No matter how sick anyone is right now of hearing about LeBron James and the speculation of what he’s going to do next month, it’s hard to overlook that from a certain perspective the many different levels of this story are endlessly fascinating. Some day a book will probably be written, not about LeBron’s decision, but the way this “quiet” period has been covered and the reaction of NBA fans and media analysts across the country have reacted to it.
There seem to be no shortage of opinions on what LeBron should or should not be doing and what the right way to handle his free agency should be. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been turned off by much of what I’ve observed in the time since the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs. Yet here we are, the NBA Finals aren’t even over yet, and already we’re wish we could be done with talking about free agency. Of course, the crux of the issue is that free agency hasn’t even started yet.
“Game 5” is probably something that will never go away in the hearts and minds of Cleveland fans unless LeBron comes back and leads the Cavaliers to a Championship to atone for letting the Cavaliers faithful down, at least from their perspective. So as it stands, “Game 5” seems to cast a shadow over everything that has been happening.
All season long the majority fans were calling for Mike Brown’s head and the general consensus was that Coach Brown couldn’t get the job done. Regardless of how much blame should fall at his feet, the fact is that the Cavaliers didn’t get the job done, and Mike Brown paid the price. Suddenly, though, a funny thing happened and people blamed LeBron for Coach Brown’s departure and there seemed to be anger and frustration directed at LeBron for it.
Danny Ferry was a slightly different story, as he has started to actually redeem himself to many Cavs fans with his endless attempts at making moves to help load the Cavaliers roster. Still, every time we posted an article praising Ferry, it was surely met with plenty of dissenting opinions in the comments. Yet when Dan Gilbert chose not to bring Ferry back as GM, fans once again laid blame for this on LeBron. Even when it came out that what actually happened was that Ferry wanted complete control of the team, including naming the next coach, and Gilbert wasn’t willing to go that far, this was still somehow used as an example of LeBron’s overreaching control over the franchise.
When Tom Izzo decided to stay at Michigan State, a big part of the reason was because LeBron wasn’t willing to talk to him. Fans weren’t the only ones disappointed with the way that process played out. I certainly vented my frustration over it, and we’ve seen some members of the media begin to turn on LeBron as well.
Some are more subtle than others, of course, but even some members of the media closest to LeBron are publicly speaking out against him. Buzz Bissinger, co-author of the LeBron autobiography “Shooting Stars”, absolutely went off on LeBron via Twitter last night:
So Izzo, as possible Cavs coach wants to meet with LeBron and he says no?? I’ve had it. F— that. F— him. Hurts to say but I got played.
LeBron has obligation to meet with Izzo, even if it’s to flip him the bird. Why would Cleveland even want to keep a man as self-absorbed…
every move LeBron makes an orchestrated one. Forget what he says about anything–policy of appeasement. Hence Izzo BS: 100 percent no prob
I hope LeBron goes to Charlotte so ultimate psychotic Jordan can cut him and LeBron plays year in junior Canadian Curling…
Never seen such arrogance in pro athlete–player won’t meet with possible coach? LeBron getting terrible advice. So f—ing disappointed.
One thing about Shooting Stars book–people in it besides LeBron great decent people. No better man/coach than Dru Joyce. Great teammates
It’s stunning to read a reaction like that from someone who once had a working relationship with LeBron. You expect strong reactions from those of us who are ignorant about the real LeBron James, but to see it from someone who actually knows him lends credibility to the growing Anti-LeBron sentiment in Cleveland.
Of course, the funny thing is that all of this anger is being directed at LeBron, and most us feel like we’re sick of LeBron when LeBron himself hasn’t said anything other than a brief Larry King interview. The media circus is driven by blogs like this one and mainstream media who feel an obligation to write about the game’s biggest star.
Going back full circle to the Izzo situation, this is very similar to the showdown Tom Izzo had with a reporter at his press conference the other day. The site Sparty and Friends has video of the confrontation, and it’s interesting to watch it in the context of LeBron James. By that, I don’t mean the fact that LeBron wouldn’t talk to Izzo, but more about how similar Izzo’s frustration might be to any frustration LeBron might feel. Just as Izzo made the point that he wasn’t the one driving the circus because he wasn’t saying anything at all, so too could LeBron say pretty much the same thing.
Where this issue becomes dicey, though, is when you consider the point that Lynn Henning was trying (unsuccessfully) to make, that the story is going to drive itself based solely on how high the profile of people like Tom Izzo and LeBron James is. And this is what is important to understand. While Izzo and LeBron may feel like they’re not the ones making the media coverage out of control since they’re not the ones talking, the truth is that it is their silence that allows the coverage to get out of control.
If LeBron were to actually be a little more vocal and upfront about what he wants and what he’s thinking, similar to the way Dwyane Wade has been, then the story would be more controlled and isolated. Writers would be breaking down and discussing the quotes provided by LeBron rather than running with rampant rumors and speculation.
If LeBron James is losing his fans in Cleveland, he certainly deserves some of the blame. Some of it is just the nature of the game. Nobody is loved universally, and you can’t look at situations like this in a vacuum. Life is rarely black and white, but instead is generally in a persistent state of grey, although the shades of grey often change. Some fans are bracing themselves for what they feel is the inevitable, some are just trying to be cautious pessimists in case LeBron actually does leave, some are genuinely angry with “Game 5”, and some are just tired of all the media coverage.
These things change all the time, and so do feelings. It’s important to always maintain perspective, although admittedly sometimes perspective is difficult to track down. I know I’ve had my fair share of moments throughout this process where I have lost a little perspective on it, and I’m sure it will happen again before LeBron signs a new contract anywhere.
So I wanted to leave you guys with this. No matter where you fall on this spectrum and how you feel about LeBron James right now, our own TD gave us wise words the other day when he wrote about the Lynn Henning article:
To those of you, Lynn Henning included, who think that Izzo should just move on at this point, be very careful what you wish for. Tom Izzo IS Michigan State basketball. If you think Brian Gregory is going to come over from Dayton and go to six Final Fours in twelve years and win a national title, then you are fooling yourself.
To paraphrase it into our terms:
“To those of you, myself included, who have found themselves feeling frustrated with LeBron James and the way he has handled this quiet period in free agency, be very careful what you wish for.”
LeBron James is Cavalier basketball right now and there is still a very good chance he is going to stay in Cleveland. If that happens, do we want to be bitter and distant toward the Cavaliers just because of the way this story has been covered, or do we want to pick up right where we left off and take care of unfinished business?