While We’re Waiting…LeBron Reaction Outside of NE Ohio

We skipped over WWW yesterday in lieu of original content on the biggest Cleveland sports story in some time. This is a mega compilation of what is being written outside of the jilted region of NE Ohio.  Much of what has been expressed here and by fellow Cleveland bloggers is echoed and expanded upon at the national level.  As always, send tips to our email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com

“There are reports that James tried to convince Chris Bosh to come to Cleveland to play with him there… Bosh preferred the beaches of Miami and the cover of Dwayne Wade. And LeBron James, faced with the decision so big that it became The Decision on ESPN, follows Chris Bosh. You have to ask yourself if you could imagine Jordan or Magic or Bird or Kareem or Russell following Chris Bosh in hopes of glory…What I think we learned on Thursday is that for all the hype, for all the talk, for all the bravado, LeBron James did not believe in himself enough. He just wasn’t quite sure if he’s good enough to make his own team win in Cleveland. Maybe he’s not. The shame of it for Cleveland is: We’ll never know.” [Joe Posnanski/Sports Illustrated]

-

ESPN

“That trust felt broken tonight. Not because LeBron James went to the Heat, even though he referred to his destination as “South Beach,” not “the Miami Heat and their fans.” Not because LeBron James didn’t go to the Knicks, even though of all the cities he mentioned enjoying during this free agent “courtship,” New York was the one he omitted. Not even because LeBron was so, so cruel to Cleveland, not once thanking the fans who made him into what he was, the fans who have to wonder if their absurd investment in their sports franchises will ever be rewarded. No, tonight, it felt like everyone involved — LeBron, ESPN, Bing, the University of Phoenix, Stuart Scott, the man who once chastised fans for having the audacity to boo, Jim freaking Gray — treated the millions of people watching like stupid, mindless consumers, empty lemmings ready to follow Sport into the abyss. Here, here are the Boys & Girls Club props. Here, here is your search engine. Here, here is your online college, Here, here is your Athletic Hero. Eat. Eat. Consume. You like it. You love it. You’ll always come back for more.  They’re surely right, of course. But never has it been laid more bare, and never did it feel so empty. It felt like a break, the moment when the tide crested, when we looked at the games, and their players, and ourselves, and wondered: Why in the world are we watching these awful people? It was a question impossible to answer.” [Will Leitch/New York Magazine]

“Author and LeBronologist Buzz Bissinger described it as TV’s equivalent of waterboarding. New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro called it an “awful night for Cleveland, worse night for sports, worst night for ESPN.” Eric Stangel, the head writer and executive producer for The Late Show with David Letterman, delivered an equally scathing review on Twitter: “I’m keeping my 2 yr old up to watch the LeBron James Special. I want her to see the exact moment our society hit rock bottom.”

The decision on “The Decision” finally came at 9:27 p.m., following the kind of milking best done on a farm. Watching the LeBron James reality show on Thursday night, I gained a new respect for TV’s Amish in the City and Temptation Island. This was not a good night for sports television, even if the ratings turn out to be big.” [Richard Deitsch/SI]

By accepting the James team’s offer of an exclusive in exchange for an hour of its time, it generated criticism that it was buying news. It is easy to argue that the value of its donated time equals a payment even if the ad revenue went to charity. ESPN should have rejected what it was being handed and followed the James news aggressively. If an exclusive arose from that, fine. Plus, ESPN now seems to have opened the door to elite athletes’ trying to package critical career moves as exclusive TV extravaganzas. Williamson said he can’t think of another athlete who would merit such treatment. Better to close that door now, ESPN, and never open it again. [Richard Sandomir/New York Times]

New-age ethics, protocol, narcissism, arrogance, ego, control freakishness, grandstanding and creating a situation where your own reporters have to work against your own pimping aside, the reality show that evolved into “Dancing With LeBron” finally reached a stinky climax. Stephen A. Smith’s wildest dream came true, having been one of the first to “report” it as “fact” June 28 despite James telling Gray that he just made up his mind Thursday morning to abandon Cleveland for Miami…Actually, there are many disturbing elements to this. But the undercutting issue we’d have most if we were employed by ESPN right now: Who’s on our team right now? [Tom Hoffarth/ LA Daily News]

The Positive

If ever there was a time for LeBron James to leave home, this was it.  The outpouring of venom from the Cavaliers’ owner and the wrath of jersey-burning fans betrayed a festering resentment that makes James’s decision to leave Cleveland for Miami seem prudent.  This was another extraordinary LeBron moment — first the weeklong buildup, then the thousands who gathered here Thursday in front of the Boys & Girls Club to be part of “The Decision.” Finally, James, playing “The Bachelor,” told us Miami was the lucky franchise.  The most extraordinary part of the event was the reaction of the Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, who responded on the team’s Web site with a venomous, face-saving personal attack that, in its own way, validates James’s decision to leave Cleveland. [William Rhoden/ New York Times]

But somehow strong emotions have been stirred all over the country. People hate the Heat. I have heard people say they will buy NBA League Pass for the first time in their lives just to root against the Heat. Poke around on Twitter, or even on the Cavaliers’ official team website, and you’ll see that James is being called every name in the book, from cowardly to egomaniacal.  What is James’ crime, exactly? I have been hashing out this issue with e-mailers over the last few hours. Most accept that he had the right to choose whatever team he wanted. Most accept that Cleveland was not the best team. Most accept that he played hard for the Cavaliers and — this year’s playoff disappointment notwithstanding — got better results than could have been expected. [Henry Abbott/TrueHoop]

The Negative

LeBron James just jumped into an elevator and wants us to think he can fly. Sorry, but we know better. We know that he did something Michael, Magic, Bird and Bill Russell never would have done. We know he ditched Cleveland for an All-Star team.  But you know what? In Miami, anything short of a title will be a failure. Nobody outside of Miami will root for this team, and nobody in Miami roots for anybody. They’re too busy enjoying the weather.  I thought he would stay in Cleveland, because I thought all he cared about was adoration. I was wrong about Cleveland, but he is wrong about adoration. He thinks he’ll get it by winning a title. He has insulated himself from the world, surrounded himself with yes men. He has no idea how much backlash he is about to get.  That’s one of the great ironies of this — James is trying to flee pressure, but he will just face more of it. He is trying to maximize his “brand,” but he just damaged it.  The first time I watched LeBron James live, I thought he could be the greatest player ever. The sad truth for us, for him, and for the NBA is that he never really believed it himself. [Michael Rosenberg/SI]

Who outside of South Florida wants to root for Miami after the way James walked out on Cleveland and his home territory of northern Ohio in a mercenary reach for championship rings? On the other hand, who won’t want to see the fledgling super team take a big fall?  Had James stayed in Cleveland, he would have had the support of a nation wanting to see The Loyal One rewarded. Teaming up with Wade, Bosh and Darth Riley makes him more anti-hero than hero — but an even stronger marketable commodity for the N.B.A. brand. That loud noise emanating from out West is Commissioner David Stern cheering from his vacation spot in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Bad guys sell tickets, too. In the course of one week, James switched personas, like a professional wrestler, and the way he explained it Thursday night, his mother, Gloria, gave him permission. [Harvey Araton/New York Times]

The human news is that, almost overnight, one of basketball’s most likable figures has turned into a complete jerk.  James has every right to use free agency to leave a place where he didn’t feel he could win a championship. But he had no right to publicly humiliate his neighbors in the process.  That hourlong ESPN program produced and directed by the 25-year-old James and his team of young sycophants Thursday was called “The Decision.” It turns out the biggest decision was by James to strip himself of the most basic human decency, and he will again never look the same. [Bill Plaschke/LA Times]

Then it was time for another commercial and James looked like he needed to get up, unhook his microphone and take a long, hot shower to rinse away the bad mojo. A nationally televised hubbub entirely of his own doing, yet he seemed to want to be anywhere but in that director’s chair turned hot seat…That sequencing worked against James, who looked like he was taking haven in a stacked deck of Miami talent while giving up on building and bringing a championship to northeast Ohio. Never again will James (more than his marquee teammates) be an underdog. Never again will he be known for loyalty first and individual pursuits second. [Steve Aschburner/NBA.com]

The Summer of ’10 may have done irreparable damage to LeBron James.  Thursday night, his LeBrontourage and ESPN enablers dressed him in a clown suit, topped it with a black hat and turned him into a buffoonish laughingstock and villain.  Will he recover?  For seven years, James seemed to delight in, court and fuel himself with universal adoration and respect. It’s gone now, and it’s not coming back. He’s a hero in Miami, a coward in New York, a spoiled, narcissistic punk most everywhere else and Black Modell in Ohio. [Jason Whitlock/Fox Sports]

But the weirdest aspect was LeBron’s uniquely unmemorable performance—the curlicue answers he gave over and over while revealing nothing, his unconvincing claim that he had only made The Decision yesterday morning when it now seems clear that he and superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh secretly met and concluded that the whole point of the NBA today is to hang with each other and have fun, Harlem Globetrotters–style…It means that LeBron will play a different role than league-leading scorer, and it also means that it is now absurd to speak of him in the same breath as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.  Throughout his career, LeBron has never shown much leadership. Because of his tumultuous upbringing in Akron—born to a single mother who was 16, he spent the first 10 years of his life moving constantly, with no money and barely any clothes—his whole role in life is to appease and not make waves…Not the kind of conduct you would expect from a king. But that’s some self-proclaimed nonsense anyway. As he showed last night, LeBron’s real goal in life is at best to be a prince. Or maybe the more accurate description is follower. [Buzz Bissinger/Vanity Fair]

For me, “The Decision” flew by; I wish LeBron had asked for two hours. I wanted to hear LeBron James refer to himself as LeBron James and a “twenty-five-year-old man” a few more times. I wanted more time to savor his [bull] about having a dream and talking to his mama in the morning. I wanted him to go another hour without a single mention of the woman he lives with, the mother of his two sons. In short, I wanted him to make as plain as possible what a grotesque and bloated punk he has become…Sports fans suffer everywhere — that is the essential nature of being a sports fan; even most Yankees fans will insist on how they paid their dues back when the Bombers sucked — but no place is the pain like Cleveland’s: all-encompassing, multi-generational, redundant, and unique at once.  LeBron James was the native son who understood that pain and promised to redeem it. That he tried and failed may be sad, but it’s no tragedy. And that he left the way he left makes it easier to say it: Good riddance to bad rubbish. [Scott Raab/ Esquire]

“As far as what Dan did, it’s unfortunate that LeBron put the team in that position…I’m sure he went back and forth. But there’s limited opportunities to get those types of deals done. Particularly when the Cavs could have had lots o cap room. So I can understand Dan being upset. I think his letter shows all the emotion that goes with owning a team. Dan’s a passionate owner and he deserves a lot of credit for putting it out there. Most guys wouldn’t have the guts to do it. He sent a message to his fans that he’s not going to quit and LeBron is now the guy he used to play for so what does he care?” [Mark Cuban]

Asked if James’ move to Miami will cause a power shift in the NBA, Smith responded, “Is Kobe retiring?  He’s proven he can do it on his own,” Smith said of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, smiling over the comments. “Oops. My bad…I was surprised that he went” to Miami, Smith said. “I thought he was, I guess, more of a competitor.  The great ones do and usually stay in one location,” he added. “This is a new era. It’s a little different than my time.” [Magic GM Otis Smith]

This isn’t the ’07 Celtics — a group of 30-somethings who are looking to punctuate the careers is a little different than a trio of 20-somethings still trying to flesh out theirs. Of course it will work in the beginning. The fledgling Big Three will sit down for an ESPN interview and laugh and joke about how easy it will be to play together. They will smirk at the naysayers and tell everyone that the allure of winning a championship far exceeds any need for individual accolades.

And for the sake of James — a man who told ESPN The Magazine in 2006 that “I don’t want to go ring-chasing” — they better be right. Because there is no going back. Miami is home now, and with Clevelanders already carving James’ face next to Art Modell’s on the villainous Mount Rushmore, he may never be able to go back. Folks there may have been able to swallow LeBron leaving but to slap them around on national television and try to mitigate it by bragging about all he has given them borders on unforgiveable.  The pressure is on now for James to win in Miami, the last NBA city that will show him love. [Chris Mannix/Sports Illustrated]

In fact, LeBron did the impossible, he made Kobe Bryant seem down-to-earth.  Maybe that’s the ultimate takeaway here, I always thought there was a bit of a wink and a nod with the King James nickname, an acknowledgment of how ridiculous it was.  King James is the most popular translation of the Bible, the method by which we all understood the tenets of Christianity. In calling himself King James, LeBron offered a metaphorical translation of basketball’s mysteries, nirvana on the court. It was a grossly exaggerated name, a nickname so absurd that he had to be in on the joke, right?  On Thursday night, we found out the answer.  He thinks he’s King James.  So does ESPN.  The ultimate joke is on the fans, like you and I, who cared enough to watch.  LeBron’s laughing all the way to South Beach, where Stuart Scott will meet him in the shade of the palm tree with a chest bump and a pina colada.  It all makes me want to smother myself with the cooler side of the pillow.  [Clay Travis/Fanhouse]

Since I gave in to the overwhelming desire to watch, I’ve been unable to shake an overwhelming desire to write about that which I saw, if only to make sense of an event that will leave us all feeling differently about professional sports from this point forward…ESPN arguably lost its credibility years ago, when the firewall between the gathering of news and the generation of revenue exploded like a firecracker.  But James lost something on Thursday night.   He no longer seems special or different.  Both with his Decision and, more importantly, the manner in which he went about communicating it, LeBron has surrendered part of what made him unique in American sports.  Regardless of how many championships LeBron wins with the Heat, he’ll likely never recover that…When Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995, Modell knew he could never return to Cleveland.  Since he didn’t play for or coach the team, the situation merely created a minor annual inconvenience.  LeBron won’t have that luxury.  He has to come back to Cleveland for basketball games (the first one possibly coming on Christmas Day), where he’ll face the kind of abuse no pro athlete ever has encountered. [Mike Florio/Pro Football Talk]

So there was LeBron James, the MVP, the man of the hour, sitting in the middle of his own “Truman Show” on Thursday night. His personal network ran his commercials and celebrated his greatness and let him hijack a platform to build his brand and break hearts. He can never go home again now, and he can never completely rebuild what he let his cast of buddies talk him into losing that night. He’s taking his talents to South Beach, and the kid going away for the first time will have some party down there. After all these years, it was clear he had been coddled and protected and ultimately prepared to do one thing: Take the easy way out. Wherever he was going, he looked conflicted, lost and completely confused.

What a spectacle, what a train wreck.

What a shame. [Adrian Wojnarowski/Y! Sports]

(Photo: Getty Images)

  • BrianRut4

    Karma is a b****.

  • Shamrock

    That picture is painful to look at, it just doesn’t seem natural. Anyways the writers are almost all for Cleveland and the way you were treated which is why I felt Gilbert’s rant was a mistake. I don’t know if he could have used public sentiment to his benefit or not but he wasted almost all of it with that public tirade. Let that be a lesson to us all to THINK before we type.

  • BrianRut4

    Shamrock, i think Gilbert’s tirade served as a public testimony in the case of LeBron James’ legacy.

  • Stinkfist

    That Abbot article (in the positives) made me want to puke. I haven’t read much of his stuff, or if I have, I don’t remember if it was him. Has he always been a LeBron supporter or is he just supporting this situation?
    For the first time in my life, I kind of want to hear Skip Bayless

  • dr. cleveland

    Lol @ Stinkfist.

  • MrCleaveland

    Now THAT’S good writin’.

    Meanwhile, in Miami yesterday they had a rally so that the vulgar, self-glorifying excess could continue. Stay classy, guys.

  • http://www.60bpm.com/ Robbie

    So… is “Black Modell” officially his new nickname?

  • Josh

    We’ve been thinking for years that James needed a “Pippen” here to win…turns out HE is the “Pippen” in this equation.

  • thebigmack67

    At least the national media has our back for once…

    Lebum is the biggest fake, self-obsessed loser I will ever come to know in my life. Watching his little party last night just summed it all up for me.

    I will hate his guts until the day I die.

  • Shamrock

    @3 I suppose but I think “The Decision” literally spoke for itself. James is the one who blew it in the circus he created. All he had to do was tell everyone he was leaving, it wasn’t about the money, he wanted to play with two of his friends and that they had thought of this scenario awhile ago. Instead he led everyone and I mean everyone on and frankly lied to cover up the fact that he needs to be in or near the spotlight all of the time. He in fact destroyed/tarnished his legacy all on his own but he doesn’t cate – right now. He’s a youngster who can’t see beyond today. Maybe with age that’ll change.

    If I was Gilbert I’d have said how I gave James everything. Gave him the $$, the frills, a brand new training complex and other perks yet it wasn’t enough. Correct me if I’m wrong but the Cavaliers still have all of these things for other players right? Not only that but they have a new head coach and GM. Instead Gilbert lowered himself into the mud and probably hurt himself more then he helped, with the players, out of bitterness. I’m not saying he was wrong I’m simply saying he should have found a better way to respond.

  • jcb

    James, Wade and Bosh all arrived in white Heat uniforms accompanied by plumes of smoke, lifted into the air on a forklift for their grand arrival.

    “I understand now that I’ve made the right decision,” James said.

    So, now then? Even if you don’t win anything?

  • 216in614

    i like that he has the beard. it makes me feel like this is a cartoon and that is the evil lebron james. this whole thing is too unreal.

    Go Indians! Go Browns! Go Cavs!

  • TSR3000

    It is crazy how overnight everyone in the country now hates he whose name we dont speak. Will Leitch summarized it perfectly.

  • http://twitter.com/dj_2 DJ

    @3/10: Completely disagree with the Gilbert sentiment. What Gilbert tried to do was to 1) harness all the negative energy NE Ohioans and Cleveland sports fans had at that moment and get them to rally around the franchise, and 2) take some of the spotlight away from the narcissistic player he coddled over the last 5 years. Of course he didn’t want James to leave, it’s bad for his investment. Maybe he comes back later and recognizes that he was part of the problem (can’t deny that he wasn’t), but James’ own lack of commitment to the organization (by signing a 3 year deal with an opt-out 4th year) put Gilbert and the team in a bad position to win immediately and discouraged other players to sign as FAs because of that lack of commitment.

    I do think that Gilbert could make the Cavaliers into a franchise similar to the Jazz, which competes despite being in a market that most NBA players hate with a passion. Seeing the commitment he has made to the city and region, and with the drive of success he has, I’d work for Gilbert any day.

  • cninja

    i don’t think gilbert’s letter is even going to be remembered down the line.

    the letter is a blogosphere phenomenon, while the ESPN special was live for everyone to see.

    not to mention that most of the people criticizing Gilbert nationally are also in the “lebron made the right move, deal with it cleveland” camp

  • humboldt

    What I agree with these writers about most is the stunning lack of humility LBJ displayed, and the utter absence of gratitude towards Cleveland (to say nothing about his unprofessional lack of communication w/ the Cavs organization). He could have taken some of the edge off of the hurt and anger the city is feeling by just saying how grateful he was to have grown up and received so much support here.

    It reminded me of presidential campaigns. Candidates have PR/communications folks who work tirelessly on consistent messaging and shape a consistent narrative flattering of the politician. Lebron’s “team” was bereft of any PR savvy and the narrative has spun completely out of control.

  • Tim

    I have a hard time believing LeBron tried to recruit Chris Bosh to come to Cleveland. Does anyone have any confirmation about that? It seems like everything points to this decision having been made weeks, if not years, ago.

  • dr. cleveland

    ONE of LBJ’s problems is that his “team” is a joke. Sadly, poorly educated yes men learning how to do business on the fly with LBJ’s money and “image”. These guys couldn’t get a job with BP right now.

  • Omega King

    Bottom line for me on this: LeBron doesn’t really know how to be a Man (capital M on that). He reportedly pouted his team out of the playoffs, wouldn’t communicate with ownership, and wouldn’t actually own up to brutalizing his home community with his actions for the last couple of months (hell, ever since the “summer of 2010″ watch began, but I digress).

    Real Men will own up to their actions, will act with integrity, and will do the right thing. LeBron doesn’t seem to be capable of those things.

    Maybe this whole situation sheds light on why LeBron didn’t shake hands with Orlando after the 08-09 playoff loss…

  • tom

    agree or disagree with what gilbert did, one thing is certain..it was the only REAL thing we saw or heard thursday night i think.

  • Rich

    The whole Lebron recruiting Bosh thing is a lie. Bosh gave it away yesterday when mentioned how this thing has been in the works for months…and then Alonzo Mourning said the exact thing as well. It’s all been fake.

  • JM

    I just find it to be amazing he admitted to the world on Thursday he is not good enough to do it on his own. He followed someone to Miami. I honestly would have accepted any other team but Miami. For an athlete to say “Hey I’m not Jordan, I’m not an all time great” was truly a sight to see. It’s like he doesn’t believe in his own ridiculous hype now. I know everyone outside of Miami won’t.

  • Spurs Fan

    This entire process was a joke. I hope the owners lock them out next year and we don’t see basketball until 2014!!! They need to do something about teams dumping salary to sign multiple max players. Maybe a salary minimum….need to have 60% of cap space taken up or can’t participate in the top 25% of contracts offered. I doubt any players will play for 25% less to pull this garbage off again.

    Who trades a decent player (Hinrich)and a 1st round draft pick for a second round pick???

    Sounds like a fantasy basketball league falling apart!!!

    Hope Gilbert leads the charge for reform because this is a joke and Stern always has been a joke. His only concern ever is ratings. We’ll I can tell you here’s one guy who won’t be viewing!!!

  • The Other Tim

    Matt Tiabbi has an angry, profane – but excellent piece.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/matt-taibbi/blogs/TaibbiData_May2010/179533/83512

  • Eric

    Oh so now Lebron is a bunch nasty names and incompetent team owner is casting spells and hexes. Cleveland is a strange and entertaing place. Quick question: If Lebron is this and that and blah blah blah, why did you want him to stay? I’m confused. If he’s such a monster why did he have to walk away from you? Why didn’t Gilbert trade him years ago?

    “He can’t do it on his own” You guys on are stuck on stupid and evidently nothing will move you from that space. Not one single player be it Jordan, Magic, Bird or Kobe can do it alone. When will any of you admit that Lebron for seven years was surrounded by GARBAGE. Jordan/Magic/Bird/Bryant didn’t have to leave their teams because their teams brought high calibre talent in it’s prime to their teams. Jordan was nver asked to win a championship with cast aways like Anthony Parker. Kobe doesn’t have to play with a player who’s biggest offensive move is to flop like Andi V. Once again my point is Those guys were provide with hall of famers in their prime to play with. The only way the trash surrounding Lebron gets to hall is if they buy a ticket. Lebron did the right thing by leaving, If Gilbert won’t bring the talent then Lebron shouuld go join it. The Cavs roster sucks. It’s nothing but a bunch of bottom feeders and also rans. The beautiful thing is now that Lebron has left(thank God!) you cavs fans will get to see all that wonderful talent you think Lebron was surrounded with play without him. Of course you’ll have to watch the games on local access television. Maybe PBS if the gov’t takes pity on you. But anyhoo good luck with winning that championship before your “self-titled former King” does.

  • 216livingin404

    I know it was you Fredo, you broke my heart

  • Pingback: Bryant Gumbel on LeBron James | WaitingForNextYear

  • Pingback: Jim Gray Reportedly Pockets 500K for The Decision | WaitingForNextYear