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Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBron James Is No Longer A Slave! Miami Is Right Decision

LeBron James, King His Own World

LeBron James is a grown man who made a grownup decision to take his massive basketball-playing ability from Cleveland to Miami in a desire to get the one thing every true baller desires: the opportunity to call yourself a champion.

Forget all the nonsense about him "owing" his hometown and how his legacy could have been cemented had he stayed in the Midwest and continued to try to win a title in Cleveland. LeBron had the absolute right to pick up his things and go where he thought it was best to win, and he did it.

Enough with all of this ridiculous chatter that he's a selfish, spoiled basketball prodigy. LeBron was an employee of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had no ownership stake and no control. Everyone talks about what his presence meant to the Cleveland economy. Did he own any of those businesses? No. But he made them, and the Cavaliers, richer by his play.

There is undoubtedly a tradeoff, because being a star athlete is a two-way street.

You become richer by virtue of folks coming to see you play, and the league, team, marketers and surrounding businesses get to piggyback off of your success. LeBron gave them a solid seven seasons, and everyone enjoyed the ride. Say thank you for the LeBron gravy train, and now, like any smart business owner, you need to figure out your next revenue stream.

Now, let's deal with the fans.

I read with fascination about how LeBron "owed" the fans. Really?

What exactly did he owe them?

We need to stop with this belief that fans in a city "own" a particular player. We get to sit back and enjoy the skills of these modern-day gladiators in our gleaming new Coliseums, while they bust their butts, play injured and have to take all of the criticism when things go bad.

As fans, we justify it all by saying, "Well, he's getting millions to play, so he should shut up."

We need to grow up and realize that once his playing days are over, we will say, "Thanks, LeBron, now move over so we can worship the next stud." In fact, when a particular athlete has overstayed their welcome, the fans are the loudest in telling him to leave the court.

To me, there is a huge difference between a player like LeBron James and Albert Haynesworth of the Washington Redskins. Albert has pocketed nearly $40 million and has refused to show up at training sessions with Washington because he doesn't like the defensive scheme. That is dumb.

LeBron showed up and did his part, and when his contract was up, he exercised his free will to do as he pleased and shop his talents. He did what every single American wants: to go to a new job where the desires you always wanted can be fulfilled. So how is that wrong?

No one -- athlete, stockbroker, Wal-Mart greeter, grocery store clerk, secretary, journalist -- wants to be treated like they are a piece of property. We all desire the freedom that comes with making our own choice as to where we want to work and achieve the goals in life that we all set.

I can identify with that. In 1993, I decided to leave the Austin American-Statesman, where I was the county government reporter. The then-city editor sat across from me and said, "I felt like it was a punch in the gut when told you were leaving." He had an indignant, paternalistic tone that I found offensive.

See, I was making $24,000. When the Houston Chronicle pursued me for a job a few months earlier that would be around $27,000, I was told I was talking myself out of a job in Austin. So when the Fort Worth Star-Telegram offered me a gig at $32,000, I didn't even bother seeing whether Austin wanted to counter. The new job allowed me to go to a bigger market and have the upward mobility I desired, so I took the job.

So I told the city editor, "Look, you didn't take some kid off the street, teach him how to talk, write and dress. You paid me for a service, and I delivered. Now I'm choosing to take my skills elsewhere." I then got up and left the meeting.

It was offensive to me that my bosses at the paper felt like I was being an ungrateful employee. I wanted to do more with my talents, and I refused to allow someone to make me feel bad about my decision. It's my life, my career, my choice. So how is that bad?

Now I get folks who didn't like LeBron having a one-hour special to announce his decision. But we are all used to the hype in sports. Do we really need a six-hour pregame show for the Super Bowl? Can't we play the NBA All-Star Game without all of the side attractions? Would boxing be boxing without the wild and crazy news conferences? Hype and sports go hand-in-hand.

That's why I found the letter written by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert so pathetic. Here is a man who was enriched by the play of LeBron James; according to Forbes, the value of the franchise increased by $100 million with his on-court performance.

Yet instead of being a gracious owner and simply reaffirming his commitment to the fans to put a winning team on the court, Gilbert ripped LeBron to shreds, calling him "narcissistic" and his decision to leave a "cowardly betrayal" and "a shameful display of selfishness."

Gilbert even went on to trash all athletes by saying, "It's time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children?"

In an interview, Gilbert later said LeBron quit on the team in the playoffs the past two years.

Really? So if he was all of that, Dan, why did you want to re-sign him? Who wants a quitter on his team? If LeBron had chosen to stay in Cleveland, rich boy Dan would have been all smiles, slapping his back, getting ready to count the money he could make off of the back of LeBron. So who would have been the real selfish, narcissistic individual, Dan?

Gilbert now says it's time to speak out against LeBron, yet as long as James made him richer, he would have kept quiet. Sorry, Dan, you've pimped LeBron long enough.

LeBron showed Dan Gilbert that only LeBron owes LeBron an explanation. No owner, CEO or boss has the right to demand that someone stay as an employee. The employee has a right to live their life as they see fit.

As the CEO of LeBron James Inc., he did what's in the best of interest of him. And as the most important shareholder, isn't that what he's supposed to do?

I'm sorry, folks, but the loyalty that used to exist from teams and companies is gone. Some still believe in it, but for many of us, we're simply a dot on the spreadsheet. Business is cutthroat, and we have to accept that reality.

So, King James, go to Miami and do your thing. Grow your corporation to be as big as you want it to be. And never look back at the haters who are mad you chose not to act like a highly paid indentured servant or 21st-century slave, held in place by the invisible shackles dressed up as loyalty to a city, owing the fans and satisfying someone who is clearly an ungrateful owner.

James' Show Draws Critics, But His Decision Will Bring Championships

LeBron James has redefined himself with his widely anticipated, and nonetheless, shocking decision to join the Miami Heat. In years to come, he promises to play less like Michael Jordan and perform more like an open-floor version of Magic Johnson, as he creates plays for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

He has chosen to play basketball of the highest level, and to do so at the personal expense of rejecting the larger markets of New York and Chicago. Most of all, he has signaled that he is no longer seeking to be universally popular. He is not going to be all things to all people anymore.

He turned a lot of people against him by showcasing his choice to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, situated less than an hour north of his hometown of Akron. The way he announced his decision is going to be more important to many people than his reasons for moving to Miami. Those reasons are understandable; some will call them laudable.

But this threatens to go down as a case of What You Say vs. How You Say It. How he said it drowned out the meaning of his words. If he was going to divorce himself from the fans who viewed him as one of their own, as a savior to their depressed region, then wasn't there a less painful way to do so? His former fans will make the argument that James was so concerned with the pursuit of his celebrity that he ran them over with this self-empowering TV special. A lot of people will be cheering against him now.

"Our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier,'' wrote team owner Dan Gilbert in a bitter open letter to Cavs fans Thursday night, in which he referred to James as "narcissistic, self-promotional" and "cowardly."

"This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn ... But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called 'curse' on Cleveland, Ohio.

"The self-declared former 'King' will be taking the 'curse' with him down south. And until he does 'right' by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma."

James surely turned many in his hometown against him. But other fans around the country can be reclaimed by simply winning in a big way. The amazing revival of Kobe Bryant's popularity had everything to do with triumphing in the last two NBA Finals, and James has now set himself up to do the same on terms that cannot be considered selfish. He has chosen to score fewer points, to adapt his MVP style of play, to accept not being the No. 1 player on his team every night and to leave money on the table by accepting a five-year deal (worth at least $30 million less than he would have earned in Cleveland) in which he'll share Miami's cap space with Wade and Bosh.

James repeatedly said that he wasn't looking to leave Cleveland, but then he belied those statements when he began to discuss the NBA's leading partnerships of the last 30 years. He worked his way through a number of championship teams while pointing out that Magic had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, that Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson, that Isiah Thomas had Joe Dumars and on and on. "You become a superstar individually, but you become a champion with a team and I understand that," he said. "I understand the history of the game."

In other words, he never was supplied with a star in his prime. After seven years in Cleveland he was lured to Miami by the promise of playing with talented teammates. The natural concerns that he and Wade will struggle to play together are of no concern to him, James insisted.

"The only thing that may change is the points per game," said James. "The way you see me and D-Wade approach the game every night and have that never-say-die attitude will not change. We don't have to have the pressure of scoring 30 every night or shooting a high percentage or logging long minutes and worrying about our team suffering because of that. The way we approach the game -- the same demeanor, the same grit, the same swagger to our game will not change, and that's the same thing with Chris also."

What became clear from James' televised interview is that he, Wade and Bosh had shared conversations in which each talked of the burdens of carrying a team on his own, as each has tried to do to ultimately disappointing results in Cleveland, Miami and Toronto, respectively, over the last few years. The downside of this new AAU era is that these rival players are friends in a way that Magic, Larry and Isiah never could have been in their day. The upside is that James, Wade and Bosh have shown that they -- as friends -- are more concerned with winning than with their individual stats or with boasting the biggest salary.

Two other conclusions can be drawn. One is that this partnership was in the works years ago when all three agreed to shortened contracts enabling them to become free agents simultaneously, in the final summer before the anticipated 2011 lockout and the likelihood of smaller, shorter contracts. It may not have seemed likely a few years ago, but it surely was a goal.

The other conclusion is that Heat president Pat Riley dominated this free-agent market. He was better networked and a much more informed and charismatic recruiter than any of his rivals, and that's why he won at their expense.

So where does this leave Miami? James and Wade have insisted that Erik Spoelstra will remain as coach with Riley continuing to serve as his highly demanding mentor. Much of Spoelstra's success next season will be determined by Miami's ability over the remaining summer to fill out the roster with role players on veteran minimum contracts. Now that forward Michael Beasley's $5 million salary has reportedly been moved to Minnesota for a second-round pick in a move to clear further cap space, the Heat could have additional funds to pursue the following in addition to their three stars and point guard Mario Chalmers -- a starting center, two backup big men, a backup small forward and at least two guards, one of whom may need to start at the point. All of this to fill out the rotation, with at least two more players needed for the end of the bench. The quality of these acquisitions is almost impossible to predict because the Heat will have to wait and see which players are left unsigned through the end of the month.

Until we know more about the rest of the team, the Heat cannot be rated ahead of the Eastern champion Celtics or conference finalists Magic. But within a year or two, this surely will be a championship contender with the promise of a long run at the top.

<a href="" target="_new" title="LeBron Tracker: Cleveland enemy No. 1">Video: LeBron Tracker: Cleveland enemy No. 1</a>

Cavs Owner Rips LeBron's "Betrayal"

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert posted this letter on after LeBron James decided he was leaving for the Miami Heat:

Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

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.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our "motivation" to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that's simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown "chosen one" sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And "who" we would want them to grow-up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called "curse" on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day....

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue....

Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner
Cleveland Cavaliers

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Sources: CNN, ESPN, Fox Sports, MSNBC, Roland Martin Blog, Sports Illustrated, Google Maps

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