Yesterday afternoon I was chatting with a friend of mine about the prospect of LeBron James moving to the Miami Heat (at this time he hadn’t made his announcement, though all signs were pointing there) and we both had conflicted feelings. After watching the spectacle last night that was him making us all feel stupid for being sports fans, I’m less conflicted. LeBron James should never be considered one of the greatest.
In sports we idolize the leaders, those who step up, both through their own performance and by inspiring those around them to perform better. We just saw this in Landon Donavan in the World Cup. Kobe Bryant has done this for the Lakers for years. Derek Jeter. Larry Bird. Tom Brady. Michael Jordan. The list goes on.
LeBron James will never be on that list. Mike Wise of the Washington Post explained why:
“…The NBA’s No. 1 free agent…was smart enough to know that if he ever wanted to hoist a championship trophy, he needed a genuine leader such as Dwyane Wade to get him there.
Oh, and he can’t be Magic now. Or Bird. Or Michael. Or Isiah Thomas, Tim Duncan or Bill Russell or any other NBA supernova who stuck around long enough to win championships for a town and its people.
LeBron can be Shaquille O’Neal, who left Orlando amid hard feelings to become a basketball mercenary in many more glorious pastures. He can be Kevin Garnett, who had to leave Minnesota to win it all.
As a legacy guy, he needs to know: His decision to spurn the Cavaliers for more talent and hope in Miami forbids LeBron from ever being one of those all-time greats who persevered through coaching changes, roster changes and wrenching playoff losses to lift a trophy to the rafters for the team who drafted him.”
I actually care very little about LeBron James, I’m not invested in Cleveland sports (I have my own longsuffering relationship with Seattle’s sports teams), nor do I blame him for making the decision he did. I mean, if you want to win don’t you want to be on the team that is most likely to win? But Mike Wise is exactly right, LeBron needed other leaders to help him, he couldn’t do it himself.