, Lebron – if you “never wanted to leave Cleveland” you didn’t have to! You could have stayed and still had a chance to win a title.

Why not just be honest and say that you’re a young, insanely wealthy gentleman who wants to play in a cosmopolitan city with your friends? You want to go to the South Beach night clubs (on your nights off) and have someone to shoulder the workload for you on the court. You got sick and tired of having to be the go-to option every game and that you’re not Michael Jordan nor do you want to be.

At least people would still respect your honesty. In the meantime, don’t worry about this notion that you’re the most hated player in the NBA. That’ll pass. Well, everywhere but in Cleveland that is. They’re not going to treat you with respect. They’re going to say bad things about you and your family. There will be boos. Loud boos. Long boos. Profane boos. You will hear the heartbreak of 12-year-old fans in those boos. That is the price you have to pay. Hopefully they won’t drown out the noise of the waves crashing on the beach by whatever South Beach mansion you rent next season.

Despite what Chris Bosh tweets, what we witnessed tonight was not “sports history”. It might be marketing/entertainment history, but it does nothing to change the way the game of basketball is played. No records were broken tonight, no milestones reached or dreams achieved. What we saw tonight was a rich man choose which one of six richer men gets to sign his paychecks next year.

If there is karma in sports (and I think there is) the Heat will self-implode due to injury or ego and miss the playoffs. The Cavs, buoyed by a town rallying around them, will make it to the Eastern Conference finals before succumbing to the eventual champions Orlando Magic.
Speaking of champions, what happens if the Heat don’t win next year? Or the year after that? Who does the blame fall on? LeBron is already positioning himself as second fiddle to Wade. Bosh is just along for the ride so you know he isn’t going to get any blame. Who is going to get the ball when the game is on the line?

Thankfully, I can go back to not caring about basketball for the rest of the year and worry about important things like who is going to be on the third line for the Lightning or who the O’s are going to draft with their number one pick next summer. Also, which team would say no to a BJ Upton and Wade Davis for Cliff Lee trade?

Thursday’s media spectacle drove home the point that sport is business. Loyalty is not dead, but its heart beat is getting weaker. I’m not a LeBron hater, I just don’t like the way he went about this. After all, he managed to sour people’s hearts while raising money for the Boys and Girls Club. He knew he wanted to play with Bosh and Wade all along, and there’s something whimsical about that. Especially if the story of them making a back at the 2008 Olympics is true.

However, if that story was true, why not have all three announce it on the first day of free agency? Wouldn’t that show that they were serious about sharing the spotlight? Then he would have avoided all of the negative press of the last week. Cleveland fans wouldn’t have been strung along for seven days holding out hope.

So future LeBron’s of the world take note. Learn what not to do when it’s your turn on the free agent market. Treat your fans with respect. Don’t underestimate them, don’t make them hate you.

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