If it wasn’t for Lebron James, Lebron James would already have an NBA title or two to his name. The city of Cleveland would no longer be the laughing stock of the sports world and this summer’s NBA free agent class would have a little less shine to it.
If only it weren’t for Lebron James.
For years, fans of the Cleveland Indians have watched their small market, low payroll teams get crushed by the likes of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. They’ve watched their favorite players, guys like CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez leave or be traded away because their team could no longer afford them.
When it came to the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, the shoe was on the other foot. Cleveland had the best player in the game in Lebron James. Cleveland had an owner in Dan Gilbert who was willing to shell out millions in luxury tax penalties to surround James with the best possible team. Cleveland had a GM who was willing to take risks to bring in players to improve the team. For once, Cleveland, a city that is used to being the worst, had the best.
Yet, as is customary in Cleveland, the hometown team couldn’t get it done. This time, however, it wasn’t because of a freak fumble or an awkward bounce.
It was because of Lebron James.
Lebron James is solely responsible for Cleveland’s playoff failures the last couple of years. Not because of his play but because of his flirtations with free agency. His failure to commit to the Cavaliers for the long haul has scared off free agents in past few offseasons. Top free agents avoided Ohio, afraid that if Lebron left town in 2010, they’d be stuck on a decimated club that went all in on LBJ and got left in the lurch.
Many pundits have suggested that Lebron was simply trying to keep the pressure on the Cavs to continue to try to build a winner. This is a bunch of bull.
Gilbert wants nothing more than to get the Cavs a title. He has proven time and time again that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get it done. Short of sacrificing his own children to Lebron in a blood ceremony, Gilbert has done everything possible to prove his devotion to Lebron and the team.
Gilbert’s only problem has been that Lebron James kept getting in his way.
Lebron could have put a stop to all of this years ago by simply committing to the Cavs and announcing that if top free agents wanted to play alongside the game’s greatest player, they’d have to come to Cleveland. Had he done that, he might already have a stronger supporting cast and possibly, a ring.
Instead he has decided to flirt with the rest of the league. He wants to jump on a plane and fly around to NY and Chicago and have parties thrown in his honor. He’ll be wined and dined and likely bribed. This moment he has been looking forward to is finally here and to hell with the fans in Cleveland who cheered him and the organization that invested millions in him.
Had Lebron decided a year or two ago to commit to Cleveland, the Cavaliers could have been planning to enter the free agent sweepstakes themselves this summer. They could have cleared cap space to bring Lebron in a sidekick or two.
Had he announced he was staying following the Cleveland’s loss to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, the Cavs could have used Lebron’s commitment to lure the top-coaching candidates available.
Do you believe for a second, if Lebron had announced he was staying in Cleveland, that Tom Izzo would be staying at Michigan State?
No way. Not a chance. He’d be in Cleveland right now looking for a new place.
Instead they are a team in limbo, desperately graveling for their own superstar. Unable to formulate a plan until after Lebron gets all the attention he can handle. It’s like a being engaged for a few years but then watching your fiancé screw 8 or 9 more people before deciding if they want to go through with the wedding.
If Lebron leaves Cleveland he will undoubtedly be the biggest Cleveland sports villain of all time. He will also be a huge hypocrite. All his talk of loyalty and friendship will ring false.
In a way, it already does.
No one can pay Lebron more than the Cavaliers. He will likely not find an owner as willing to shell out bucks as Dan Gilbert. And he will never, ever, play for a group of fans that love and appreciate him more than Clevelanders. Never.
No, if Lebron leaves Cleveland now, it will simply because he feels the Cavs aren’t good enough for him.
Lebron has always said the most important thing to him is having the chance to win a championship. I am finding this harder and harder to believe.
You see if Lebron really wanted to give Cleveland the best chance to win, he would have given more than his play on the court. He would have given his word that he was a Cavalier for life. If he really cared about winning and being a hero and delivering a title to his home state, he would resign now, for a pay cut, enabling Cleveland to bring in one of the top free agents to play alongside him.
Instead, he will either stay where he is for a max contract, on a team he has slowed down with his game playing or he will leave them in shambles for less money, taller buildings and possibly a worse roster.
If there is loyalty in that, I can’t find it.