On a day like today, all is understood. The ire, the frustration, the shock; not since Max left the Wild Things stranded on the shore has there been such cause for despondency over the loss of a king. About to bear witness to the world’s first sports dynasty assembled on the buddy system, we struggle to sort it out, and as we do, a peculiar idea surfaces—the NBA is ruined. Dead and gone. Miami used their drug money and sunshine to swindle superstars, stratify the league's talent, and flagrantly eschew tradition to create an elite squad with only rings in mind. Doesn't that sound just awful?
Well, sort of.
With a media stunt like LeBron's, two things were certain: unprecedented hype and an equally unprecedented backlash. Between these two, I fear we may have forgotten what we're here for—the fun, the human, and the awe-inspiring.
Aren't all three present?
Out of last night’s hoopla, a sudden and throbbing hatred for LeBron James crept not just through Cleveland, but unanimously across the sports world. A new villain was born, as though leaving Ohio was LeBron’s last rite in a satanic ritual to join The Order.
But why do we hate him? Just yesterday we wanted him to be our king. Are we jilted lovers? For Cleveland fans, last night was certifiably awful. Watching The Decision must have been like getting dumped and meeting your ex’s new fiancé in the same night.
“Look babe, she even went and got a boob job! Just for me!”
Some say we hate him because we hate cowards. Not only has he abandoned a hometown that needed the hope he brought, he fled to a team where he would not have to handle the pressure of carrying a team alone. Fleeing to join Wade and Bosh is taking the easy way out. But what exactly is he opting or copping out of? The fight to be the greatest? LeBron was born a King of Ohio, does that make the throne his responsibility?
If winning NBA championships and making a billion dollars are James’s stated goals, then teaming up with other elite players is certainly the smoothest road. LeBron was 23 when he got his first taste of playing with Bosh and Wade at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It has been suggested that the three of them enjoyed winning Olympic gold together so much that they made a “pact” to someday play again together professionally.
While in China, LeBron also found himself working alongside a legend and perhaps his true nemesis, Kobe Bryant. Much was made of Kobe’s leadership in Beijing, and it was said that as the young guns started working out with him they realized that he was a truly different breed. Harder, meaner and crueler than anyone else on the court, LeBron no doubt had to take a look at Kobe’s path: fourteen years with the same team, five championships, 12 all-star games and an MVP award. Sounds like a wonderful life, but at what cost? Bryant is the Rocking Horse Winner, ignoring coaches, snapping at teammates, and tirelessly chasing Jordan.
By “taking his talents to South Beach” LeBron has abdicated the throne. He will never be Jordan, or Kobe, or Magic. Instead he’s chosen something bigger, stranger, and probably a hell of a lot more fun. Bill Simmons often refers to "The Secret," a nugget of wisdom that in short, expresses the idea that players on winning teams often make personal sacrifices that benefit the organization. LeBron James is not humble, humble can’t devote an hour of primetime to itself, but we have never before seen a true premier athlete make a compromise of this magnitude. LeBron James cannot be basketball's messiah in Miami. We know this and he knows this, and yet we watch him as he goes, the man who won’t be king. He’s off to Dade County, where he’ll meet his friends to reshape careers and likely the league into something we’ve never seen before. They’ll make money and win championships. They'll take care of each other and go on adventures and at night everyone will sleep in a real pile.