LeBron goes from Cleveland to Miami, from hero to villain

In an hour of unbelievably overcooked live TV, LeBron James went from being the nice guy you hoped would someday win a championship to the schemer you hope never does. He went from being John Elway to being A-Rod, from hero to villain.

It must have seemed a good idea at the time: LeBron and his “team” went to ESPN and pitched an one-hour special, and the Worldwide Leader does as the Worldwide Leader invariably does — it turned a news story into a circus. It offered up Stuart Scott, who said “two-time MVP” so often in the space of 10 minutes you wanted to shout: “Bill Russell was a five-time MVP, and he never needed a one-hour special to remind us!”

Bill Russell also won 11 titles, and he never had to cherry-pick his team. Neither did Michael Jordan, who took six, or Magic Johnson, who won five, or Kobe Bryant, who has five, or Tim Duncan, who has four. Even if LeBron does win a championship with the Miami Heat — and there’s no guarantee he will — it won’t be seen as a great player lifting a team; it will be seen as a bunch of glitzy free agents banding together just to burnish their respective images.

The Heat won’t be seen as the Celtics, where three guys who had never won big came together near the end of the careers to enhance one another. They’ll be viewed as the Yankees, where the operative word is always overkill. LeBron James just told us that, for all his exterior bravado, he didn’t trust himself to be the linchpin of a champion. He needs Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Can Carmelo Anthony be far behind?

We the people are funny. We like our stars, but we don’t like sure things. It will be no news when Miami wins, but it will be the lead story whenever it loses. And it won’t just be newsworthy when/if the Heat fails — it will be laugh-out-loud funny.

Had LeBron gone to the Knicks or the Bulls, had he stayed in Cleveland, we’d see him differently today. We’d see him as a superstar looking for a team he could make better, as opposed to one that might well have made do without him. A team needs both LeBron and D-Wade? The two brand names whose games most mirror one another? Why not bring Jordan out of retirement just to complete the set?

The wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, no stranger to hype, offered two sneering Tweets in response to the word circulating early Thursday that LeBron was indeed headed to Miami to ally himself with Wade and Chris Bosh. From C.O.:

“Nickname is KingJames. Kings lead with the help of an army (supporting cast on team) –  a lead dog doesn’t join superstars to make it easy.”

Also this:

“Kobe-Magic-Jordan-Bird all created legacies on their own teams. They didn’t join together to make winning a ring easy.”

We can argue that LeBron deserves credit for leaving money on the table. (The Cavs could have paid him more than any other team.) But money at this rarefied level is a given, and what’s a few million here or there? The trouble with being one of three — Miami Thrice! — is that LeBron will never be seen as a transcendent talent on the order of Jordan or Magic or Bird. He couldn’t take the guys around him and make them champs. He had to station himself next to D-Wade, who’s already a champ.

The Summer of LeBron figured to be strange, but it wound up being stranger than anyone could have dreamed. LeBron had the world at his feet, and he managed to alienate a goodly portion thereof. His ballyhooed “Decision” smacks of a calculated plan intent on world domination, and nobody likes a megalomaniac.

LeBron might well have outsmarted himself. A lot of folks who wouldn’t have minded if he won are now hoping he and the Miami Heat will lose. I know. I’m one of them.





509 comments Add your comment

mmgtfan

July 8th, 2010
10:39 pm

mmgtfan

July 8th, 2010
10:40 pm

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2010
10:40 pm

Kudos again, mmgtfan.

mmgtfan

July 8th, 2010
10:40 pm

Weird. Didnt see my comment at first. Server must be slow

J.J.M.

July 8th, 2010
10:41 pm

im a fan of sith lords anyways….BREAKING NEWS! Apple to release a special edition lebron james iPhone4. Unfortunately it can only vibrate because he doesnt have any rings

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:42 pm

theres a man in douglas who doesnt care anymore..

Herschel Talker

July 8th, 2010
10:43 pm

MB:

Sad commentary on Lebron when Ochocinco is making sense. Lebron sucks.

HT

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2010
10:44 pm

Well said, Herschel.

cheshire

July 8th, 2010
10:46 pm

Great article Mark – you nailed it. There are so many terrible storylines here – what he’s doing to his hometown, the manner in which he chose to subject Cleveland to this with a one hour special on national t.v., what this says about his drive as a champion, etc. As you stated, he just went from hero to villian. I enjoyed watching him play, and in the matter of one ESPN special, i find myself despising him.

The element of this not getting a lot of discussion is the negative impact this will have on the NBA. As you stated, people don’t want to watch if they already know the storyline. This league already had a lack of parity before, and that problem just increased tenfold. As a Hawks fan, why do i even want to bother watching the NBA anymore if i know my team doesn’t have a chance due to 3 superstars colluding to build an empire? Why should GM’s even bother to try and build teams anymore if this can happen? Unless you live in Miami, this is terrible for the game, and the NBA will suffer for it.

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:46 pm

mark, cleveland is burning. rank these: red right 88, the drive, the fumble, the shot, renteria in 97, modells move, 07 alcs collapse, and lebron moving.

Techman

July 8th, 2010
10:46 pm

Makes the JJ contract look worse, IMO. I think this knocks the Hawks out of a top 4 spot in the East – Heat, Magic, Celtics, Bulls

Bryan G.

July 8th, 2010
10:47 pm

It worked for the Celtics, though, didn’t it? Allen, KG, and Pierce?

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:47 pm

why even watch the hawks? two words: zaza pachulia.

moorman

July 8th, 2010
10:48 pm

lebron was overrated BEFORE he took his first nba dribble. he was forced on us by david sterns marketing crew, and people lapped it up. he can play, dont get me wrong, but his superstar status was GIVEN to him. WHY pick on him now??? he was given the king status by the media and fans without earning it. what he did was put more pressure on himself to win now. when the heat lose, like you said bradley, people are not gonna let him forget it.

atlfan44

July 8th, 2010
10:48 pm

agreed techman, but not for too long because the celtics have one year left of true contention

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:49 pm

whos going to be the center?? wilt chamberlin?

bob

July 8th, 2010
10:50 pm

Smart move. Cleveland is like playing for the Hawks, always mediocre. Miami is Rings, Riley and South Beach.

MEATBALL LANCER

July 8th, 2010
10:50 pm

indentured servant

July 8th, 2010
10:50 pm

Who cares? I know that I don’t.

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:51 pm

why the heat? why not atlanta?

NCBravesFan

July 8th, 2010
10:51 pm

I wonder in addition to the damage LBJ has done to his brand what the damage to the NBA is going to be. The whole thing makes me sick.

It’s not THAT he did it, but how. What an awful way to say goodbye to a city that loved and supported you so much.

PMC

July 8th, 2010
10:51 pm

Maybe New York will finally realize that they are not the Mecca… MSG is a freaking dump and the Knicks are freaking awful.

DP

July 8th, 2010
10:52 pm

I had always liked LeBron until he quit on the Cavs in the last 3 games of the Celtics series. I’ve never seen anything like it, it looked like a fix. And now he goes to the Heat. Maybe he’s not up to being the man and wants to play second banana to Wade. After this ESPN fiasco tonight I think he’s made himself the most hated player in the NBA.

Mark, in case you haven’t seen the bad news, Melvin Turpin committed suicide.

Kiran

July 8th, 2010
10:52 pm

You think these guys would want a better chance at winning? : Barkley, Malone, Ewing, Reggie Miller. Sometimes in life you have to take risks or else you’ll regret the rest of your life. Ask Garnett when he was in Minnesota. You think he regrets leaving? I don’t think so.

Lebron is like a Magic Johnson. He will be fine getting 15 assists a night if necessary. Staying in Cleveland for loyalty is the dumbest thing I ever heard. Would you stay at the same company for loyalty when you know you might reach greater heights somewhere else? Plus, he had fun playing with Wade and Bosh, so, it’s like he’s teaming with his “boys” to try to win it. Nothing wrong with that.

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:53 pm

csi miami is a great show

tremaine

July 8th, 2010
10:53 pm

Lebron just sold his soul for a championship.

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2010
10:54 pm

I did see that, DP. It’s very sad. I met Melvin Turpin when he was a junior at Bryan Station High.

The truth

July 8th, 2010
10:55 pm

Way to destroy a city who supported and loved you. LeBron is a spineless clown and cant win like JOrdan or Magic.

tommyd

July 8th, 2010
10:56 pm

wow you are just a giant hater. you are a tool who judges other people for a living. If he wants to play in Miami, let him play there.. He wants to play with other great players, whats wrong with him wanting to play with two of the best players in the league.

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:56 pm

Enter your comments here

Fresh

July 8th, 2010
10:56 pm

Mark,

All I know is, this situation just turned the heat (no pun intended) up 100x’s on ASG. After watching the East turn into a massive power over night, the HAWKS CANNOT AFFORD TO STAND PAT!!! Not only do they need to sign Shaq, the need to find a way to retain Childress.

Atlanta Spirit,

The fans are watching; and Rick Sund, get off your a$$ and go to work!!

DP

July 8th, 2010
10:56 pm

Mark, I just saw your tweets. I figured given your Kentucky roots you would have known him over the years. Sorry for your loss.

Fresh

July 8th, 2010
10:57 pm

The Hawks need to get busy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FUNNY STORY

July 8th, 2010
10:58 pm

LeBron James announces that he will buy the Miami Heat, endorse the New York Knicks, marry two of the LA Clippers’ Spirit Dancers in a Utah ceremony in August, become Executive Vice President of Mining and Distribution for Polyus Gold (NJ Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s gold empire) and play basketball part-time for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Read the FUNNY article here:

http://www.dailygoat.com/2010/07/lebron-james-gives-thanks-god-signing-10-year-100m-endorsement-deal-heaven/

cheshire

July 8th, 2010
10:58 pm

Kiran, if you don’t understand the importance of something like loyalty, especially when your hometown is involved, i’m not sure anyone can explain it to you.

The point is that a true champion who is at the level Lebron claims to be at is able to reach great heights wherever he is. The guys you mentioned were never at that level. And now Lebron is showing that perhaps he’s not either.

JJ

July 8th, 2010
10:58 pm

So since Lebron didnt take the money does that make “Joe Johnson” the highest paid player in the NBA??

HOG IN DOUGLAS

July 8th, 2010
10:59 pm

Paul in RDU

July 8th, 2010
11:00 pm

Nice article Mark – I am also impressed how quickly you put it together – I agonize when I write

Kapoonka

July 8th, 2010
11:00 pm

I agree with every word. Sure it was his choice…but a bad one that will haunt him for years to come. You can’t “buy” a championship team. Wade is reckless and injury prone…Bosh is fragile too. I can’t wait for them to fail over and over again. I also view Wade (used to be my favorite) as a first class chump too. Bosh is just Bosh without the ugly butt braids…doesn’t have the swag, talent and marquee value of the other two. Man I feel sorry for Le ding-dong when they play in Cleveland. He’ll need a suit of armor to deflect all the things that will be thrown at him. Some sport fans are probably mad enough to do bodily harm to him. He is a man on an island with a lot fewer friends. Now that we all know….can we all get back to our boring lives now?

Mark Bradley

July 8th, 2010
11:02 pm

Thanks, Paul. I’m not any good, but I’m pretty quick.

Barney Strickland

July 8th, 2010
11:03 pm

Mark,
First, the AJC doesn’t send you to South Africa to cover the World Cup…. and now this!! I feel it for Cleveland….. Maaaannnn. He sold out his home city…. for what? And he embarassed them on his egovision ESPN special. I always thought he was full of himself…. what a tool !! Put me down as someone who will never watch a game with this pompous ass…. the NBA has officially sucked for awhile now….. it just got worse. Who in Atlanta wants to watch a bunch of overindulged assclowns stuff a ball through a hoop? Everyone knows they only really try during the playoffs when their bonuses kick in!! Go Braves !!

DP

July 8th, 2010
11:04 pm

I don’t have an issue with LeBron going to Miami. I do have an issue with him quitting on his team in the last 3 games of a playoff series and suggesting (by leaving) that he couldn’t win a championship in Cleveland after Cavs management made every move they could to strengthen the team while he was there. I have an issue with him referring to himself in the 3rd person and being self indulgent enough to pitch a one hour special to ESPN to hype his announcement. And I have an issue with the suggestion that a player’s greatness is only defined by how many NBA championships he wins. Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Elgin Baylor never won a championship but that doesn’t mean they’re not among the all-time greats.

farley

July 8th, 2010
11:04 pm

This is the dumbest article that I have read on this subject. The writer sounds like a disgruntled fan who is angry that the team he roots for isn’t getting Lebron. There are no givens in the NBA it is a long season full of injuries and no team can claim victory at the start, nor can any sports writer. Second everyone knows that you need a trifecta to win the big one and a solid bench. Third Lebron never experienced anything outside Cleveland and he is when all is said and done just a young man who wants what young men want, fun,sun and success. Finally Lebron can do a lot of good in a state that has the highest unemployment rate in the Union by his presence there. You need to grow up and not be so presumptuous.

Tank

July 8th, 2010
11:06 pm

Let’s hold off on the “he left money on the table” part for a second for several reasons. His salary in Miami will not be subject to state tax. His endorsement money will not be subject to state tax now that he’s a Florida resident . His marketability as being part of a readymade winner should bring in more money. No ONE “left $$$ on the table” or at least not to the level it’s being made out to be. If it was about “winning”, then go play with Rose/Boozer/Noah etc and be an alpha dog…not a lapdog.

NBA Sucks

July 8th, 2010
11:07 pm

I’m offically done watching the NBA. First we had GM’s sending freebies to their former teams (Garnett to Boston, Gasol to LA). Now this… The league overexpanded now there are only a handful of teams that are truly relevant. It’s pretty pointless to watch… At the least ACC will be on ESPN more so I can still get my basketball fix.

Kiran

July 8th, 2010
11:07 pm

@cheshire

Lebron wants to win. Jordan had a top 50 greatest player in Pippen, Rodman was a beast, great role players, Phil Jackson….Lakers had Shaq, Kobe, Fisher, Odom, …. Spurs had Duncan, Parker,Manu. I just don’t see how Cleveland tried to help Lebron out. I admire him going after his dream. He doesn’t have to owe anyone anything. He tried for seven years, and it didn’t work. . He tried. But failed. And the team didn’t have the supporting cast.

But guess what? If Kobe didn’t average 30 points against the Thunder, he would of lost without Gasol and his cast. Lebron gets killed, but Kobe’s faults are overlooked even though he had a disaster 1st round and terrible game 7. Lebron needs help. No one player can do it alone. It has been proven in history. Even Hakeem had Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler, and Kenny Smith for clutch shots.

ugaclassof2004

July 8th, 2010
11:07 pm

“Kobe-Magic-Jordan-Bird all created legacies on their own teams. They didn’t join together to make winning a ring easy.” Chad Ochocinco

Right…because Chad Ochocinco knows what it takes to win championships! A worthless perspective!

NBA Sucks

July 8th, 2010
11:07 pm

*officially done

Pedro

July 8th, 2010
11:09 pm

Lebron is such an ass for doing this on national TV. I feel so sorry for the Cavs fans. David Stern should just automatically give Cleveland the no 1 overall pick next year as a consolation prize.

SEC4Life37

July 8th, 2010
11:10 pm

I’m a little confused about Cleveland fans burning LBJ jerseys, since he’s no longer a Cav, aren’t those jerseys collectors’ items now?