I want to make one thing very clear: In basketball, I am wrong more than I am right.
(Pausing for dramatic effect.)
Last season, before the Miami Heat started building emergency bandwagons to hold their bandwagons, I had Wade + eleven stuffed coffins slipping by the Celtics in Round 1 (0 for 1). I followed that blooper with a comment on Fox Sports Radio decisively picking the Cavaliers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (0 for 2).
Shortly after, I got this email from a reader:
I’m from Florida, but I live in L.A. and I like reading your stuff. Can you do me a favor and pick the Celtics to win? It would really help me feel a lot better about Orlando’s chances in this series.
(How is Vince Carter working out for you in Orlando, Marcus?)
Speaking of Orlando, just before the Eastern Conference Finals began, I joined Rey Moralde on his podcast and declared the Magic to be the outright favorites to advance to the NBA Finals (0 for 3).
Looking back, I was well on my way to Ray Allen in Game 3 territory… I just had to go one for my next nine predictions to avoid it. Unlike Ray, I stood up to the challenge and nailed my next pick, taking the Lakers over the Celtics in the NBA Finals (1 for 4). (In my defense, I did pick every series in the Western Conference correctly.)
After so many erroneous predictions, it’s shocking that ESPN didn’t come knocking with a huge contract and my own time-slot. Even more shocking?
You’re still reading my column…
And while I have your attention, here is one thing that I was absolutely not wrong about (and wrote a column predicting way back in November):
LeBron + Wade + Bosh = Miami.
I may have been the least surprised sports writer in the world when James’ awkwardly announced that he would be taking his talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat. (Do the Heat even play in South Beach?)
Since The Decision aired on L-ESPN, sports media outlets, bloggers and NBA fans have spent the last ten days crucifying James and commiserating with devastated Clevelanders… as if those exact parties aren’t the ones responsible for creating this whole circus to begin with.
The overall outrage surrounding LeBron’s move to Miami has been completely ludicrous. How could you have not seen this coming? Why is anyone even remotely surprised by this? Was it really all that difficult of a choice?
I say no, and here’s why. I am LeBron James and here are the questions I am asking each team…
Los Angeles Clippers.
What kind of health insurance do you guys have to offer? Do you happen to share a facility with another vastly more successful, larger and popular NBA franchise? Does the best player in the world already own the rights to the fans in this city?
New Jersey Nets.
How many games did you guys win last season? Am I required to live in your city if I play here? Didn’t I see the Izod Center on an episode of Jersey Shore last week?
New York Knicks.
I can make how much money? Wow. How many surgeries has Amare had on that knee? How are your winters? How about your summers? But your beaches are really nice though, right? On a typical week day, how long does rush hour traffic last?
How does your up and coming big man (Noah) feel about me coming here? I heard about some guy named Michael Jordan who used to play here in the 90’s? If I win three NBA titles and two more MVP’s in the next seven years, I’m the second best player in franchise history?
Mo Williams is my wing man for the next five years? How’s the salary cap space looking these days? Are they planning any new construction renovations to… the entire city? Did I just google last time Cleveland won a championship and the Wikipedia entries for drought and sports-related curse topped the list? (That really happened.)
And that brings us to the very obvious and completely unsurprising choice…
How’s my supporting cast look? How are the winters down there in Miami? Summers? What kind of beaches do you have? What about the women? State taxes? Are the two best players on your team my two best friends in the league? Can I realistically win as many NBA championships as Kobe Bryant? Who is your GM? Does he make good personnel decisions? Will your owner spend money to put the best product on the court? Will I have the most fun I have ever had in my entire life?
I could go on, but I think you get the idea…
I have never been a personal fan of LeBron James – I think he is the most celebrated and unreasonably self-absorbed non-winner in the history of organized sports. Even so, he unquestionably made the right decision, even if he went about it in the wrong way (The Decision on ESPN was a complete travesty). Joining forces with D-Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was a no-brainer.
There are really only two puzzling questions left to answer in all of this:
- Why didn’t anybody (myself not included) see such an obvious decision coming?
PR-LeBron and Human-LeBron are two very different individuals.
PR-LeBron is about winning championships, following in the footsteps of Jordan, Magic and even Kobe. He is driven by his killer instinct and the unquenchable desire to be listed with the greatest players of all-time. He hates to lose more than he loves to win – something that haunts him every night before he goes to sleep. He lives, breathes and eats basketball – it is his whole life and there is nothing on earth that matters more to him.
Unfortunately, PR-Lebron is a fabricated creation of the anti-Kobe Bryant media. How do you handle the best player in the NBA being a somewhat polarizing and fairly disliked public figure?
You replace him.
The best candidate for that replacement seemed to be LeBron James. He is an unbelievably gifted athlete. He has all the physical tools to be one of the greats. He can excite the crowd like nobody else in the League. He seemed to be a rather likeable and charismatic superstar athlete. He was supposed to beat Kobe in ’09… He was supposed to get another shot at him in ’10… He was supposed to choose a team where he could be PR-LeBron, the individual everyone thought he was.
It turns out that PR-LeBron was a fraud all along. Instead, we are left with Human-LeBron.
Human-LeBron is most interested in having fun. Look at his teams in Cleveland – they had more fun than anyone in the league (by far). They performed synchronized dances during timeouts or before free-throws. They posed for team pictures after pre-game introductions. They had dozens of handshakes and hi-five routines. They relished the spotlight more than any NBA team in recent history – all led by their resident class-clown and superstar leader, Prince James.
At the end of the day, LeBron likes to win. He likes to play basketball for a living. He likes the idea of being remembered as an all-time great.
He loves to have fun.
Why didn’t he choose Chicago, where he can be the leader of a team that has a chance to win a championship? Why didn’t he choose New York, where he can make tons of money and have a small window of opportunity to win a title as the best player? Why didn’t he choose Cleveland, where he could return to a 60+ win team, make a maximum salary, and take a shot at finishing what he started seven years ago?
Friends +Fun = Miami.
When it comes right down to it, Human-LeBron, not PR-LeBron, is who LeBron James really is. In just ten seconds on ESPN, he destroyed PR-LeBron forever – and by doing so, set fire to the media’s decade-long project to force LeBron to become something he never wanted to be all along. It’s really no surprise that just about every newspaper, blog, talk show and magazine from here to New York is criticizing his every move.
Who’s really the sore loser here?
- 3-Kings or the 3-Peat?
That’s another mega column all by itself. Stay tuned…