So far, reaction to LeBron’s decision to join the Miami Heat has ranged the gamut. However, the most common, and most unfair reaction has been to criticize LeBron as being “uncompetitive.” Danny Gilbert’s thoughts on LeBron have been made clear. However, if this is really how he feels about LeBron, you have to wonder why Gilbert was ready to shill out $90 million for a “coward” who “quit in the playoffs.” More recently, Orlando’s Otis Smith, feeling a little more than threatened by his Florida counterparts, said he thought prior to the move that LeBron was “more of a competitor.” The implication is that LeBron has decided to get in the diamond lane on the highway of NBA hoops.
Neither Gilbert nor Smith had similar criticisms of Kobe Bryant, who’s L.A. Lakers have been loaded up in the past three years with Pau Gasol, the best center in the Association, and Ron Artest, the best front court defender in the Association. Never mind they already had the best coach of all time. It’s pretty obvious that had the shoe been on the other foot, and Gilbert had made room for Bosh and Wade in Cleveland – not that they would want to play there – there would be no such criticisms of LeBron. You also wonder what Smith’s club would do without Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Jameer Nelson. Just how competitive is Dwight Howard?
Gilbert’s motivation for responding is obvious. His business has been crushed, and he is one angry man over it. Unfortunately, his tirade, along with Danny Ferry’s management have made it pretty much impossible that Gilbert’s promise of a championship – especially one before Miami wins one – will never come true. I mean, if you’re going to crush the most popular player in the league like that, what free agent is going to want to come in and a knife in their back as well when they leave? Smith is equally transparent. He feels threatened by the star power and pull of the super squad in Miami, and wonders what it will do to his share of the Florida market. Best to deride the other team’s best player as a weasel.
Even Charles Barkley got on the idiot wagon today, criticism LeBron for not wanting to do it himself. Chuck, of course, left his first team the 76ers for Phoenix, to play with All-Stars Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers, and Dan Marjele. After that, he left Phoenix to play with The Dream and Scottie Pippen in Houston. It’s a good thing he waited too, because if he left Phili sooner and won a ring he’d be considered the second great PF of all time behind Tim Duncan, instead of a guy with great stats who could never win the big one. But hey, at least he didn’t win a ring by himself in Phili.
The worst vitriol has come from basketball fans. At the tender age of 25, people are already declaring that LeBron will never be an alpha dog champion (never mind that these contracts are only 5 years long and he could easily go to a team after his stint in Miami and win as the (undisputed) best player. That he is Scottie Pippen, like that is a bad thing, and not Michael Jordan. Worst of all, they blame LeBron for not sticking it out in a tougher situation and going to play with better talent. Like anyone in their right minds would turn down their dream job, working with close friends, with a chance to be at the top of their industry, down by the South Beach, to stay in Cleveland. I’ve been to Cleveland. You?
All of this is pointless, however. Once the season starts, all the way down the road in November, people will have forgotten about Cleveland’s pain. They will have forgotten about the audacity of having an one hour special on ESPN. They will have forgotten about cheap shots at LeBron. This is because once the season starts, they will see they same thing they always see when LeBron is on the court, competitive fire. If you think he was impressive in Cleveland, wait until you see what he can do with Wade and Bosh demanding defensive attention. It’ll make you forget all about how bad a guy he is for wanting to win, and giving up money and popularity to do it.