Friday, June 17, 2011

I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal.

I attended the Dallas Mavericks championship parade yesterday and thought about what makes that team so beloved nationally. By way of contrast, I think it's related to another question: Why is Lebron James so hated in the world of basketball?

What would motivate the people of Cleveland to root for anyone playing the Heat, even creating "Cavs for Mavs" fan wear? Why would the governor praise the Mavericks for beating James' Heat to the extent of making them honorary Ohioians?

I think there are two issues here, one betrayal and the other arrogance.

Cleveland feels betrayed, but is that valid? People leave teams all the time, right? If they just do it for money, they catch a certain amount of wrath. But, what about if a player does it in order to win championships?

Shouldn't we praise a guy who cares more about winning than about the money?

Well, you have to understand the context. Lebron is from Ohio. He was gifted to Cleveland, a city that hadn't won a championship in anything since ... well, since before I was born. He was their best chance.

But, that might legitimately only explain the disappointment of getting so close (including the NBA Finals), yet not betrayal.

Well, the problem is that he'd given many indications that he was committed to Cleveland and winning there ... not just winning. In fact, as recently as the end of March 2010 in an interview on NBA TV he stated, "I have a goal and its a huge goal and that's to bring an NBA championship to Cleveland and I won't stop until I get it."

But he did stop. He stopped only a few months later.

But, it's not just that he stopped. They broke up. Break ups are rarely easy. But this wasn't just that they broke up, but how they broke up.

Playing coy with a team that fired the head coach in what could be deemed an appeasement to Lebron James, he jilted his former lover by announcing in a media circus of a one-hour "decision" special. He was taking his talents and his affections to South Beach.

Was it, "I don't love you anymore"? Or was it, "I never really loved you anyway"?

Either way, feelings of rage which sparked jersey burnings are understandable.

For those outside of Cleveland, that's all perceived as pretty crummy. Yet, beyond that is a guy who some want to regard as potentially the best of all time, but yet seems to have taken the easy way out.

Instead of sticking with a team and doing whatever it took to get that team a championship, he left for easier waters.

Contrast Lebron with Dirk Nowitski, who had also made a finals appearance and was a free agent. He stuck with his team of alleged spares and won. That story inspires people. Lebron's does not.

I think that contributed to people rooting for Dirk's Mavericks and against Lebron's Heat.

Couple that with James' boasting about winning multiple championships (at least 8) at the Heat's over-the-top pep rally and you can see how folks might like to see the proud humbled. You can see how some might take pleasure in Lebron being the 3rd best scorer on his team in the NBA Finals ... in a losing effort.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure just about everyone would want him on their team. But, whatever transpires from here on out, I don't think you'll ever have any serious arguments in favor of Lebron being among the NBA's best of the best of all time.

He's no Michael Jordan. He's no Magic Johnson. As well, he's no Dirk Nowitski.

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At 17 June, 2011 09:25, Blogger Matt said...

I think there's another element that you left out--instead of aspiring to beat the other greatest players of his time, LeBron opted to join them to beat the lesser players.

Bill Simmons compares it to kids playing pick up basketball--there's always 2 kids who are really good and they have to be on opposite teams. When they get tired of playing against each other and say, "hey, we should be on the same team," it isn't fun any more.

There's no way Magic would have played with Bird--he wanted to prove he was better than Bird. There's no way Jordan would have played with Malone or Olajuwon--he wanted to prove he was better than them.

By teaming with Wade, LeBron showed that he's more like a Mike Tyson--more interested in beating on lesser opponents than facing a challenge.

At 17 June, 2011 09:40, Blogger GUNNY said...

So true, Matt! And very well stated.

Thanks for adding that.

At 18 June, 2011 12:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is also the Cuban appeal to the Mavericks. He really fits the team mascot and a lot of people like him for that. Since being out of Dallas since 2001, it's been hard to keep up with all the sporting teams, but I still hear about Cuban. I'm glad the franchise won for him as well as for the fans. And, Dirk is quite a class act. So it was easy pulling for the Mavs over the Heat. The Heat were supposed to be a "dream" team. Who would have thought the Mavs could get under the greatest player's skin, since Michael Jordan. I'm glad they did.


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