Sunday, July 11, 2010

D-Wade+Oh-my-Bosh+'Bron = ?

That's the question, isn't it? And I genuinely feel that the answer is only among themselves. They have all the power. Not owners, or fans. If they have LeBron bringing the ball in the front court for the 1st and 3rd quarter, and Wade bringing it in the 2nd and 4th. If they have weak side presence with a Bosh-Wade, Bosh-James or James-Wade connection and isolate those possessions. If they rebound the ball and commit to good defense. If they pass out of the double team and if LeBron averages 10 assists a game. If Wade and LeBron develop a better jumper and stretch the defense. If they limit their minutes and stay healthy by not having to have them all on the court at the same time. If they get a legitimate 7 footer to do the dirty work. And, of course, the big IF: if ego doesn't get in the way and they really commit to winning every game no matter what they have to do or what it takes, the way that MJ and Scottie did back in the day...if any or most of those things or just that last thing happens, watch out.

The immediate threat is obviously the Lakers, especially if Bynum can find some knees to play on. The long term threat is in Oklahoma, because Stern wants Durant to be the next one and he will see to it. Dude shot 43-123 from the field and Oklahoma still nearly took the Lakers to Seven. What would have happened if he'd scored more than 1/3 of his shots?

But while I understand how the backlash has unfolded and why, I have a couple of misgivings about the whole event that I wanted to note.

LeBron. I remember watching him talk to George Stromboulopoulos on The Hour and I marveled at how clear-sighted and well-spoken he was. Especially for a ghetto kid from a single mom from Akron. He knew exactly what was going on: how people were using him, what he wanted, what he didn't want. And with the exception of never having won anything in his first seven years in the league (much like MJ in his first seven years in the league), he is the real deal, clearly the best player in the world without a ring. But for someone as media savvy and sharp as him, he's done two things that were clearly in his control that tarnish the LeBron Brand.

One is the way that series with Boston ended with no fight in sight. How you end a ball game and a series is important for how you'll face them next time. That fight even when the game is decided, you aren't doing it for the fans, or because you should. You do it for yourself - so the next time you see those bastards they'll know you didn't fold. You fought for every inch. That matters, and LeBron and the Cavs just said Uncle. I don't know if it was that jackass Mike Brown who told them to pack it in, and to be perfectly honest, I never thought that team could beat Boston, but still LeBron can't accept that kind of surrender for himself. He's too good to be broken like that.

The second is obviously that hour-long special devoted to his decision. That doesn't need explaining. All the justification in the world, all the proceeds going to charity could never change the fact that it was a shameless marketing spectacle. The IOC can get away with that shit when they're announcing who'll host the Olympics. But one person announcing to the world where he's going to work next before even telling his previous employer that he quit. That's tasteless (unless your previous employer was such a shithound that they didn't warrant the courtesy of advanced notice). That isn't different from a player being told he's been traded by a reporter. It's a business. Be professional.

That being said, there's the other more troubling side to the reaction. The reaction of Dan Gilbert, the irrational outburst of anger that smacks of...something. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on. But I think I know what it is now. I think its indignation. I think some people think that LeBron has been given everything he has, and this nigger should feel beholden to this organization and this city. Who does this nigger think he is? I mean, he was handed out his body by the people and handed his shitty neighbourhood by the city and handed his abilities in basketball by the Cavs and handed a number 1 draft selection by the NBA and handed the MVPs by the Cleveland faithful. And now he jumps ship? The owners should decide where he plays, not him. It should come down to what the league wants, not what he wants. What Gilbert calls "loyalty" is actually a very simple thing called control. He wants to control what LeBron does with his life and then call that control a virtue. What he calls "cowardice" is something Gilbert does every day called business. And everyone who's simply jealous or envious or just don't like James, entitled as they are to those feelings, he's the heel for not sticking with a team when he's done nothing but lose with them. He can't handle the pressure of winning a championship on his own. He's a pussy and whiner and blah, blah, blah.

Except. Except Cleveland won a draft lottery, they didn't have any right to him in the first place. Except Cleveland fans supported LeBron and he put up 2 MVP seasons in return. Except he's breaking his ass in the gym. Except this town didn't help him one bit until they realized he could put a ball through a hoop. Except Gilbert has already made millions off of him. Except if LeBron didn't perform, Gilbert wouldn't have thought twice about dealing his ass, like any old commodity. Except MJ would have never won a ring without Scottie by his side. Except LBJ decided that the chance to win is more important to him than who can cut him the biggest check. He doesn't owe shit-all to anyone but his mama who broke her ass with multiple jobs raising him alone. Except for all that, these are the reasons that people hate LeBron. Because he has to live his life, and he did.

Obviously, the public perception of power has been shifted. No one believes that Wade, Bosh and LeBron should be able to get together on one team like this, and the question is, why do we think that? Well its because we see these players as commodities for the real NBA, the owners. Owners are supposed to determine players fates. Really? Do you go to the game to see Gilbert or Cuban? This league is built of athletes. The owners are riding their coat-tails. If they all ditched their contracts and went to play basketball at the local YMCA, people wouldn't pay thousands of dollars to go to the American Airlines Arena, and Quicken Arena, and the United Center, and the Air Canada Centre. They'd would go to the Y, because we want to see good basketball. If a true basketball player heard that DWade, Bosh and LeBron were playing pick up down the street against all comers, their face would light up and they'd grab their gym bag and their camera. But for some reason, these great players playing together - this everyday all-star team - is a reality and besides the fans in Miami, the response has largely been derision. Why would I want that team to lose? Why would I want a team with three guys that I'm pretty sure work harder than anyone else in the league to lose? Why would I want a team full of guys who are willing to sacrifice money for victory to lose? Something is wrong with that. If you really love basketball, something's wrong with that reaction.

I mean LeBron made a decision that wasn't based on money and he's being killed for it. He's being killed for not staying on a bad team. He's being killed because MJ didn't get a chance to play for his hometown team and then sign with the Lakers. Because if he had, nah, MJ wouldn't have gone to the biggest media market in the country with a tradition of winning and great players by his side. What kind of decision is that? I could see that Cleveland team never winning a championship for two reasons 1) they were never going to be bad enough with LeBron there to get a good draft pick and 2) who the hell wants to play in Cleveland? The only reason we even talk about Cleveland being cool is because LeBron was there. But it used to be known as the team of ugly jerseys and the team that wasn't going anywhere and the team that MJ buried alive every chance he got. The Cavs were a joke. And now, they're a joke again, because they still don't have management, they ran their team with a high school basketball coach, their owner is an ass and they let an act of God slip through their fingers. But, alas, fuck's his fault because he's no MJ. Okie dokie.

I'm not ashamed to say, I'll be looking forward to them making it work. I want some of these bum teams out there to be taken to town by guys who are trying to win the championship not in June but from October. I want to see a team that doesn't take nights off. I want a team that has something to prove. So many people complain about players being pampered and dogging it and not playing to win. This team can't afford to do that and, as a real basketball fan, I hope that they won't.


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