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The LeBron “Decision”

Back from vacation in the hills of the Wild West, with temperature of 75 degrees and zero humidity (eat your heart out those of you sweltering on the East Coast!) and where I heard virtually no news. What did I miss? It seems like last week’s big issue was the LeBron James prime-time TV show called “The Decision”. And from what I’ve heard about it, I’m glad I missed it. 

James’ announcement that he would sign as a free-agent with the Miami Heat basketball team was big news. It garnered more “buzz” than almost any other sporting or current affairs event in the US this year, according to Zeta Interactive, which measures “buzz” by keyword searches. Zeta finds that the buzz around LeBron was more than Tiger Woods’ golf comeback, the Toyota recall and Bernard Madoff. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “Lady Gaga hasn’t drawn as much interest all year as LeBron James did in the single day surrounding his decision to play for Miami – and he didn’t even have to go to a Mets game half-naked.”

The circus around “The Decision” was ridiculous. Everyone knew that if James left his hometown of Cleveland it would be a huge blow to that city. Dumping Cleveland on a national TV special – that he himself arranged – was a really poor “decision”. No wonder his jersey was burnt by his former Cleveland fans. And he came across as narcissistic (referring to himself in the third person numerous times) and cynical (using a charity to cover-up was what clearly a self-promotion exercise). He went from likeable to unlikeable in record time.   

But LeBron’s detractors came off badly too. Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert called James’ move an act of “cowardly betrayal,” and he later told the Associated Press that he believed that James quit during some playoff games. As Mike Wise in the Washington Post put it, Gilbert’s rant was “the kind of psycho, ex-girlfriend letter that certifies LeBron made the right decision.” Indeed, if Gilbert really had such a low opinion of James, why did he offer him hundreds of millions of dollars to stay?

When more people watch “The Decision” than the NBA finals, it’s clear that our priorities are out of whack. We’ve become more obsessed with what happens outside of the arena than inside it.

The real issue with LeBron for true basketball fans is what will happen on the court. Everyone seems to have assumed that James’ decision means Miami has already won the next championship, but I don’t believe that teaming up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh makes the Heat the best team: right now they lack role players, guys who can defend and rebound. The Lakers are still the reigning champions, and Kobe Bryant – with his five rings – remains the true “King” of the NBA.

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