"I’m going to take my talents to South Beach." With those eight simplistic words, Lebron James turned from being the 21st century’s Michael Jordan into the most despised player in any sport. It’s as if he were leaving the Royals for the Yankees. Or just leaving central Ohio for….Miami.
In a matter of moments during a live tv interview, Lebron went from being Cleveland’s sweetheart to becoming the spoiled, gold-digging ex, taking with him the house, car, and the dog. He went from “must see TV” to “most hated athlete”.
Why? Because he took his talents to South Beach.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and even Lebron himself looked back at “The Decision” and believes that it was all a bit over the top. But should we have expected anything less from the best player in a sport that thrives on superstardom?
If Lebron had sat in that room in the summer of 2010 surrounded by boys and girls and told the world instead that he would indeed return to Cleveland to continue his surefire Hall of Fame career, then we would laud him as a hero. As one who is the antithesis of all that is wrong with pro sports: the greed and selfish mentality that is all too prevalent.
But he didn’t do that. Lebron instead decided to leave a team floundering with no real talent other than James himself. Could you really blame him?
Let me paint a scenario. Say you’re a key executive at a sales firm, and you’re the one depended upon to bring in the big money clients. You know you have a decision to make soon: stick with the company you’ve been with for years, or leave for somewhere else.
The company you’re with treats you good for the most part. They pay you well, and even though it’s in a city that’s rather drab, you stick it out because hey, it’s your hometown, and they treat you like royalty. You put the firm on your shoulders, because really you’re just about the only one making any sales, and the VP isn’t making any moves to hire any other talented sales people, since after all he has you and you can do it all.
Along comes one of your good buddies from college, working at a similar firm, to recruit you to join his company. They’re a great work place also, in a much nicer city. You know at least one friend of yours will be there, sharing the work load so you’re not stressed out. Then along comes another good buddy from school, and everything looks sweet. Your wives and kids all get along, and even though you don’t get paid as much as you could elsewhere, you think maybe you’ll turn down extra pay in order to live somewhere nice and spend time with friends on a daily basis.
Now which of those two options would you choose? Stress or no stress? Drab city or beautiful beaches? Friendly environment or working with good friends?
This is why I root for Lebron: he chose the latter. He made a decision that A) Miami is a more desirable place to live than Cleveland. B) Working with friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was much better than working with a bunch of no-name scrubs. C) Winning a title, not being “true to your hometown” is the ultimate goal.
I root for Lebron because he’s living the ultimate American dream. I root for him because, in some strange way, I see Lebron in myself sometimes. A man with great expectations, that often times is human and doesn’t succeed.
Lots of people will make the Jordan comparison. That Lebron will never be Michael Jordan. That’s true. No NBA player will ever do what Michael Jordan did for the game of basketball.
But I don’t think Lebron is trying to be Jordan. He’s simply trying to go out and win an NBA title with his friends. Remember Jordan did that with his friends too, in Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Horace Grant. Magic Johnson? He did it with James Worthy. Larry Legend? With Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
Criticize Lebron all you want. We all played a part in his ego. We all want the big time superstar. We had Jordan, now we’re desperate for the next one.
And whether or not Lebron is it, I can’t say. I do know that if nothing else, appreciate his game. Appreciate his frailty, because we’re all human sometimes. Appreciate the fact that all he wants is what we all want from life: happiness and success.