Monday, July 12, 2010

Putting the LeBron Critiques in Perspective

July 12, 2010

 It's difficult to put this entire situation in better word than Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald did in his July 11th article. Nevertheless, I will attempt to provide added perspective to the unprecedented and skewed negative criticisms that LeBron James has received throughout this free agency period.

There have been many things said about James, most of which are reactionary rather than rational, that have tainted the NBA athlete's image with undeserved negativity. Just review some of the tidbits that Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, and Orlando Magic GM, Otis Smith, had to say in order to get a glimpse at this phenomenon.

Dan Gilbert:

"This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown "chosen one" sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And "who" we would want them to grow-up to become"

Otis Smith:

``I thought [James] was more of a competitor. The great ones usually stay in one location.''

Clearly these are attacks on James' character with biased, one-sided attitudes firmly embedded in them. Gilbert uses blame tactics to paint James as not only a traitor, but an anti-role model for the youth, while Smith challenges James' competitiveness for not being selfish enough to earn a title in the team he began with.

In defense of James, Gilbert is falsely blaming a single athlete for the demise of his basketball team, despite the fact that teams are built with a roster of 12 to 15 players. How can one person, who committed seven seasons of his life with no title success, be blamed for seeking a better opportunity? In fact, Gilbert is the one who has direct control of player personnel moves and was part of the Cavaliers' failure to surround James with the proper talent to secure a championship. James does not.

As for Smith, his definition of competitor is constructed through the scope of limited NBA history. The fact that James left his team to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can only be defined as "lacking competitive drive" if you deny other instances of star-studded partnerships in the history of The Association. Was Kevin Garnett "less of a competitor" when he left Minnesota for Boston? Was Charles Barkley less of a competitor when he left Phoenix for Houston (to join Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler)? While staying with one team and battling through the struggles of achieving a title may seem more fulfilling, a ring is not guaranteed by such sacrifice. Karl Malone and John Stockton can attest to this reality.

Beyond the criticism within the league, we find claims that James will never be in the same light as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant since he could not "do it it on his own." Obviously such statements deny the existence of the Scottie Pippens, Dennis Rodmans, Pau Gasols and Lamar Odoms of this league that catapult their super stars from winners to champions. What is the difference between a super star having talent placed around him and a super star joining a team that already has talent at its core? Perspective, that's all.

At the center of this dilemma is the reality that LeBron James made the decision that was best for himself. Whether one agrees with the way he went about making his choice or not, the reality is that James sacrificed money, popularity and ego for the sake of achieving his ultimate goal: to win championships. Last time I checked, the pursuit of happiness was something that was valued and encouraged in the United States of America. When James hoists up his first title, and others to follow, the smile on his face will be living proof that his pursuit has been achieved.

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