Athletes are accused of caring more about money than winning, no matter what they say their goal is. Some even hold out, refusing to play until they get that bigger deal. LeBron James bucked that trend last night.
For weeks every news outlet under the sun has speculated where James would go. Unless you were from a city that had a chance to sign the most coveted free agent ever, most probably grew tired of the LeBronathon.
But when the gobs of speculation ceased and the dust finally cleared LeBron made his announcement—in an unprecedented hour-long special nonetheless—that he would go to Miami.
If LeBron was after money the choice was clear: New York. Estimates put combined salary and endorsements at a possible $2 billion, compared to max $700 million in other cities.
If he was after a ring: Miami. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and James are by far the best threesome on any team.
If he wanted to stay in his hometown of Cleveland, where many argue he owes his allegiance, then that choice was obvious.
I have a great deal of respect for players that remain loyal to their hometown fans, even though another deal may seem more attractive. That being said, however, now that he has left, the citizens of Cleveland have little to be angry about. Look at where they were:
Consecutive losing seasons from 1998 to 2002. In the seven years prior to that they did make the playoffs six times, but they lost five times in the first round.
LeBron arrived in 2003 as a 19 year old kid. In his rookie year Cleveland more than doubled their win total over the previous season. They steadily improved over the next few years, and have made the playoffs five seasons in a row. In 2007 the franchise went to its first ever championship.
Even LeBron cannot win it all by himself. Cleveland had seven years to bring in a supporting cast to get the job done and failed to do so.
He came to Cleveland a year after a 17-win season, grew their fan base, and left them a respectable place to be in the NBA. Net gain much?
I have wondered for years what would happen if a few big superstars put aside their egos and took reduced salaries to try and win together. After all, not one player will ever say that they’d rather have money than a championship. Imagine an owner going to ten all stars and saying, “I’ll pay you all the same if you come and play together.” There’s no way that they would lose, but would they sign? Probably not.
Boston pulled it off to an extent with their big three and as I recall it worked out pretty well for them. If the threesome now in Miami took on Boston’s three though, my money won’t be on the guys in green.
The only place that I could actually see something this play out was in video games. I would make deals until I was blue in the face and find ways to convince virtual stars to sign on. Then I could go out and dominate.
That part was easy because there are no virtual egos. Which is the phase in this that is yet to be seen. Can these three guys who could all do pretty well on a team where they were the top player actually play together? I have no reason to believe that they cannot.
I don’t really consider myself an NBA fan. I don’t have a favorite team. I rooted for the Bulls when they had Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman (who even if he was odd, hustled more than anybody out there and possibly anyone since) and I supported Boston’s big three for the aforementioned reasons. Before you call me a bandwagon fan, I’ll note that I wasn’t upset in the slightest to see Kobe get the title this past year over Boston. I watch and am intrigued by these teams because they are doing something that has never been done before.
Which is why I hope Miami succeeds. It was the obvious place to go for LeBron if he truly wanted to win and he took less money to do it (less in endorsements and less in the salary he could’ve gotten with Cleveland with a forced sign-and-trade).
I’ll reiterate that I respect players for what they do off the court as much if not more than from what they do on it, but even if his roots are in Ohio, he just made a one of a kind decision off the court too.