I’m not going to lie: I love that the Miami Heat lost the NBA Finals. I love that, after crowning himself “King James”, LeBron the Great was pretty much of a non-factor. I love that the supreme arrogance displayed when these guys put themselves together and declared that they were going to win seven championships came to naught.
Mostly, though, I loathe LeBron for the way he handled himself in leaving Cleveland last year. I don’t hate that he left Cleveland, in principle; star players leave their original markets all the time, for various reasons. Some leave because of money. Others leave because they just don’t feel that the management of their original team has a plan to improve and win. Still others leave for personal reasons, like when Chris Drury left the Buffalo Sabres four years ago. It happens. It sucks when you’re a fan and your team’s very best player leaves, but sports fans for the most part accept that it happens.
LeBron James could have left Cleveland in a classy way a year ago, but he chose not to. He chose to toy with Cleveland, and act like there was a chance he might stick around, and he refused to reveal his decision until several weeks into the free agency period, after most of the top free agents had already been signed around the league. Then he announced his departure. It was very hard to escape the impression that James did all these things because he wanted to rub Cleveland’s nose in it.
I also could have done without the comparisons of James to Michael Jordan. Now, to be fair, James himself wasn’t the one making these comparisons. But still — any such talk is silly. Maybe James is a better technical player than Jordan; I have no idea, but maybe, just maybe, he is. But the difference in the “intangibles” is so marked that it can’t be denied. Jordan is one of the greatest “clutch” athletes in the history of not just basketball, but sport itself. Jordan didn’t wilt in the spotlight; he didn’t disappear in the tough moments when the next basket or two might decide who takes home the trophy. And Jordan never left the final game of the NBA Finals without taking the trophy with him. LeBron James has done that. Twice.
This morning, James said something to the effect that all of his “haters” didn’t matter to him because they’d all be getting up in the morning with the same personal problems, and he’d just live with his family and make money and yada yada yada. Well, that’s true. But I got up this morning without most of the country engaging in schadenfreude at my expense. I got that going for me.
Which is nice.