I’ve read roughly 2,000 LeBron stories over the past 24 hours. Here’s a few to read while you’re waiting for LeBron’s Special (sneak peek!)
We are not LeBron James, and LeBron James is not us. On the court and off of it, LeBron has only allowed himself to appear tangentially human. On the floor, LeBron is the most blessed player the game has ever seen. Nobody has ever had his combination of size, speed, and explosiveness. He can see plays in a split second that most people couldn’t dream up given all the time in the world. He’s more skilled with his off hand than most forwards are with their dominant one. He can hit insane shots from anywhere on the court, and often makes them simply to prove he can.He also refuses to make the concessions to fundamental basketball that so many people have demanded him to make. His shot selection is often baffling. He refuses to put himself in the post and use his combination of size and strength to dominate with a minimum of effort. He’s never developed a solid mid-range game, and he’s not even a lights-out free throw shooter. Sometimes, it’s like being the best isn’t good enough for LeBron; he needs to be the best while proving that his own way of doing things works better than all the ones that existed before it.Off the court, LeBron is even less accessible than he is on it. He wants to be the richest athlete of all time, yet he surrounds himself with his high school buddies. He’s constantly cracking jokes and playing the buddy-buddy role with his teammates, but he keeps the general populous at arm’s length with a bizarre gumbo of warmed-over team-first mantras and a healthy dose of self aggrandizing-behavior. He wants to be Warren Buffet, but he wants to be a big kid as well. He wants to be One of The Guys, but he wants to hand-pick who gets to be One of The Guys.He has refused all archetypes. He is not the intense workaholic whose desire to win dominates all other aspects of his personality. He is not the happy-go-lucky kid who just wants to play the game and have fun. He is not the suave businessman who controls everything in front of him. In trying to be all of those things, he has become none of them. He has become larger than life, but not in the way he wants to be. He is Alice after eating the cake, too big to fit through the door to the garden and too far down the rabbit hole to come back. And he might not even care.Tonight, the eve of what was supposed to become LeBron’s big day, is instead the nadir of his career. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and all the hype and adoration that LeBron James inspired has come crashing down upon his ringless self. He is a King without a crown, and now he is being criticized for daring to take the throne. All LeBron did was play basketball very well and lap up every bit of praise lavished upon him for doing so. Whatever LeBron is other than a basketball player, we made him into. Now we have taken it upon us to punish LeBron for his hubris, and ourselves for trusting it. What the gods wish to destroy, they must first label as promising.
Surely LeBron James has an exit strategy.Surely this is all going to play out like a season-ending episode of Entourage, with Vince Chase escaping ruin thanks to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of Ari and E and Vince’s good fortune.There’s no way Johnny Drama and Turtle are running King James’ kingdom. No way.Thursday night, LeBron will appear on ESPN and announce he’s re-signing with the Cavs, who stole Chris Paul via David Stern’s for-the-good-of-the-league ruling. You know it’s the same ruling that delivered Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant.That’s how this has to play. LeBron and Paul will be on TV Thursday night, agreeing to join forces and knock off Boston’s Big Three, Kobe and Pau and Wade and Bosh. That’s why Paul talked LeBron into joining Twitter. They’re best friends. Paul is going to save the King.LeBron James is not stupid.He’s not going to appear on an hour-long TV special to take a dump on Cleveland by revealing he’s the black Art Modell. That can’t be his end-game strategy, a teary and televised middle-finger farewell to his hometown.And he can’t be so delusional that he thinks sitting down with Stu Scott to tell the world he’s staying in Cleveland will go unpunished by media and fans in New York, New Jersey, Miami and Chicago.
That earthquake you just felt was the balance of power shifting south in the Eastern Conference. If reports are true that LeBron James will announce he’s signing with the Miami Heat at his made-for-TV extravaganza on Thursday night, we can immediately elevate the Heat into the ranks of the contenders and demote the Cavaliers to the also-ran scrap heap.
Forget about the black-and-blue battles between Cleveland and Boston; in 2011, the Eastern Conference finals are looking a lot more like the Florida state championship. That will be particularly true if Orlando’s Dwight Howard gets his wish and the Magic are able to add New Orleans point guard Chris Paul later this summer; the one piece of fortunate news for Hornets fans on that front is the higher-than-expected salary cap number also diminished the Hornets’ luxury tax concerns.
Tomorrow is the day LeBron James becomes the most unlikable person in the NBA, and perhaps all of American sports. I used to think he was okay a year ago. No more. He’s the villain now.It doesn’t matter where he opts to go. If he goes to Chicago, he’s a cocksucker. If he goes to Miami, he’s a goddamn cocksucker. Even if he goes back to Cleveland, he’s a goddamn cocksucker. He’s a self-aggrandizing sack of shit, and ESPN is a bunch of pussy-whipped enablers for giving him a free hour of airtime tomorrow night and inevitably using 55 minutes of it to let Stu Scott give him a rimjob.Look at what Kevin Durant did today. He signed an extension well before he could have filed for free agency, announced the signing, and then went back about his business. He didn’t need all this dog-and-pony show bullshit. James does, and that means he’s a dipshit. People have been kissing this man’s ass SINCE FUCKING MIDDLE SCHOOL, and he still needs this hourlong AFI tribute special? Bullshit. BULLSHIT.And I don’t care that he asked ESPN to use the commercial airtime tomorrow night to go to charity. That’s the most transparent use of charity for the sake of self-glorification I’ve seen since I saw some actor do it yesterday. “Hey ESPN, why don’t you spend an hour kissing my ass? Oh, don’t worry. We’ll give the money to AIDS babies. That totally makes me selfless.” No, it doesn’t.
Privately, Dwyane Wade(notes) andChris Bosh(notes) weren’t pleased on Wednesday morning with the belief that James’ camp was responsible for leaking their plans to a television partner, but then again it makes perfect sense: This isn’t about Wade and Bosh choosing the Heat. It’s about LeBron getting the stage to himself on Thursday night.
One front-office executive whose team made a presentation to LeBron James told Yahoo! Sports that he believes James is choosing between Miami and Cleveland. And yet, if James wants to deliver the biggest kick in the gut to his hometown, he’ll pick the flat-linedNew York Knicks. Whatever the decision, he’s made clear that the teasing and tormenting of the loser isn’t his concern.Team LeBron is having the time of its life, but has no idea the repercussions of what it’s done here. All that comes to James now is the biggest burden to win a championship that sports has ever seen. They aren’t making James a bigger star with this big-top, but a bigger target. All those teams that marched into the presentations and listened to some of the foolish and naive questions asked of them believed these kids had no idea what they were doing, or what they had gotten themselves into. They’re all feeling more validated every day. From beginning to end, this process has been a farce.
And most strange in all of this? There have been no leaks that put him back in Cleveland. Not the location of the announcement . Not the movement of his tax documents . And not the prospect of the super team. It’s all leaning away from Cleveland.
Why in a time when there is abject speculation from every angle and degree, where every person with an agenda for James going to his or her city, is there no significant word about Cleveland?
And again, the reporter who’s followed his entire career, who’s been a step away from him from the time he hit high school, that guy isn’t hearing anything ? A guy who’s as widely respected in NBA media circles as anyone and who has had the, er… mouth of LeBron James (since if he had his ear LeBron would be listening to him, and that’s not really, you know, let’s just move on), that guy has heard nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
While he can pledge his loyalty to his hometown of Akron and insist he’ll always help the place where he grew up, signing elsewhere will be viewed as a rejection by the fans in Northeast Ohio.Nothing will compare with Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore in terms of sheer sports betrayal.But James leaving at this point in his career would be No. 2 on the Cleveland broken hearts list.This is not like the Indians players who left or forced trades because ownership here could not pay them what they could make elsewhere. NBA rules dictate that the Cavs can give him an extra year on his contract and at least $30 million in his pocket. It seems the Cavs have done everything reasonably possible to build a winner around him.The recent assumption is James will join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. That still seems doubtful because of the Heat not having the salary cap room to pay all three players the maximum. Also, who controls the ball — Wade or James? Both have very similar styles of play.The other hot team for James is supposed to be the Knicks, because New York recently signed Amare Stoudemire. One NBA executive (not with the Cavs) told me, “LeBron should be smarter than that. The Knicks are a team of smoke and mirrors with poor ownership and a style of play that doesn’t win in the playoffs. The Nets have a better basketball situation than the Knicks.”Chicago makes the most sense for James, in terms of talent. He’d play with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. The Bulls do have a rookie coach in Tom Thibodeau and a history of splits between the coaches and the front office.James knows the Cavs better than any other team. Over and over, the case has been made for him to stay home. If James actually stays, if he appears on national television and announces that he’s picking Cleveland and Northeast Ohio over Miami, New York, Chicago and anywhere else — it truly will cement his legacy as a local legend.Is that a reality, or fantasy? Only James knows, but what he decides will say a lot about his priorities, and the future of the Cavs.