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Who Really Lost in the LeBron James Sweepstakes

Okay, so I was part of the dumb horde that spent a half-hour watching ESPN genuflect before, er, interview, Prince James. This was a bigger media event than the season finale of Lost, although James’ decision to sign with the Miami Heat made a lot more sense. Speaking of Lost, here’s my choice for the top 3 losers in the LeBron James Sweepstakes, in descending order:

3.) Cleveland Fans — You are witnesses.

2.) Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert — Start the damage control clock! His Open Letter To Cavaliers Fans, in which he calls James’ decision a “shocking act of disloyalty” and “personally guarantees that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled ‘former’ king wins one” was below an NBA owner. Especially one who just got done firing his Coach and GM. So much for “loyalty,” eh Dan?

1.) Small Market Sports Teams — If you don’t root for a sports team in LA, New York, Boston, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia or Chicago… my condolences. Big name athletes DO NOT want to go to Utah, Portland, Detroit, Sacramento, Washington, or, well, Cleveland.

Hey, the Prince wasn’t obligated to stay. And neither should he feel responsible for that gaping hole he has left in the chest of his beloved Ohioans. But if he and D. Wade hope to meet the Lakers in the 2011 Finals, they will need more than three players…

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Tim Ward July 9, 2010, 5:10 PM

    As a Clevelander, I’d say we are #1. A main reason why LeBron left was because we couldn’t supply another superstar in his prime (a la Shaq) and the taste LeBron got of playing in the Olympics and winning gold never left his mouth. Cleveland is the biggest loser because we had to watch the administration blow drafts, free agency, and coaching (if you’re one to say Mike Brown couldn’t coach offense) and ultimately our chance at a dynasty. We watched the draft balls fall to us and just prayed that we wouldn’t mess it up like we did every other team and opportunity we’ve had. In the end, the ones who suffered the most in this were the ones without control – the fans.

    The reason why I don’t think small market teams are #1 is because the timing and circumstances around how we got LeBron are more indicative of our failure to win a championship than because we are a small market team. I believe LeBron would have stayed if we drafted gifted, loyal pieces before or after we got him (though part of me wonders if we ever had a chance after he played on the all star Olympic team). Our best draft pick, Boozer, bam-boozled our owner (coincidence?), and then we either blew all our drafts after that, or simply played too well with LeBron to get a low enough pick that could ever make a difference in the LeBron era.

    Lastly, or #3 would be Dan Gilbert, because of the class he had in airing his grievances with LeBron in public and because $250 million in lost value doesn’t (shouldn’t) really mean that much to a billionaire. (Forbes lists him valued at 1.2 billion.) Apparently, Dan Gilbert should have tanked the last four years like the Heat in order to afford two more max free agents. How is that basketball?

    • Mike Duran July 9, 2010, 7:22 PM

      Great take, Tim. Thanks for that. I feel bad for you guys. Really. Given the circumstances you mention — a few better personnel and player moves — you’re right, LaBron might have stayed. I never liked Mike Brown and there clearly never was a 2nd go-to-guy. But, in the end, given a choice, he chose a big market team, just like so many other star athletes do.

      • Tim July 9, 2010, 7:56 PM

        LeBron never was a “Cleveland” guy; he always made a distinction about Akron being his home town. You can see this from him rooting for the Bulls, Cowboys and Yankees that he was all about winning. It makes me wonder how much “winning” has to do with my decisions in life.

        You are right, he chose a bigger market, just like every other star to come through Cleveland in my lifetime, except Bernie Kosar and I guess Zydrunas (his stardom was more in his effort). The point about mid-small market teams never getting the guy also drives me nuts, but that was why I liked basketball so much more than baseball. I grew up thinking the great ones always stayed.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller July 10, 2010, 2:01 PM

    Wow, Tim’s first comment could describe the Clippers! See, big market doesn’t always equal big time players. Some organizations need to prove themselves before big time players want to commit, want to stay.

    No one has drafted lower than the Lakers for, oh, about two decades (and no one higher than the Clippers), but somehow they managed to put together a quality team, not of self-proclaimed kings or would-be The Next Thangs (what has Chris Bosh ever done? And who is Dwayne Wade without a Shaq?)

    People call Kobe selfish, but James has proved to be the King of Selfish. He humiliated Cleveland. Sure, he had a right to go, but it was all so in-your-face. And it was all staged. I mean, Bosh and Wade announce the day before to set up James going to the Heat. (It’s a much bigger oh-ah factor knowing that James is king of a Big Three).

    And did you see their numbers? #2, #3 and James, new at #6. A coincidence? Doubtful. Plus James had made the number change known for some time, so the players really did hatch this together. Rumor said so, but they denied it.

    So while James is dissing Cleveland, and basically saying the rest of his team doesn’t matter because now he’s got his two boys that count, Kobe is going on national talk shows and saying what a great player Adam Morrison is. Adam Morrison? Yeah, 13th on the Lakers team.

    But back to your post, Mike, I’d add in here that the media is a loser in this because they are showing what suckers they are for hype. I’ve read editorials about how ESPN in particular lost a lot of credibility over this business. And Fred Rogan, KNBC sportscaster, had a great editorial putting James’s move into perspective.

    Bottom line, James handled the change badly. He hurt people that didn’t need to be hurt. He crowed and postured and puffed himself up. But that’s what kings do, I guess, which is why I’m glad we don’t have any in the US.

  • A. J. Walker July 10, 2010, 6:01 PM

    I don’t Mike.

    Being an avid NBA fan who is still reeling about Boston’s loss the Lakers (cried me a river), I thought LeBron would have opted to move up to Chicago. I never expected him to join D-Wade in Miami.

    Maybe it is because of friendship, but I still don’t see Miami doing much even with D-Wade and LeBron on the same team.

    I did not watch the press conference but I did hear the news through the NBA feed. Unfortunately in pro sports, there is no such thing as loyalty, especially with such pressure to win a championship. Cleveland fans and the franchise lost but I don’t see this as being a big deal in terms of making Miami more competitive or getting LeBron closer to his goal.

    • Mike Duran July 10, 2010, 6:36 PM

      The thing is, A.J., the East is still the weaker of the two conferences. Apart from Boston and maybe Orlando, what teams will pose a threat? Boston’s window will close in another year or two unless they land another big name. And Orlando still hasn’t proved they are championship caliber. I hate to say it, but I could easily see Miami in the Finals w/in the next 2-3 years. But I agree, LeBron getting his rings is not an automatic.

      • A. J. Walker July 10, 2010, 6:48 PM

        I’ve had some time to reflect over my Celtics lose and I think it is more than talent that’s making things so unbalanced.

        Watching every playoff game, the only team I really saw have consistent “heart to win” was Chicago. I saw determination in the faces of LeBron, D-Wade and even Dwight Howard, but as a team consistently? Not so much. I think that’s what ultimately failed for my Celtics.

        I’m originally from Philadelphia although I am currently in Southern California. I will always route for East Coast teams (okay, I confess, I’ll route for any team beside the Lakers), but I do think the Eastern Conference is pretty good but have the pieces scattered all over the place.

        The Lakers can’t keep winning forever but I don’t see Miami taking them down just because of LeBron James.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller July 10, 2010, 7:14 PM

    Hahaha! Mike, just think, you STILL haven’t heard what I really think. 😀

    Aw, A. J., you hurt my heart. Anyone but the best team in basketball?

    Mike’s right, I think. The East is by far the weaker of the two conferences. Look at how many teams are over .500 as the clue. Most of the season, the West had 11 whereas the East had 6, though all 8 play-off teams may have finished above .500.

    The thing with Boston, though, is that their management is committed to winning. That’s why they brought in Ray Allen and … what’s-his-name. My mind went blank. KJ, I think they call him. Anyway, they knew Paul Pierce plus a lot of role players wasn’t enough. I suspect they won’t stand pat. Whether they try to make trade moves or sign free agents—who knows, but I think we’ll see Boston do whatever they can in the next year to remain an elite team.

    Meanwhile, the West got a little weaker I think in that Phoenix won’t be as good next year. But maybe the Clippers will be better. It depends on how that young group meshes.

    • A. J. Walker July 10, 2010, 7:35 PM

      I’m sorry Rebecca, I know its borderline sacrilegious to NOT like the Lakers, but I’m originaly from the East coast and although I am currently living close enough to LA to get there in a couple few hours my heart is back east. Rooting for the Lakers, uhm, just doesn’t sit well with me. (Now rooting against them on the other hand…. :))

      I don’t think the East is by default inferior to the West, I think Boston had an excellent chance of defeating them, but they lacked consistency, focus, that will to win that characterized their championship in 08 or the Michael Jordan Bulls era.

      And yes the Celtics are committed to winning (BTW it’s KG as in Kevin Garnett) but all their cylinders never seem to be able to fire at the same time.

      And I don’t think LeBron nor D-Wade have that “will to do whatever is necessary to win” including get better as players and they certainly aren’t surrounded by teammates who posses it. As much as I like them both as players, humility isn’t their forte.

      So while it’s a lose to Cleveland, I don’t think LeBron increased his chances anymore by simply changing jerseys, numbers or his address.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller July 10, 2010, 8:18 PM

    THANK YOU! Kevin Garnett. I couldn’t for the life of me think of his name.

    If he is healthy next year, the Celtics will have a great chance of repeating.

    I understand about being loyal to the teams from back home. I’m still a Denver Bronco fan!

    I’m not saying the East is inferior. I just think their talent is down. Back in the 80s the reverse was true. You had the Lakers in the West and not much else, but you had Boston, Philly, Detroit in the East.

    While Chicago was winning championships in the 90s, the West started getting stronger: Utah, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Sacramento. Then the Lakers re-emerged. Ah, the good times were back. But still, there were struggles, last second shots, and after Shaq, some years not making it to the finals.

    But it’s not a given that the Lakers will make it back next year for their 3-peat. Now we have teams like the up-and-coming Oklahoma Thunder.

    On the other side, I agree with you that Miami is not a sure thing for the finals. I already mentioned Boston. I think Cleveland will be a good team because I think Byron Scott is a good coach. But more importantly, I don’t know if the Miami three can play like a team. Defense requires team play, and defense wins championships.


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