Obviously, most everyone in Cleveland is elated with the return of Lebron James. Equally obviously Heat fans are bummed and feel let down. LeBron didn’t have another “The Decision” and he didn’t have a pep rally to tally up expected championships in front of Cavs fans in The Q. Both of these things are massive improvements since 2010, but did LeBron James still cause some unnecessary injury to the Miami Heat? Are Heat fans justified in feeling upset at all with how LeBron handled his business this time? One half of Dan LeBatard’s show in Miami, Stugotz, does think so. He wrote an interesting perspective on it and I felt it was a worthwhile discussion for the WFNY crew.
Craig: I actually think this warrants discussion. I think LeBron handled his business better this time, but I still think it’s pretty wrong how he goes about it. He waits. He builds drama. He holds the rest of the league’s off-season hostage.
And all that secrecy and so much of what he goes through is self-serving so his moment can be huge and important for himself. Yes, Cleveland fans were the beneficiaries this time, but when Windy told me this week on our podcast that LeBron’s people were using mis-direction to protect the SI essay release on Friday, that seems pretty morally iffy.
I mean it’s just sports, but is the fact that this is “entertainment” enough to justify the very real playing LeBron does with fan emotions? Does the overall desirable story arc of a boy returning home justify the means with which LeBron enacted for those ends?
It’s degrees obviously, but I can see Miami’s point. I’m not crying for them and their championships over the past four years, but it’s at least worth the discussion I think.
Scott: I read that op-ed a couple days ago and wavered back and forth between the scent of sour grapes and one which made me think a bit. I think anyone from Miami is in absolutely NO position to chastise national media — this is the same group of people who are trying to make us believe that Shabazz Napier is worth tracking while he’s hitting four of his last 24 shots while averaging just under five turnovers per Summer League game. And for anyone in Miami to think James was going to spend the rest of his career there … come on. You were always a rental.
Do I wish that the entire situation was wrapped up a bit quicker? Sure. It certainly would’ve been easier on my iPhone battery. But do I understand why it took as long? Absolutely. James’ team had to meet with potential suitors, which, if you recall back to 2010, took a good chunk of a week. Secondly, there had to be a meeting between James and Dan Gilbert — something that was integral to the decision, but an extra meeting which didn’t have to happen the last time. Factor in the schedules of everyone involved, and the logistics muddy things up. Thirdly, should we be surprised that there’s a dramatic element to anything a professional athlete (or celebrity in general) does? I feel like James does so much good — philanthropic, global, has nary a rap sheet — that we have to search for something to cling to in the way of negativity. If “dramatic” is the worst thing about someone, I think we’re in good shape.
Why do the Heat fans deserve better than Cavalier fans? You can argue that both situations have a bit of dirt on them — I’d listen to that. But LeBron James, like it or not, carries more power in the NBA than Adam Silver. He generates the most money for a league and has never been the highest paid player on his team. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. He controlled the message, just as he always has. To answer Stugotz’ closing question — yes, I would be surprised if James left Cleveland again. I think there’s a level of selfishness to every business decision. I think there has to be. But I don’t think there’s any vindication. Not at all.
Jacob: “Morally” iffy seems like a bit of a stretch to me. It is again just sports. You can say they handled it poorly, but morals gets into a tricky situation.
But yeah, I’d pretty confidently say that LeBron’s camp consistently orchestrated and fed into misdirections for weeks and weeks leading up to the announcement on July 11. Recall as well, The Decision was on July 8, 2010. So it was three days earlier and at an announced time, so fans were much less on edge. Cleveland (or at least the Twitter version of it) was mighty angsty this month.
Is that the end of the world? Is that enough to say it’s not worth the process, both for Miami in 2010 and now Cleveland in 2014? Nope. This is the best basketball player in the and world and this isn’t a moral situation. He can act generally however he wants to act within the laws and framework of the institutions involved.
LeBron – and thus, LRMR and Klutch – have handled this business in a outwardly funny and slightly off-putting way. This is twice now. We can kind of expect it. We’ll likely have similar rumors and chaos this coming summer with his opt-out. To me, it doesn’t necessarily change that much. Of course, we have the slight confidence he’s finishing his career with Cleveland now, but that’s not his style to withhold the suspense.
Joe M: Even the Decision was awesome for the NBA as much as Cavs fans hated it. It created so much intrigue around the season and cast LeBron as a villain which every good narrative needs. I honestly don’t find it all that off-putting. These owners get away with much worse in terms of how they conduct their business. LeBron is just always in the spotlight.
Craig: I don’t know how you can remove the morals from it Jacob. I mean you can say you don’t care, but clearly the reactions to “The Decision” back in 2010 indicate that morals do matter to some people. Even if it’s not life and death, there are stakeholders and people involved and impacted by LeBron’s actions. To think that this situation where many people’s real futures – financial and geographic to name just two – hang in the balance, of course there are moral implications.
And Joe, I don’t think a relative comparison to the owners is all that relevant here. While Stugotz defended Micky Arison in his post, that’s not a stance I care about. I always consider it from the fans’ point of view and to me there are some similarities to the way LeBron handled his business in both 2010 and 2014 which in a vacuum seem to take liberties for the sake of drama.
Again, that doesn’t mean anyone has to care, but I guess I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t see the similarities at all. LeBron got a pass because his end choice was “morally superior,” but many of the same hallmarks in “how he did it” were there. Obviously he skipped the two biggest offenses between the TV show and that ridiculous pep rally.
But one thing I’m done with in my life as a sports fan is being blinded (or at least totally blinded) by my fan bias. I love that LeBron chose Cleveland and is coming back. I love that he wrote that essay and didn’t do a TV show or pep rally, but I see some of Stugotz’ points.
Colin: Miami must be running the gauntlet of emotions right now. Certainly, they have to be thrilled that LeBron chose them in 2010, bringing along Chris Bosh and a multitude of cheap, productive veterans. The Heat reached the Finals in all four years of LeBron’s reign in Miami and won two titles that would never be possible without The Decision. Despite all this success, I can understand a level of animosity.
Had LeBron chosen to re-sign with the Heat, Cavaliers fans would have been justifiably angry due to this being the second time he led Cleveland fans on. He gave no signs pointing to Cleveland or Miami, utter silence from him. All of a sudden, Cleveland’s trade of Zeller, Karasev, and a first round pick to rid themselves of Jarrett Jack would be called into question. Would Miami have signed Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, and drafted Shabazz Napier without thinking LeBron would return? There is a good chance that money would have been spent elsewhere.
However, I never know what to believe any more. Recent reports have said that LeBron made his decision a week or more before the SI story by Lee Jenkins was released. But, if that is true, why did LeBron talk to Pat Riley In Las Vegas just two days before announcing his decision and not let him know whether he was taking his talents to Cleveland or making another run with Bosh and Wade?
A few things seem indefensible and others make sense. Miami has little reason to be upset that LeBron left, in a vacuum. The Heat won two titles and appeared in four Finals series. The Cavs’ young, talented, and flexible roster, chance to repair his legacy, and his ability to be closer to Akron are all defensible reasons to choose Cleveland.
However, the final few days seemed to drag on unnecessarily. On July 6th, Cleveland fans managed to track Dan Gilbert’s plane to Miami. The Heat used their remaining non-LeBron/Bosh/Wade cap room on McRoberts and Granger on July 7th. They already drafted Napier. By then, LeBron knew who would be on the rosters and had spoken to Gilbert. But, LeBron waited until July 12th to make his announcement official.
We will likely never know why he waited, what the meeting with Pat Riley was about, or when LeBron actually decided to sign with Cleveland, but we do know that he loves the spotlight. He destroyed Cleveland fans’ dreams in 2010 with The Decision” and made it up to them last week with The Essay, a brilliantly planned out PR move. Miami fans can’t be angry that LeBron left, he took them to the Finals every single season he played for the Heat, but it is understandable for them to be agitated that he stretched out his decision longer than they anticipated.