Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Sports — Rick Moran @ 10:13 am

No, he is not Michael Jordan. Nor is he Magic, Larry, Wilt, Kareem, or almost any other NBA super-great from the past.

He is an excellent player with excellent basketball skills. But in the end, he lacks the extra spark - the unquenchable thirst to win that was the hallmark of Michael, Magic, and the rest which spelled the difference between being a great player, and a great player who wins championships.

On top of that, he is a show pony whose shameful manipulation of the emotions of NBA fans in the cities where he was rumored to be going - especially his hometown Cleveland boosters - demonstrated a cruel streak that makes him perhaps the most unattractive superstar in America today.

My interest in the NBA goes back to the titanic battles between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Those two classy superstars made those Boston-Phladelphia finals games for the ages. James may outshine either of those gentlemen in pure athleticism and pizazz but comes up woefully short in the desire department. Anyone who saw that Boston-Cleveland game 6 in this year’s playoffs knows that this is true.

So does James’ former boss, the owner of the Cavaliers Dan Gilbert. In a missive likely to be voted “Best Rant by an Owner in Sports History,” Gilbert, who didn’t find out about James’ decision until minutes before LeBron went on the air to announce his decision, let the frustration he felt and is probably being felt by Cleveland fans pour out in vitriolic fashion:

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:


You can take it to the bank.

Gilbert later said in an interview:

“He has gotten a free pass,” Gilbert said in a phone interview with The AP. “People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is.”

Gilbert said James quit on the Cavs during their second-round series against the Boston Celtics, who rallied from a 2-1 deficit to eliminate Cleveland.

“He quit,” Gilbert said. “Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar.”

The Cavaliers were beaten by 32 points in Game 5. During the game, James appeared distracted and uninterested, often glaring at Cleveland’s coaches as the Cavs tried to foul to get back into the game in the second half. James also made some puzzling postgame comments, saying he had “spoiled” people with his play over seven seasons.

Could you ever imagine Magic, or Bird, or Michael ever appearing “distracted and uninterested” no matter what the score was or who they were playing? And this was a playoff game.

The hour-long special on ESPN last night announcing his decision was called “cheesy” by Hollywood director and Knicks fanatic Spike Lee. That’s an excellent descriptive. It was also the most self-indulgent, narcissistic, overly hyped non-event in the history of sports television. For contrast, when Michael Jordan made his decision to return to basketball after his failed baseball experiment, he sent a fax to Chicago media outlets with two words: “I’m back!.”

But it is the less than optimal competitiveness that will mark the career of James even as he takes his huge entourage of Mad Ad Men, PR flaks, personal assistants, and sycophantic hangers-on to the equally shallow, but glamorous surroundings of South Beach. There he will team with two other excellent players in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh - a supposed “Dream Team” put together by another towering narcissist Pat Riley. The President of the Miami Heat, known for his expensive suits and slick backed hair (as well as his constant preening before the cameras when he coached the Knicks and the Lakers) wants everyone to believe he’s pulled off the coup of the ages. What he’s done, is set his team up to fail.

First, in order to acquire the services of the trio of all-stars, he had to sell off the rest of the team. As it stands now, Riley has LeBron, Dwayne, and Chris and 4 guys named Joe on the Heat roster. It is likely to stay that way since he can only offer the bare NBA minimum salary to most of the rest of the 12 players who will make up the team next year. Someone has to have the talent - and the desire - to distribute the ball to those three superstars and so far, no one with anything approaching NBA adequacy is being mentioned.

And that brings up the most important issue; with three titanic egos to satisfy, who will be the first to go running to the press complaining about a lack of opportunity on the court? This thing has the potential to be a real train wreck, and coupled with the most pressure ever placed on a team to win it all perhaps in the history of televised sports, the probability of some kind of a blow up is increased exponentially. Doing well won’t cut it. In fact, there is danger that no matter how well the Heat does next year, it won’t be enough. They will be expected not just to win but to dominate. And in an 80 game schedule, that simply isn’t going to happen.

Of course, the rest of the league will be gunning for the Heat next year. Every game will have the intensity of a seventh game in the finals. We’ve seen NFL teams face this situation before and still do very well. But that’s because they’re only playing once a week, 16 games a year. An 80 game schedule is a true grind, with many back to back dates. It is impossible to “get up” for every single game. Matching the other team’s intensity will take a lot out of the Heat and this may be reflected in a short playoff run next year.

It is possible that James has damaged his brand in the United States with this spectacle. But don’t feel sorry for him. His position overseas as a monster pitchman is assured. A billion Chinese are especially enamored of James and the endorsement deals he will sign will reflect that reality.

Of course, everything could work out magnificently for James. The Heat could win 74 games (breaking Michael Jordan’s Bulls record), he could win the scoring title, and the Heat could breeze through the playoffs and win a championship.

But that would upset the natural balance of the universe. Good things are only supposed to happen to good people. In the case of LeBron James, it is more likely that failure will dog his steps, shadowing him during his tour in Miami as he reaps the whirlwind of his shameless, overweaning self promotion.

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