A guest post by Justin Elder
I have been to three Chicago Bulls/Cleveland Cavs basketball games since LeBron James joined the league, solely to watch one of my favorite NBA players of the past 7 years. On one occasion, I'm not sure I really remembered him scoring a basketball until the 4th quarter, but he quietly had 43 points at the end of the game.
Each time the Bulls lost yet I left the stadium satisfied because I had watched one of the best players I'd see in my adult lifetime. I also watched the entirety of his high school basketball games that were aired on ESPN during the winter of 2002-2003. I even seriously considered buying his basketball jersey but convinced myself I couldn't do that as a Bulls fan. I've read articles and seen movies about LeBron and his buddies from high school help each other live their dreams and thought how different LeBron must be from other superstar players. And, until July 8th I loved LeBron as much as I could love any other player not on the Chicago Bulls (except Kevin Durant).
For a wonderfully written, albeit 2 weeks late, analysis on why ESPN raised serious ethical questions based on "The Decision", please read the following. I believe this in-depth article to fully answer why Team LeBron chose to use a one hour program to announce a one-second decision amongst other things.
I want to focus more on the pros and cons for LeBron after that one hour decision.
Pros: (There's only one that I see, but it's a big one):
LeBron is now a Miami Heat and in prime position to win as many championships as the three egos will allow in South Beach. This was a decision that is well documented to have been planned during the summer of 2008 Beijing Olympics. Though talking about the possibility and actually pulling it off are two different things, it's clear that all three stars (Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) were willing to sacrifice pay in order to play together as evidenced by Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks being the highest paid free agent this summer. Pat Riley also did whatever was necessary to get them there, something no other team had either the guts or the stupidity to pull off.
LeBron's popularity fallout could not been anticipated when Team LeBron first pitched the idea to have a one-hour special, however I believe a few things really hurt his credibility and turned him from a lovable, one of the boys type kind of guy to a narcissistic evil empire player. First, just two days earlier Dwayne Wade (a similar caliber player) and Chris Bosh (a short step down caliber player) announced their decision in a short "Breaking News" interview on Sportscenter. If the Heat are truly all about playing together as a team, why not announce the decision as a team of three instead of two? Second, Kevin Durant, reigning NBA scoring champion and quickly climbing the ranks of top 5/10 players announced his decision to sign a contact extension via Twitter with zero media attention and continued to go about his business as usual. After we saw how players of similar quality made their decision it became very clear during "The Decision" that LeBron only cared about himself and fans quickly turned against him and his new team.
Although I don't believe LeBron only cares about himself, that was the perception that was given off and one I'm not sure he will be able to overcome. For the next few years every city will be rooting for their team to annihilate the Heat. It won't happen, the team is too good, but why do you think teams don't want Terrell Owens or Barry Bonds on their roster? Players like this bring in extra reporters with extra questions and pretty soon the hype and pressure on this team will be something the NBA has never seen and to me, LeBron has become as hated in his sport as either of those guys in theirs. If this is true, there's no doubt that this team will fall well short of winning multiple NBA championships.
I believe this to be the biggest negative for LeBron. No matter how many rings he wins in Miami, Wade will always have one more than he does. This year Kobe Bryant won his 5th ring and the media talk was how he measured up to Jordan. None of them said he was better, but if Kobe were to win 2 more and have 7, there would definitely be those out there saying without question that Kobe was better. At the end of LeBron's career, it's inconceivable to think that he won't be upset if he's won 5,6,7 championships and yet Wade will have won one more.
His legacy can now never end up as the NBA's all time greatest player, no matter what he accomplishes.