July 8, 2010

It's finally over...

So, The King has a new home.

And, of course, Bill Simmons has a column already up about it.  It's actually a column published today before the announcement was made.  Thankfully, Simmons avoids his bugaboos of celebrity worship/namedropping and stupid references to gambling and his father.

Instead, he actually goes into some in-depth analysis of all the signs and signals that we've been getting throughout this long, crazy free-agent summer build-up.

The most interesting point...
1.  A few weeks after the 2008 Summer Olympics, Someone Who Knows Things told me the following rumor: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Chris Paul became such good friends during the 2007 Olympic trials, and then during their 2008 Olympics excursion in Beijing, that they actually made a pact in China to play together. You know, like one of those pacts in a chick flick where two friends agree to get married if both of them are single when they turn 40. 
I absolutely love that friends - admittedly friends with more money and athletic talent than God - got together and chose to hook their professional lives together.  I'm all down with that idea.  We've all wondered what would happen if a bunch of all stars just decided to throw together and beat the hell out of a league.  Why hasn't it ever happened before that a bunch of athletic studs just decided to chuck the money out the window - they're making enough to be comfortable, who can tell the difference between fifteen and twenty million a year anyway - and just roll the league for a few years before parting ways with a few jointly-won rings?
6. Red Flag No. 2: Wade's second visit with Chicago (the old "I really might do this, look, I'm meeting with them again!" trick) was a textbook reality ploy. Look, I've logged my fair share of reality TV over the years. It's one of my vices, along with gambling, Sour Patch kids, Sly Stallone movies and unprotected sex in hotel saunas. (Fine, I made that last one up.) If I were producing Wade's documentary, I would have told him, "After we meet with the Bulls, let's leak information that you want to meet them a second time, and that you want to be closer to your kids post-divorce, then after the meeting we'll shoot a scene of you walking along Lake Michigan deep in thought like you're deciding what to do. Just trust me. It will be great TV." That's what you do when you fake reality. And that second Chicago meeting sure seemed fake.

(Also helping this theory: Multiple teams -- that's right, multiple -- believe Wade went through the free-agency process partly to spy on Miami's competitors for Pat Riley. And if he did? Savvy. Why not? Did you ever think an NBA free-agency period would include the word "spy"?...)
At this point, every celebrity - athletes included - knows how to manipulate us.  Some of them don't necessarily take the time to use the media to their advantage, but most of them do.  They show up on the beach with a number of photographers 'conveniently' around.  They host reality shows.  They manage their image tightly with press conferences and hour-long ESPN specials.

I would actually be kind of impressed with Wade and Bosh if they really had planned on heading to Miami all along and just were using the various interviews as ways to gauge where LeBron was heading.
10. Let's say LeBron signs with Miami. Can you even make the Finals with LeBron, Bosh, Wade and nine minimum-salary guys? Because that might be next year's team … and if that's what happens, the answer is "no effing way." You don't win titles just because of your top three. That belittles the meaning of guys like Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Brian Shaw … you could go on for hours naming role players who swung a title. The 2008 Celts lucked out by getting James Posey, Eddie House and P.J. Brown for practically nothing; Miami wouldn't have that luxury this summer, not with so many role players jockeying for contracts one year before the possible lockout. Nobody is taking less money to showcase themselves for a summer that might not happen. Even if Miami could spin Michael Beasley for a fourth guy (say, Trevor Ariza), that's still not enough. They'd need one more rebounder, point guard, a 3-point shooter and a center. Good luck.
These are all cheap skills in the NBA, especially when they're being offered up alongside the chance to play next to LeBron, Wade, and - to a far lesser extent - Bosh.  Role players are a dime a dozen, and those players mentioned - Paxon, Shaw, Kerr, Fisher, Horry - weren't anything until they played with far greater players who could let those guys play their designated roles.  If you already have a couple of big studs who draw the defenses in and can carry the brunt of the weight, then the role players can become famous.  Until the superstars are around, though, you have a bunch of role players who are trying to play beyond their means.

We don't know about the guys who will be playing next to the new big three, but we will soon enough.  They'll be all over tv this coming season, and they'll play their necessary roles just fine.  Once they do, they'll become famous.
20. ...And here's where I really worry, because I don't think LeBron James has anyone in his life with enough juice to hurl his or her body in front of the concept of "I'm going to announce during a one-hour live show that I'm playing somewhere other than Cleveland." It's the best and worst thing about him -- he has remained fiercely loyal to his high school friends, but at the same time, he's surrounded by people his own age who don't stand up to him and don't know any better. Picking anyone other than Cleveland on this show would be the meanest thing any athlete has ever done to a city. But he might. Assuming he's not malicious, and that he's just a self-absorbed kid who apparently lost all perspective, that doesn't make him much different than most child stars who became famous before they could legally drink -- or, for that matter, Tiger Woods. That's just the way this stuff works. Too much, too fast, too soon. You don't lose your way all at once; just a little at a time. Then one day you look up and there's a TMZ photo spread with 15 of your mistresses, or you're agreeing to stab an entire city in the heart on a one-hour television show.

(When Kevin Durant announced his own five-year, $86 million extension with an endearingly simple tweet yesterday, we all had the same thought: "Now that's how it's done." Pretty sad that an NBA star stood out for being humble and only caring about basketball.)
It's an interesting take that I hadn't thought about.  The contrast between LeBron asking for the entire stage just to himself, pushing the other two of the new big three into the background so that the camera can focus on him and just him while he gutted his hometown is really an amazingly selfish thing.  Kudos to Durant for being the absolute opposite of that.
24. The goofiest part of these past few weeks: The way media people have been speculating in a way that seems like a cross between learned information and opinion, except we're never really sure what's real and what's conjecture. Thanks to Twitter and the 24/7 news cycle, the lines have been blurred completely. Chuck Klosterman thinks the true hero of the LeBron saga is Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter who cranked out articles and Tweets by the boatload -- never speculation, always facts, always backed up by sources, and there were a couple of times when he made you wonder, "Wait a second, is Windhorst hiding under a table in LeBron's office right now?" Maybe he was. 

Sifting through the various reports and tweets, trying to figure out fact from fiction, glancing at my BlackBerry every 15 seconds to see if anyone e-mailed me … that's what I'll remember from the LeBronocalypse more than anything else. And also, who knew anyone could keep a secret for this long in the Twitter/TMZ Era?  


I mean … what the hell kind of sporting event is this? It's like college signing day crossed with JFK's assassination. LeBron's team wanted to keep people talking and promote his website, and really, that's what happened. The man nearly exploded Twitter and melted ESPN. He transcended free agency, the World Cup, everything. He will draw a massive television audience tonight; he's the only professional athlete who could have pulled that off. 

What a week for LeBron's brand. I just hope he remembers to wipe the blood off the knife after he pulls it from Cleveland's back.
The first part is what I've hated the most about this entire storyline: the blurring between information and opinion.  I don't care what Mike Greenberg's gut says.  I want facts, plain and simple.  I don't want to know what every stupid sports talk radio host's prediction is based on those facts.  I didn't want a LeBron gauge shifting every day with the most minute of updates like some sort of twisted Doomsday Clock.

And now, I just want to see if the new big three can actually win anything.

PS - Sorry for the lateness of the post.  My computer's been getting wonkier and wonkier by the day lately, and I finally got around to reinstalling Windows, Office, and all the device drivers I needed to get back.  Now I'll be able to connect to the internet more reliably again and use the iTunes store...and attach files to emails and stuff.

PPS - Simmons posted a follow-up mailbag of reactions to the LeBron signing, and all I came away thinking was that people need to invest a lot less of themselves in sports.

1 comment:

calencoriel said...

I still can't get past the way he did what he did. I couldn't imagine him not staying with Cleveland since he was making the announcement in a one hour special. It just seemed like a really mean way to stab a city in the back for no good reason.

If you're gonna leave, leave. Make your money, win your title...but don't get a city's hopes up like that when everyone knows/is prediciting that you're leaving.

You're right. People need to invest a lot less of themselves in sports...but people who make their livelihood entertaining us via their talent in sports need to respect the people (the fans)who are ultimately paying their salaries.