Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBron James Alienates a Nation, Hurts NBA

July 9, 2010
By Anthony Tripicchio

If LeBron James' goal was to eliminate himself from contention as the greatest of all-time, he's succeeded. He's no longer in the ballpark.

James' sickening decision to sign with Miami proves that he is devoid of the leadership characteristics and competitive fire that all the immortal players possess. In fact, James' choice clearly demonstrates insecurities in his ability to win on his own with a conventional unit.

Put to rest the comparisons to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Not only are those guys legendary players, they maximized every last drop of their potential by embracing challenges, not running from them like James.

Sure, both Jordan and Bryant had stretches of immaturity in their youths but they each had epiphanies eventually and realized their duties to lead on the court and make teammates better in order to be great. Orchestrating collusion to assemble a perennial powerhouse doesn't qualify.

If this dog and pony show James dragged us through is any indication, that reawakening is a long way off for him. He may never see the light.

Kevin Durant, a top four NBA player in his own right, has a deeper understanding of the burden a superstar must carry than James already and he's four years his junior at 21-years-old. Durant refreshingly announced that he agreed to a five-year max extension with Oklahoma City on Wednesday with little fanfare.

Durant could have had every team in the league worshipping him in a degrading recruiting process like James did, but instead decided that he's going to finish what he started with the Thunder. He should be applauded for being as grounded as an immensely gifted player can be and prioritizing his team over publicity and attention for himself.

The truly phenomenal player doesn't need to be coddled and constantly reminded of his greatness. He goes out and proves it to people every day if, for no other reason, he knows no other alternative.

Don't bet against the Thunder in the future.

Quitting in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston doesn't look like an aberration for James anymore: It looks like another indictment of his character.

Tantalizing opportunities existed in New York and New Jersey while James could have opted to verify the validity of his "Loyalty" tattoo by staying home in Cleveland. Tabbing any of those three teams as his destination would have been logical, inspiring, and exciting for the NBA.

Dismiss Chicago because of the Jordan complex (anything less than six titles is unacceptable by comparison and winning one wouldn't endear himself to the fan base like it would elsewhere) and the rumblings that Derrick Rose wasn't enthralled with the idea of playing with James. Cast aside the Clippers because they live in Bryant's building and well, they're the Clippers. Carving out a legacy in either of those locales would have been a near impossibility, even for James.

Miami doesn't work either.

No matter how many titles James wins in Miami, the Heat is and always will be Dwyane Wade's team. James is riding shotgun rather than behind the wheel, where he belongs. Meanwhile, Chris Bosh is the hyperactive, giddy kid in the backseat that you can't keep quiet.

You'd expect Bosh to be elated about the situation and no one can fault him for his defection from Toronto to a potential juggernaut on South Beach. The difference is that he's incapable of winning a championship as the No. 1 option.

The talents of LeBron James, however, are unmatched by any player in the history of the league and as a result, he is held to a higher standard. James will never be tested in Miami the way he should have to be to win titles. He, therefore, has no incentive to augment his game by ameliorating his free throw shooting, perimeter shooting, and post arsenal.

Meaning, in other words, James may have reached his peak at 25. It's a sobering and depressing thought for a career which had limitless possibilities.

Although he'll be fine on the court, James may not comprehend the magnitude of how many fans he's alienated and instantly turned against him. He has a thin skin and the vitriol will no doubt affect him in some fashion.

Since Cleveland's majority owner Dan Gilbert isn't above berating James in an open letter to Cavs fans, that should indicate some of the palpable animosity around the country.

The Heat is set to add a vital missing ingredient to the mix with the addition of sharp shooter Mike Miller. With Miller in the mix to space the floor for the dynamic dribble drives of James and Wade, the Heat has no excuse for winning any less than 70 games this season. The South Beach Superstars have brought these seemingly outrageous expectations on themselves.

James will regret this decision in the long run. Aside from the legacy that he's tarnished, James will need to forfeit individual accomplishments for the betterment of the team. Forget winning multiple scoring titles and MVPs on this team; Miami is not constructed for him to do so.

I'm not sure he's ready to sacrifice all that especially when he recognizes that he's despised by so many who once adored him.

Simply being along for a championship ride shouldn't satisfy a player of his caliber. It wasn't enough for Jordan and Bryant, and it's not sufficient for Durant either.

Why not suit up Dan Marino with a roster spot while you're at it? God knows he needs a ring too.


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