Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hyperbole

(Note: Heh. I did not expect this post to grow this large. What started off as an overreaction to Bud Shaw making a crappy Evil Empire joke morphed into a giant LeBron thesis paper (footnotes!). It's quite long but I feel it's fairly coherent, though it does ramble at times. Proceed at your own risk. It needs editing it, but I'm lazy and sick of thinking about this subject but I don't feel like tossing the whole thing. Hopefully, this is the last time I write about LeBron until he actually does something on a basketball court).

Bud Shaw: New York Yankees' empire is not as evil as Miami Heat's.

Evil? Let's all take a step back, shall we? I think it's safe to say that we can all agree that LeBron James could've and should've handled his exit from Cleveland better. Had he written a letter like this, his departure would've stung a lot less.

But nothing about this process was, you know, evil. After seven years, six All-Star appearances, two MVP's and the franchise's only trip to the Finals, LeBron acted like an asshole when he left. Egotistical dickhead? Yes. Evil, unfeeling, traitorous monster? No. (You know what's evil? Taking a speech about overcoming racism, editing it to make it look racist and releasing to the public, stoking racial resentment in order to score cheap political points, resulting in a woman losing her job and thrusting her into the public eye. And then lying about it. THAT'S evil. /Not to get all political or nuttin...).

I guess I'm kind of surprised that I'm in the minority in disagreeing with Bill Livingston's call to never retire LeBron's number. I can't help feeling that we're overreacting just a tad.

I think I understand the grievances pretty well. They are, in no particular order: he signed a contract with Miami that was longer than any he signed with Cleveland, he didn't like the same baseball team as the rest of us, Game 5 wasn't the first time he gave poor effort*, he's helping recruit more players to Miami than he ever did to Cleveland, he didn't marry his girlfriend, he was a bad tipper**, he left via The Decision, he quit in the Boston series (most notably Game 5***) and, finally, he's a big time jerk/cocksucker/quitter/fraud/traitor/asshole/liar/douchenozzle/scruffy looking nerf herder.

Safe to say, Cavs fans are pretty pissed. Oh, and as for Bill Simmons and this mailbag quip:

Q: You missed one thing at the NBA draft that only a hypersensitive Seattleite still mourning the loss of the Sonics would catch: Kevin Durant was seated in section 206 at last night's draft. 206 is Seattle's area code. Kill me now.
-- Ben, Seattle

SG: Remember, Cavs fans -- things could be worse. You could live in Seattle.

Um, the Browns franchise moved away and won a SuperBowl five years later. Oh, and the team we got for compensation has been worse than putrid. Plus, we live in Cleveland. Your move, Seattle.

I know we all feel betrayed that LeBron left and the way he went about it was stupid. But this is as mad as we're ever gonna be (well, probably. If he shows up to Miami with a jump hook and a turnaround fade, I'm gonna murder someone). Obviously, the Cavs won't be retiring LeBron's number anytime soon but I don't think "at some point in future" is really out of the question. Right now, the wounds are still too fresh and LeBron is still playing in the league. But if the worst thing he did was "act like a dick on his way out", then I'm pretty sure it's possible to reconcile. Time heals all wounds.

It's not like it would be the first time a sports franchise has honored a player who fought with management or left on bad terms. Hell, Brad Daugherty all but shunned the Cavs franchise after he retired (I SWEAR this is true but I can't find a link to save my life), but number 43 is hanging from the rafters. Hell, if Dave Winfield can write stuff like this about George Steinbrenner,
then I'm pretty sure Dan Gilbert and LeBron can patch things up. Of course, it would take an actual apology from LeBron but we got time.****

Look, I'm not going to tell anyone not to be mad at LeBron. But when my Twitter timeline (@BenCox83) is routinely full of Cavs fans sending LeBron('s intern that manages his twitter account) these vile, personal life bashing, hate filled tweets. I don't like it. I feel like we're headed someplace wrong. (My favorite type of 'CLE fan to LBJ' tweet? The "Fine, leave asshole, Cleveland is a football town anyways! Fuck you!!" ones. Nice. "Yeah, we only watched the Cavaliers because of... you. Oh." That showed him!)

Like many people, I really enjoyed Will Leitch's take on The Decision (emphasis added):

Loving sports, by definition, requires a certain suspension of disbelief and logic. We are all pouring our hearts and souls into cheering for men (and women) who do not care about us, who are not like us, who are not the type of people we would ever associate with (or even meet) in real life. We deify them because it is hard to find people to deify in the real world: Sports spans every age group, ethnic group, political persuasion, and all else that serves to divide us, separate us. We cheer for athletes because sports does not matter, not really. We cheer because sports is, ultimately, harmless.

And we trust that they will at least pretend. We trust that they will recognize the ultimate ludicrousness of this whole enterprise, that these are grown men wearing tank tops, throwing a ball up and around, running on wood, that this all exists because we allow it to exist, that the illusion must be maintained. We trust that they understand how good they have it, how much we give them, against our own self-interest. We trust that they are not laughing at us.

I get being pissed at LeBron James for how he handled his exit (including the Boston series) and that some of his conduct was shameful. But the dude isn't evil or some sort of diabolical figure.

LeBron is a 25 year old kid who grew up without a father and whose mother was in and out of his life for much of his early years. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16. He had multinational shoe corporations seeking to give him millions of dollars before he made his first NBA basket. The Cavs catered to his every whim, including hiring friends and family to official and unofficial team positions. Local sportscasters feared to criticize him. He's one of the two best basketball players on the entire planet and has made millions upon millions of dollars playing a game and endorising products. He's being advised by his high school buddies and some shady dude who calls himself World Wide Wes.

And really, we're shocked that this 25 year old child star has a huge ego and handled a major life decision poorly? Seriously? Spoiled child millionaire acts like egotistical fuckstick. No way! I mean, hell, when I was 25 I made some stupid decisions and handled some relationships (both personal and professional) pretty fucking poorly. At the very least, my communication skills left something to be desired (also, turns out Barnes and Noble frowns upon an employee calling his supervisor a "Cave Troll" on this blog. Who knew?). It happens. You grow up.

And in all seriousness, I can't
really begrudge LeBron for heading to Miami. He gets to play with two of his best friends (one of whom just happens to be an MVP candidate) in sunny Florida. Man, that sucks! Do you know how many of my high school friends no longer live in the Cleveland area? And as the piggybacking on Wade, I don't buy that Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson wouldn't have teamed up with another star if presented the opportunity.

And while I love Bryant Gumbel's take on LeBron:
Despite such evidence to the contrary, LeBron James seems to think he needs a ring to change his life and secure his legacy. Maybe he’ll get one, maybe he won’t, but it’s probable that no amount of rings will ever remove the stench he wallowed in last week. LeBron may yet find that in the court of public opinion, just as putting on a tux can’t make a guy a gentleman, winning a ring can’t make one truly a champion.
I also can't blame LeBron for being so ring focussed. That's all you hear about now days; Jordan has six and Kobe has five, which is one more than Shaq (and Barkley, Malone and Ewing have none. HAHAHAHAHAHA). Alex Rodriguez was still on the field wearing his glove when he was asked "A-Rod, does this World Series title validate your career?" Hell, the Plain Dealer even called LeBron out on if when he left. "Seven years, no rings."

The message is pretty clear: championships matter. The end.

Can you blame LeBron for trying to team up with other All-Stars? Is there anyone on the Cavs close to Chris Bosh's talent, let alone Dwyane Wade's? Plus, winning a ring will redeem his exit from Cleveland, at least in the eyes of most people (I mean, look at Ray Lewis and Ron Artest). In sports (and especially in the NBA), rings are the barometer that which the greats are judged. I can totally understand LeBron making the move he did.

When it comes down to it, even though I know LeBron did the Cavs and their fans no favors on his way out, again, the last seven years did not suck. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. I won't be burning any jerseys. Maybe I'm keeping my expectations low, but I liked having the Cavs matter again. Coming back to Gumbel, I know this was meant about LeBron, but I feel it goes for us fans too:
Even though he never won a title, Dan Marino is still the biggest hero in Florida. And in Boston, all those Celtics championships are dimmed by the unforgettable brilliance of Ted Williams, who never won anything. In Chicago, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus have legendary status despite playing on losing teams. And even in the NBA, where guys seem obsessed with being viewed as ‘the man’, real men like Barkley, Ewing and Baylor are ringless, but revered.
Sports is fun when your team is good. I feel like this pretty is simple. You know when the baseball playoffs are fun and interesting? When the Indians are involved. You know when they're tedious and boring? The rest of the time. And Cleveland winter's suck a lot more when Lamond Murry is the Cavs leading scorer.

Yes, the ultimate goal is to win the title, but only one team can do that each year. But it's not like the fans of every other team wasted their time (or did they?). This city hasn't had won a title since 1964 and LeBron was our best chance in quite some time. It didn't happen.

We. Want. It. So. Bad.

But even though our teams haven't won, I've really enjoyed their attempts. The Manny-Thome Indians were a ton of fun, the Price-Daugherty Cavs were my childhood team and I'd like to think the CC-Victor Indians were pretty well loved. Sure, no titles but a lot of fun, no? Nagy surviving by the skin of his teeth in 97 against Baltimore, Carmona pitching while being surrounded by nats against the Yankees in 2008.... Good times.

I guess I'm just surprised to see LeBron turn into Bill Buckner. One big mistake (how he handled leaving) erases everything else he did (though less than a month has passed, we're still a bit raw). I'm not saying I'll be rooting for him in Miami or that I condone how he handled himself, but him being a douchebag doesn't ruin the rest of his tenure for me.

While the Cavs certainly won't be retiring his number anytime soon, I'll be shocked if #23 isn't hanging from the rafters after LeBron calls it a career.

*I'd say if you asked Cavalier fans the question 'when did LeBron show poor effort?' 90-95% of them would say Game 5. Though I feel some fans would say LeBron showed poor effort constantly, especially in the regular season after a few playoff runs. Now, it's really really hard to point to LeBron's stats from 06-07 (27-6-6) and 07-08 (30-8-7) and claim the guy was loafing (which isn't exactly what I'm saying). But that's because LeBron is so freaking good. The guy can put up 25-6-6 without even trying. Trust me, I've seen him do it.

Throughout LeBron's tenure, I've ragged on about his heat checks, poor shot selection (dagger three!!) and lack of willingness to head to the block quite a bit. All of these problems stem from lack of effort. Have you ever played in a basketball game where
you know you're better than your opponent or you're tired or just simply bored? I have. You know what you do? You settle for jumpers. You stand around. You make a few shots and you think "hey, I'm feeling it, I think I'll hoist another one" (and then you do and piss off all your teammates). Issues like these are what makes LeBron (and Shaq before him) so frustrating. For as good as he was, he could be even better.

LeBron could've created easier shots for himself (and his teammates) by learning some simple post moves, he could've increased his scoring by 2-3 points a game by shooting 80-85% from the line, he could've been an absolute nightmare moving without the ball. Standing around and holding ball for 15 seconds before settling for a long jumper isn't the most efficient way to get your points (and rip Coach Mike's offense all you want, but again, I can't imagine he said, "alright Bron-Bron, do nothing for 10 seconds, take a jab step and chuck it")

**I can't prove it at all, but I've heard this
from a bunch of people

***My personal theory is that LeBron realized (after seeing Mo and Jamison get torched repeatedly) how much work he'd have to do in order to simply get the Cavs out of the second round, gave up. He knew he was leaving and he didn't want to deal with it.

****I really don't think it's out of the question that within the next 20 years we'll have some interview from Bron-Bron where he states he's sorry for the way he left, he was young and immature and he could've handled himself better. Granted, I don't think this interview is gonna happen anytime soon, but I believe it'll happen at some point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great article, a lot of good points. as much as it sucks, in many ways he may of done the right thing. The way he left was fucking horrible tho- scott g