Lebron, Cleveland, and Miami

As the basketball world waited, Lebron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat.

On an intellectual level I completely agreed with his decision, but on an emotional level it troubles me.

The other teams in the mix would have been awful choices. Going to the Chicago Bulls would have been insane. Winning 5 championships would still place him one behind the 6 Michael Jordan legacy. Anybody going to Chicago is forever chasing MJ.

The New York Knicks are so pathetic that reports had them sending Isaiah Thomas making the final sales pitch. Yes, those are the Knicks.

The New Jersey Nets still fail to realize that New Jersey is not a state. It is a province of New York, with a part of it belonging to Philadelphia. The Devils were winners for years, and still had to deal with Flyers and Rangers fans. If the Nets move to Brooklyn, that changes the equation drastically, although the Knicks will still have top billing despite being cellar dwellars.

This left Cleveland and Miami.

Everything on paper suggested Miami.

Lebron James is a young, single man will million of dollars. What better place to be for fun than Miami? South Beach is made for guys like him (and me for that matter).

As somebody myself  who is dating a hot woman with Miami ties, I know of what I speak.

Cleveland has some of the worst weather in the country while Miami has 75 degrees at midnight, with the clubs open until 5am.

The biggest selling point for the city of Cleveland is their unofficial slogan of “hey, at least we’re not Detroit.”

Then throw in the financial angle. Doing business in Cleveland is miserable. Ohio has been decimated by the recession, although regulations have strangled businesses out of existence. People are leaving in droves. Miami is business friendly. It has no state income tax. This is something to seriously consider when millions of future dollars are at stake.

Every sound business decision suggests Miami. Before going further, a brief tangent should be indulged.

The article in Sports Illustrated describing how the deal came together was outstanding. It was journalism at its most brilliant.

One issue dealt with the fact that Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh had been planning something like this since 2006. They all entered the NBA together in 2003, and in 2006 all agreed to take contract extensions with their respective teams that would leave them as free agents in 2010, allowing them to maximize their leverage in negotiations before the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.

If owners and management had done this, it would be called collusion, which is illegal. Yet players colluding is perfectly legal. NBA Commissioner David Stern has said he will not in any way move to look further at this issue. The players will remain completely free to do this.

Yet the real maestro in all of this is the man who is a cross between Don Corleone and a vampire, that being Pat Riley.

Riley has 7 rings, and 3 copies of each. One set is gold, one silver, and one platinum. This allows him to match them with his outfits. He tossed the bag of rings on the table and suggested that Lebron try one on.

Some will complain that too many stars on one team is bad for the league. This is nonsense. The games still have to be played. The 2004 Lakers had Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone. They got shellacked in the finals by the Detroit Pistons, who supposedly had no superstars. Great players do not always make a great team. The 2007 Celtics won because Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce all put their egos aside and put the team first. Doc Rivers provided stability.

An overload of talent does not bring stability. The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s had Michael Jordan running roughshod to keep more temperamental players like Dennis Rodman in line. Pat Riley should be able to do that in Miami.

So every indicator intellectually still favors Lebron going to Miami. Those who claim that his victories will be tainted are insane. Jordan never won anything without Scottie Pippen. Shaq went to Miami and won a ring with Wade. His ring is just as valid as his first three championships.

The goal is to win. Fighting over who gets the credit is what destroys dynasties. Just ask the Chicago Bulls and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s about what happens when some people want more credit than others.

So despite everything rational, why should he have stayed in Cleveland?

Emotionally, he could have been a God in that city the way Jordan is in Chicago. The city is desperate to win. They are tired of being the joke of America. They are tired of hearing about John Elway and the drive and the fumble. Even their athletes who come up shot but bleed for the city are revered. Just ask Bernie Kosar and Brian Sipe. They were Cleveland to the core.

Lebron was the hometown kid from Akron. He could have owned the town. Now he is going to Miami where Wade has already led the team to a championship and playing for an owner who has won seven times.

I left New York for Los Angeles 20 years ago for a better quality of life. Yet even now I refer to myself as a New Yorker living in Los Angeles, not an Angeleno. I would never move back to New York. The weather is miserable. Yet it is still in my blood. The bond of where people are raised is often unbreakable.

Emotionally Lebron could have stayed, but at times one has to move on, especially when the current life is bleak (as bleak as a multimillionaire celebrity can be anyway) and the pastures elsewhere truly are greener.

I am not in Lebron’s shoes. Heck, I probably cannot afford to buy a pair in stores. Yet in my head I understand why he did what he did. He did the right thing.

Cleveland will never be Miami, but if it wants to keep talent like Lebron, it has to do more than merely not be Detroit.

Good luck Lebron. You have been given a potential championship on a platinum platter. Now you, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Bosh have to deliver. Anything less would be a debacle.


2 Responses to “Lebron, Cleveland, and Miami”

  1. “Ohio has been decimated by the recession, although regulations have strangled businesses out of existence.”

    The recession? Regulations?

    Take Cleveland (please! – just kidding!). After WWII, Cleveland was a thriving manufacturing town of almost a million people. Now it’s less than half that. The manufacturing jobs are long gone. Is that the fault of regulations? When the Cuyahoga river caught fire – a river catching on fire! – was that because of regulations? When black people fled the South en masse during the Civil Rights years to places like Cleveland, and the white people just up and left all the urban centers to get away from them, was that because of regulations?

    I visited Cleveland a few times in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I went into some of the worst parts of town, because that’s where the musician action is at. It’s a musicians paradise. Guitars that cost thousands in New York could be purchased for a couple of hundred and trade-in. But the city was a mess. In the 90’s, one time, I stopped there on a bus ride back from Detriot. I was an auto parts inspector and my boss wouldn’t fly. He wanted to spend some personal time in Michigan, but I needed to get home to NJ. He drove, so I got stuck with the bus ride to Newark. I met this Detriot gang member who was travelling to Boston and the two of us hit it off. He was a cool customer. Scary, but cool. We stopped in Cleveland, late at night, and got off the bus for some action in the city. We met up with a local Cleveland street kid, who offered to be our guide, as the city was a little unsafe, even for a gangster from Detroit and a street kid from Jersey. I remember the local telling me I had to take off my bandana. It was hot and I was sweaty. “Why?” “Because the Bloods and Crips are here now!” This was in like 1995. Both my new friend and I were pretty surprised. The Bloods and Crips in Cleveland? In 1995? I took it off.

    Since then, apparently things have gotten much better. Cleveland is now considered a great place to live and do business. It still has a few bad areas, but it really has emerged and enjoys a rennaisance now. But to blame “regulations” on what happened to Cleveland is just plain ignorant. Cleveland went the way of so many other northern industrial towns – it got old and polluted, free trade undercut the American factory worker, racism caused White Flight, blockbusting, and left urban decay, etc. Regulations had about as much to do with it as Cow Pox. But the whole “regulations” thing plays nicely to the conservative myth of America. Blame the workers for wanting better lives. Blame the minorities for fleeing the South. What regulations would you have done away with? The ones that allowed a friggin’ river to catch fire? Nah. Why bother. You guys have your free trade now. Let some Third World river catch fire. What do you care? As long as you’re making money, f America, f the Third World, f Cleveland, and f the burning rivers. That’s the conservative way.


  2. Eagle 6 says:

    Have posted twice…nothing stuck!

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