BallHype: hype it up!

Why did I have trouble getting to sleep, was this really worth of all the fuss and attention, did I just get caught up in all of the hype created by ESPN?  Whatever it was, it had the whole world captivated during a horribly produced, lacklustre and at times boring/awkward one hour special called simply “The Decision”.

As a fairly serious and relatively experienced poker player I wanted to try and read Lebron James body language.   Upon hearing the mumbled words “Miami Heat” I looked at James reaction, his facial expression and overall demeanour.  My first thought was it appeared that he regretted his decision almost immediately, his eyes instantly peered downward and he looked deflated and maybe even slightly defeated, he certainly didn’t come across as a man fully confident with his choice. 

Lebron James choosing the Miami Heat, with superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh firmly in-toe was James admitting that he was not capable of being “the guy”, that he needed help in his quest for greatness, for a championship.  I often get annoyed when all great young ballplayers have the inevitable comparison to the greatest champion and player of all time – Michael Jordan.  But as “The Decision” was being rammed down the collective throats of sports fans worldwide I could not help but think “what was Mike thinking”.

Michael Jordan is the biggest icon and marketing machine nearly of all time, his brand and his name has never ‘lost it’, his style and swagger have persevered through a few rough patches – an awful minor league baseball career, stories of gambling and adultery, “Floor Jordan” in Washington and the controversial Hall of Fame acceptance speech that left more than a few people empty and a bit sour.  However, in his prime playing days, would Michael Jordan have put the city of Chicago through what Lebron put Cleveland fans through?

Imagine for a minute that back in the 1980s Michael Jordan after being defeated in a playoff series after clearly not playing his best basketball hold a news conference and state to the world, “I cannot beat them, so I am going to be joining the Pistons.”  Michael Jordan at one point was defeated while playing some of the best basketball in his illustrious career.  He was defeated for the first seven years of his career, just like Lebron James.  Admitting he wasn’t capable or talented enough to lead a team on his own was not part of Jordan’s DNA code and Jordan’s response to his adversity was simply to work harder, practise longer, sacrifice, battle and endure.

Lebron James for all the talk of winning championships (multiple according to him) took the easy way out as he is about to join a super-team, a team that will be soundly booed league wide, and a team that will have three superstars used to the bright lights and spotlight shining firmly on them, and only them.  James was on a path to immense greatness and the personal stats (nearly an average of a triple-double) he put up in his first seven years are on par with legends past.  Simply put, he was starting to be in the conversation of the greatest ballplayer of all time, I feel that conversation is over.

One championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers would have been worth three or four titles in Miami, the city of Cleveland is starving for a champion, for a glimmer of a champion, for a glimmer of hope.  Lebron James built that organization into something of a marvel, Cleveland basketball was relevant and even influential.  James isn’t leaving some sad-sack team that just couldn’t compete with the big boys, they were the big boys – the Cleveland Cavaliers had the top record in the NBA in 2009/2010!

The Miami Heat will be a force to be reckoned with, this point I cannot dispute without being a fraud.  They might not win in their first season together, but if/when the pieces start to fit together and if the ego’s can be firmly checked at the beach the Heat could be something extraordinary.  But the plain truth is that the individual legacy for Lebron James will be forever tarnished. 

After he made his choice to go to South Beach I had to turn on NBA TV to see what the pundits and experts were saying.  “The heir to Michael Jordan now dies with Kobe Bryant” Chris Webber stated.  “I think we can safely take Lebron James out of that equation.”  Most of the reaction was similar, that he was admitting defeat, that he was a front-runner, he couldn’t be the man the way Michael Jordan was the man.

James numbers are going to surely decline as there is no way around sharing the ball and touches with Dwayne Wade (who absolutely dominates the ball when he is on his game).  James has been a scoring champion, and MVP twice and basically the league’s pre-eminent player since his rookie season.  The NBA is a numbers oriented game and its players are judged by their stats accordingly.  If his numbers slip from 29/8/7 to 20/6/5 in my mind unless they reel off five or six championships in six or seven seasons his legacy will be forever lessened. 

MJ not only led the league in scoring and took his game to heights not yet seen, he also led his team to the Promised Land on six occasions, sure he had Scottie Pippen to ride shotgun, but mostly the teams assembled in Chicago were built entirely around Michael’s skills and talents, almost perfectly I might add. 

The Heat undoubtedly owns the best 2-3-4 combo in the league, but they are not without some lingering doubts:

*Are Wade and James going to be in sync, able to defer and play off each other as opposed to dominating the ball for long stretches of games?

*Who takes the final shot?  What animosity or jealousy will build due to this?

*Will Chris Bosh (oh yeah, he is on the team too?) live with being the forgotten man?  When we talk drop in numbers, could Bosh’s PPG be cut in half – Bosh averaged 24 per game last season?

*Injuries – Have you seen the size of Bosh’s knee brace, is a Jermaine O’Neal style decline not out of the question for the slightly built Bosh? 

Dwayne Wade has not exactly been the model of perfect health himself and the reckless abandon his style of play produces isn’t exactly a pre-cursor for future health – think Allen Iverson.

*Salary cap – The Heat still need to fill out a roster and will have 70-80% of their payroll tied up in three players, albeit three great players, this is still a legitimate concern.

*Chemistry – Some say this is overrated, but it can be a tricky thing for a basketball team, especially one under the microscope this one will be under.  Reporters will be searching for angles, stories, dissension in the ranks and any chinks in the armour.  How long until the first story breaks that one of Wade or James are unhappy with the current situation – even if it is not founded? 

So how does the story end?  Well, the players are signed for five or six seasons – depending on player options.  There will be a honeymoon phase, a transition period, a championship season and a moment of clarity.  We are clearly in the honeymoon phase, where nothing can possibly go wrong, and it’s all smiles, hugs, twitters and parties (in Miami). 

The transition period will start after training camp this October when it becomes real, when reality hits that suddenly they are the only player on the team that matters, that the ball does not necessarily run solely through James/Wade/Bosh.  This is clearly the most important period, when the ego’s must be checked, when the players must look in the mirror and backup their rhetoric about winning being the only thing that matters.

I would have to think the Heat will win at least one NBA Championship, they will straighten out any roster or salary cap issues for at least one season and get the ring that James and Bosh both covet.  But the NBA will adjust, teams will find a way and other big moves will be made – there is already talk of a New York trio of Chris Paul, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, could this be the new trend for team building? 

The moment of clarity could come at any point, and it could come to one of the “Big three” at any moment in time.  The realization will come that their talents are rare, and they are being stifled and wasted, that they should be leading a team and taking their games to new heights as opposed to passively deferring.  Therein lies the danger of such an unprecedented move for an NBA franchise, never before has this been done so we do not have a barometer for success or failure or a model to judge it against.  With all due respect to the Celtics trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce I do not think anybody would argue that all three were in the early stages of their prime years.

All I know is as much as I try to pretend not to care about the NBA anymore; the truth is I couldn’t be more intrigued to see what the future holds.   I lost about half a night worth of sleep, I wonder if Lebron James will lose more when he suddenly realizes that “The decision” was the wrong one if he wanted to ever truly be considered the greatest basketball player to ever live. 

This loyal Raptor fan says “GO Lakers!”

  1. MC_cHampsta says:

    “Reporters will be searching for angles, stories, dissension in the ranks and any chinks in the armour. How long until the first story breaks that one of Wade or James are unhappy with the current situation – even if it is not founded? ”

    So when rumors start, that is the Miami Heat’s fault?

    This team is gonna run business. All of you speculating reporters and bloggers think there will be so much trouble sharing the ball. But those same people say Lebron loves to pass and is unselfish. WTF? D Wade compiled multiple double assist games, and had 15 in the All-Star Game with Lebron. I think both of them are happy to share and not have to do all the work, which has been their recent careers. Wade does not have to play like a man possessed and Lebron has other options around him, who will hopefully move their feet.

    LOL, people debate that Magic is one of the greatest….He was drafted onto a team with Kareem. Kobe is one of the greatest, Shaq was brought to him. You said in your article that Jordan’s team was built around him. The MIA trio decided to build it themselves.

    As a fan, I really could care less about LBJ being the greatest of all time, he’s been coddled his whole career anyway. I am content with Michael, Kareem, the big O, Wilt, Russell, Magic, and potentially Kobe being the greatest. If a player wants it, they will take it. Until then, this MIA trio will be some of the best looking, most beautifully played basketball seen since the 02 Kings (not a comparison of style, but of entertainment.) The only other thing more entertaining than that is watching a team that has a chance of beating them.

    • tdotsports1 says:

      But Lebron could have gone down a path very few players of our generation had the chance to go, that’s what sort of disappoints me. Go play with your boys, that is cool, but he has to know and possibly regret that his legacy will be lessened.

      But you do make some solid points. Kobe didn’t exactly have NOBODY with him, I would argue his supporting cast was better than anybody’s last season, obviously. But he certainly didn’t have a D.Wade riding shotgun with him, no offense to Pao Gasol.

      I don’t know, just a crazy time in basketball history when you think about it….

      Can’t wait for the season to start.

  2. enoughalready says:

    you are an idiot… basketball is not a one man show and jordan sure did have help! Hell, he had an army! Lebron is young and you wanna compare him to the MJ we all know.. the one in his thirties. NO match. How many players felt like leaving their teams? Kobe, a couple of years ago… KG who finally did and only when he left that he won a championship. It’s a gamble, a risk that you take, you idiot! That is probably why Reggie Miller never won a championship. Robert Horry is teaching you a lesson that sometimes all it takes to win a championship is move to a different team. Ray did and had his shot at the championship. Shaq moved a couple of times.. i rest my case. So many players came into the league, immediately compared to jordan. Harold Minor.. where is he now? stop with the bickering about lebron leaving cleveland. Lebron did exactly what KG did. he just did not want to wait when his milage is too high like KG’s. Boston, big three sees a younger big three right now. Smart move, Lebron! Cleveland go find yourself another cow to milk. it’s not Lebron you loved.. it’s what he brought to the state Ohio. This should be the part where you THANK lebron for all those years of free ride. He didnt play or dump you, he moved on. dont be like a bitter ex-girl! there are plenty of fishes in the sea. Get over him!

  3. tdotsports1 says:

    I like what Charles Barkley said, he is too young to be chasing a ring, he needs to be the man (try to) first and bring a title to HIS Cavs…. Not Wade’s Heat, James has 10-12 solid years of ball left barring injury, and then maybe 2-4 twilight years…

    I am telling you, he regrets the choice.

  4. […] games mixed into a mostly unremarkable tenure, even forgettable.  Fact is trade Bosh for Lebron James in Toronto last season and the Raptors are making a deep playoff […]

  5. Nathan K says:

    I agree with Tdotsports1 & Sir Charles… but the fact is times are changing, leagues are changing, players & their contracts are changing. Jordan never would have joined Bird, Magic or Malone cuz he wanted to beat the best to be the best. Lebron has gone up against the competition & lost, so now his attitude is if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. the NBA and Collective Bargaining Agreement let it happen and if the rules don’t change there won’t be much parody in the league. imagine if CP3 and Melo go to NY with Amare next summer? Lebron had every right to leave and we should all respect his decision. that’s what free agency is. BUT, he has to live with his legacy & when he wins that ring I hope he knows there won’t be many people out there who will believe he could have done it without Wade. oh, and Bosh.

  6. […] player and he eventually opted out of his contract and ended up with the Miami Heat where both Dwayne Wade and Lebron James are members of the now infamous and hated team in South […]

  7. Jason the Ex-Clevland Fan says:

    I must first admit I have admired and ‘witnessed’ LBJ’s greatness since the SI cover at 16, and the high school pay per views.

    As an avid player and NBA fan my entire life, I can say that King James is without a doubt the best player the league has ever scene (especially when considering he’s playing in the ‘era of real athletes’). He has done as much for the game as Jordan has ever done, oh and he’s 26. He has resurrected the league, and this summer has created a buzz no single professional athlete nor team in all of sports could create (not even the HBO f%*king Jets). David Stern and the GM’s from around the league should spend more time thanking him for the seasons hype and marketing, rather than finding ways to roast him. While I agree the espn production was lame, lets not forget the $2.5M raised and donated, an idea brought to HIM during last years playoffs (yes, not his retarded pack of friends, I mean managers) The media that created the over the top production are to blame. They no sooner created the buzz, than tried to get creative in tearing down the new NBA’s kingdom.

    Where to start.

    The comparisons and senseless talk of, “Why couldn’t he lead his team like the greats did, Bird, Magic, Michael, why did he have to join ‘Wade’s’ team”. Not only are these comments out of context, they are simple-minded and naive. Why would Bird, Magic or Jordan ever leave their teams? Well to start, they were in high profile markets and organizations. Why would anyone move down from the penthouse to the single bedroom apartment on the second floor? These top notch, high profile organizations not only dominated fan bases, they also attracted the best to come in play along side them. Lets look at the Celtics, Lakers, and Bulls teams of the past. During their dominate title runs, how many all-stars, HOFer’s, or defensive players of the year were they surround by? Look at the Rockets, the Spurs of recent… Lets just say they had more than Mo Williams and Big Z in the paint.

    Yes James escaped the curse of Cleveland, can you blame him – I would have too. In a conference becoming more competitive year-over-year, why wait around for another year or experiment to attempt to sign and lure in a ‘true’ all-star? Although I wish he took over the rains of New York from Derrik, I am quite happy to see him in Miami. We are about to ‘witness’ the greatest team the NBA has ever scene. A team that will make the early Yankees, Gretzky’s Oilers, and yes Michael’s Bulls simply look, competitive.

    We are going to see many things this year, and the years to come. Things our children will be asking about.

    – When MJ left the Bulls in pursuit of his childhood dream, what did the Bulls do that year? Oh ya, NBA finals. Lets see what the Cavs do this year, and how soon they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs after finishing first overall, how’s late Feb sound? We are about to ‘witness’ the greatest plus minus and freefall in wins the NBA has ever scene, and maybe sports has ever scene. I cannot wait. Losers.
    – We are about to witness a three time MVP. The early public money is on Durant and Kobe, how can James reproduce his dominance with so many stars around him? Not only will he reproduce, I think we will improve in almost every statistical category. This is HIS team, you’ll all see.
    – We may see a player average a triple double, if he feels like it.
    – We will eventually see, the most wins by any team in history – probable.
    – The most championships in a decade, defiantly.
    – The biggest center stage, and most pressure and media attention on a single player in sports history, certainly.

    By the end of the season, when the haters are back on the bandwagon wearing his new shoes, playing his video game, and drinking his flavor of Gateraid, he will leave no doubt. Miami is his team, and the NBA is his league – past and present.

    As for the Cleveland fans, the jersey burners, and the residents… get over it. Go renew your Cedar Point passes, there’s nothing lccal and exciting in processional sports for you – get used to it. Oh, and State won’t be in the BCS title game.

    All eyes are on Lebron.
    Love him or hate him, your still talking about him, and you’ll still be watching him break records for the years to come.

    Lebrons legacy is not tarnished, its just beginning.
    We are all witness.

    • tdotsports1 says:

      You make a compelling argument and you clearly know basketball, but I have to refute a few points:

      1. “Why would Bird, Magic or Jordan ever leave their teams? Well to start, they were in high profile markets and organizations.”
      -Won’t argue those are great markets and organizations but were these organizations made great by the aforementioned players? You are saying that the TOP regular season team two years in a row (Cleveland) wasn’t a top notch organization when he left? He wasn’t leaving the LA Clippers, he left the top team in the league who didn’t deliver in the playoffs in a performance that left many people wanting more (from James).

      He quit on the team, period. I saw more hustle during his first Miami Heat preseason game than I did in his last Cleveland playoff game, think about that one. I recall a play where Lebron was dribbling at the top of the lane, got the ball stolen and instead of a famous Lebron stuff on the glass he didn’t even attempt a blocked shot.

      2. “In a conference becoming more competitive year-over-year, why wait around for another year or experiment to attempt to sign and lure in a ‘true’ all-star?”
      -Again, he left a team with the top overall record, how bad could they have been?

      3. “We are about to ‘witness’ the greatest team the NBA has ever seen. A team that will make the early Yankees, Gretzky’s Oilers, and yes Michael’s Bulls simply look, competitive.”
      -Without playing a single game together in the regular season (or playoffs) this is a bit presumptuous.

      I think it’s more naïve to think Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh can play a full season and stay healthy for one year let alone multiple seasons especially as they age? Bosh has missed considerable time with his slight frame and wonky knee and has never played an entire 82 game NBA season which is what the Heat would need to break the Bulls single season record for wins.

      Even worse, Dwayne Wade has missed 70 games over the past 4 seasons and has never proven to be overly durable with his reckless attack the rim style.

      4. “When MJ left the Bulls in pursuit of his childhood dream, what did the Bulls do that year? Oh ya, NBA finals.”
      -Not quite, while Jordan was hacking away in baseball during the 93/94 season, the Jordan-less Bulls notched a 55-27 record and lost to the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs.

      5. “We are about to witness a three time MVP.”
      -Lebron MVP?? No chance, none at all. With his new supporting cast taking away his normal 4th quarter ball hog sessions (he once took 16 straight shots for the Cavs – 16!) his PPG will be sliced considerably. Rebounds and assists might remain high, but no way he can score close to 30 PPG ever again. Durant will win the MVP this season leading HIS team without a Dwayne Wade or RuPaul Bosh taking his touches down the stretch, book it.

      His legacy (personally) is tarnished as he took the easy way out. Cry me a river Cleveland sucks, stick it out and transcend a city/market, make it a place all players want to come because of winning (like having the top record in the NBA in 2009/10).

      Barkley, Jordan and company have all reiterated this point themselves on multiple occasions citing he was too young to bail out on HIS original team.

      Lebron could have been the greatest player to ever live, no way he can still be considered a part of that argument, not with Kobe doing his thang!

      • Jason the Ex-Clevland Fan says:

        Thanks for the reply Tdotsports1. I think we would have a good time going back and forth on this topic over a couple beers! Unfortunately, I tend to agree with you on almost every point.

        Yes, HE did in fact make Cleveland and its franchise relevant (an organization at that same status level, or below LAC prior to the Kings Arrival). And I would agree the GM tried to put players around him for support, however the moves all clearly lacked vision, and often times seemed desperate picking up the free agency ‘left-overs’. This was a GM / coach that had the single most dominate race horse in the stable, and yet constantly leached him, slowed the game down to run a stagnate, often isolated, boring half court pick and roll mess. The coach was fired 6 seasons too late, and with any Canadian University coach off the street, would have had a banner hanging in the area already.

        And I would agree his effort seemed to decline nearing the end of last season. But make no mistake, this is not a Randy Moss, or a Toronto’ s Vince Cater case. I believe more the effect of emotional and physical exhaustion. The publicly debated elbow injury would have been more fitting for headlines if it was indeed his back or shoulders.

        LBJ is the best player and athlete the league has scene. He could lead the league in assists, or rebounds, or points, or become next years defensive player of the year… if he wanted too. Repeating as MVP is tough (only a small group), three-peating is almost impossible, especailly as you point out adequantly that his touches ‘may’ be down from last year.

        However, there is still the possibility this season that he could have the single most impressive season in NBA histroy, surly worthly of MVP. Not since Oscar has anyone averaged a triple double – with that, put as astric beside Oscars acheivement – this was done before full racial integration and pre-globalization (competition similar to the D league). Oscar did indeed dominate ‘his time’, but never dominated ‘the game’. And don’t get me started on Wilt, he’ be lucky to crack a starting lineup this upcoming season.

        Lebron has a relastic chance to average a triple double (he’s already 7th on the all time list with 34, at age 25). Never has he been promoted to run the break, never has he had inside presence, never has the floor been so spread with strong wing shooters, and never has he had a relaible and consistent second scorer. His team lacks a true PG, and they are undersized – both offer more possibilities. I see his stats across the board increasing, possibily even the points (although unlikely). The only question-mark in this formula is playing time – I worry about the blew out factor, and sitting the forth (while KD fights to win games). I guess time will tell, but does a triple double average constitute a MVP, yes. Does an average of 27/9/9 on a 65-70 win team, probably not (at least not next year with his new reputation and the new evil empire of basketball- last year however, yes).

        And in regards to health and the core playing together. I would agree, I’m guessing 60-65 games together. And between me and you (and the web), nothing would make me happier if Wade dropped out with a season ending injury one month before playoffs. This would leave no doubt when hes hold the Finals MVP trophy.

        As for Kobe, agreed. He is the man, the Black Momba as fitting as it is.

        “I don’t care what people think, people are stupid”
        “I love New York. I have a gun”
        ” My inital reponse was to sue her for defamation of character, but than I relezed I had no character”
        “We don’t need refs, but I guess white guys need something to do”

        All quotes from Sir Charles, shamlessly doing anything he can for a buck (source Charles commenting on Lebron, is like me commenting on Beethoven because I played the recorder in grade 2. Me and Beethoven’s music abilty are as distant as LBJ’s and Sir Charles’ play on the hardwood.

  8. […] Lebron James and Dwyane Wade have been on quite a roll over the past few weeks as the Miami Heat have fired off a ten game winning streak since last tasting defeat on November 27, 2010 to the Dallas Mavericks (in Dallas).  Some have anointed them as the best team in the game now and they have finally “arrived” or “gelled” but until last night nobody has seemed to mention that another team in the Eastern Conference is on quite a little tear as well. […]

  9. […] in Miami.  I am not afraid to say I was completely wrong when I felt he was going to make major personal sacrifices when he decided to “take his talents” to South […]

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