Saying that winning a championship is the main reason is utter bull. For crying out loud, LeBron's only 25. MJ didn't win his first until he was 28. LBJ would have gotten his chances. And lest we forget, Cleveland had the best record the past 2 years; it wasn't as if the Cavs were whipping boys in the league. And what about Chicago? That would've been more acceptable. A young All-Star guard, two tough big men and several quality role players. I've always said that championship-wise--no, dynasty-wise--it's the place to go. And then he chose Miami. Yes, they'll have 3 superstars in Miami; but then what? They have no cap space to sign any more quality players. It's gonna be the Big Three + 9 minimum salary guys. Does anyone really think that would be enough? Hell no. They'll make the playoffs, maybe even win a series or two, but I doubt they'll even make it to the finals. And how do you distribute scoring? Who's gonna be the alpha dog? Ooops, I already know the answer. LeBron's not alpha dog material.
I think this decision would go down as the worst free agent move of all-time. LBJ has been blinded by the high premium placed on the number of championships. MJ is partly to blame due to his success and popularity in the 90's. Casual fans are likewise guilty, because they equate number of championships with greatness. It's all about quantity for them. But true hoops fans know that it's about quality. That's what made MJ so great. He built his own championship team in Chicago. He was the unquestioned leader of the Bulls dynasty. The fact that it took him 7 years to finally bring them over the hump only made it sweeter. And that's why Kobe, even if he wins his 6th next year, will never be equal to MJ; cos he was on Shaq's team the first three rings around. And so even if the Heat wins 7 titles during their run, it would never mean as much had LeBron won it in Cleveland. He took the easy way out. He quit. Now, he's on the team of the 2006 NBA Finals MVP. As Broussard wrote last week, 4 championships in Cleveland would have put him close to MJ as G.O.A.T., considering the talent-level of the Cavs' roster. The number of rings doesn't define greatness. Of course, you have to win a couple but it's not all about the sheer number. Bill Russell had 5 more than MJ but we all know who's the greatest. Wayne Gretzky only had 4 Stanley Cup titles while others have 8-11, yet he's still considered the greatest. Johnny Unitas is regarded as the best QB of all-time despite winning just one Super Bowl. So the rings=greatness equation is a fallacy. And so "the decision" is actually "the mistake." All that discussion about G.O.A.T. would have to be flushed down the toilet. Jordan's Air Apparent isn't playing in the NBA yet.
Which brings me to my next point, LeBron has now become the Greatest Letdown of All-Time (G.L.O.A.T.). How a candidate for G.O.A.T. turns into G.L.O.A.T., no one knows. Ask LeBron. I've been raving about LeBron since 2002, during his junior year in high school (right, Roy?). I even have his Slam mag cover (with Telfair). This guy was simply the next Michael Jordan. Check out his stats from his first 2 seasons and compare it with MJ's last 2 with the Wiz, and you'll see the similarities--I even thought that LeBron's career would be MJ's backwards. His 2006 playoff debut against Washington justified the comparison. His superior athleticism during the series reminded me of how MJ was circa 63-point Boston Garden game. 2007 Game 5 against Detroit. "The Shot" in Game 2 against Orlando last year. Damn, we were all witnesses. Then there's the stats. Easily 30-5-5, even more. Reminiscent of MJ. Hollinger's player efficiency rating even proved it; best in the league since Mike. This kid had all the tools. And then he chose to be on Wade's team. LBJ chickened out when greatness looked him in the eye. He let us down with the Lebacle. He let us down by not joining the slam dunk contest. He let us down by choosing to be Robin rather than Batman. Imagine if Jack did not take on the role of being the Island's protector. Letdown. Or imagine Tiger Woods. Major letdown. The decision is the complete anti-thesis of MJ's "I'm back" announcement in 1995. The saddest part is we might never see that kind of talent again in our lifetime. My generation was fortunate to have Jordan. But for my brother, LeBron was the closest thing. No matter what he does in Miami, no matter how many championships he wins, it wouldn't change the fact that he copped out. He would never live up to what he could've been. In the process, he deprived us of the chance to watch a great career unravel. The chance to tell our grandkids how we witnessed the birth and rise of a legend. I was planning to watch a LeBron game at least once in my life. Not anymore.
Perhaps the worst part of it is that I believed. Even with the Lebacle back in May, I was still a LeBron guy. It was simply the elbow. It was simply bad coaching. When Bill Simmons wrote about LBJ not having MJ's competitive DNA, I kinda half-believed it. But then I remembered the Detroit game in 2007. So I convinced myself that it's just the elbow. It had to be. Fast-forward to today. It turns out Simmons was right (which I know he kind of wishes he wasn't). Jordan never teamed up with Barkley or Drexler or Malone or Ewing. Jordan decimated those guys. And he enjoyed every single moment of it (even up to the point of his Hall enshrinement). LeBron's decision affirmed that he didn't have the MJ DNA. That the Lebacle was not because of the bad elbow. It was simply LeBron being LeBron. Dr. J 2.0. Grant Hill without the injuries (except that GH wouldn't stab his home team on the back; more on that later). That the Detroit game was the exception rather than the norm. I suddenly had a flashback of Game 6 versus Orlando in 2009. He didn't want to shoot the ball in that game, too. Damn, I was blinded by all the stats, by Hollinger's PER. Well, stats lie. Turns out LeBron is more Pippen than Jordan; now he's going to be a glorified Pippen to Wade's poor man's Jordan. Simmons (http://sports.espn.go.com/
And it's not just the decision. It's the way he announced it. A one-hour show on ESPN. What for? To break the hearts of Cleveland fans. It's the single cruelest thing a sports athlete could do to his former team. It's worse than Bett Favre going to Minnesota and torching the Packers--at least Favre had a reason to; Green Bay didn't want him. But everyone in Cleveland loved LeBron and wanted him to stay. This announcement was a calculated way of stabbing Cleveland in the heart. In law school parlance, it was attended by the aggravating circumstance of alevosia (treachery). Unforgivable. I had this conversation with my Ateneo friends during a simposio back in June (mostly LBJ-haters, by the way; and Laker-haters, too), and Jek was telling me what an ass LeBron has become. I was a staunch LBJ defender then. Not anymore. This is betrayal at its most sadistic. Calculated. Premeditated. Selfish. Narcissistic. It's utterly disgusting.
His penultimate game as a Cav (the Lebacle) and this decision would define LeBron's career. Total letdown. His place in basketball Valhalla has been sealed. He can't escape the fact that he shirked his date with greatness--no matter how many titles, no matter how many MVPs, not even if he averages a triple-double for a season. He'll be right there with Dr. J, maybe with Oscar. But never with Mike. Never with Bill and Wilt. Never with Magic and Larry. Heck, not even with Kobe.