Friday, July 9, 2010

The LeBronacle

Let me preface this by saying I really don't follow basketball.

We grew up watching three sports in my household and though my recollection could be a bit hazy, the Bruins always came first. I remember my mother and father putting us to bed at the end of the second period, because that was bedtime. We never found out how the Bruins fared until the next morning. I don't know why my parents tortured my brother and I in this manner.

So Bruins first (I still remember sifting through piles of hockey trading cards to find a Cam Neely or Ray Bourque), Red Sox second (another sport where we would have to wait until the next morning to learn the final score - it was never good) and the Patriots a distant third (They sucked until '97; who could blame us?).

I got into it in '08 when the Celtics went on a tear and again this year. Call me a bandwagoner, a fair-weather fan, call me what you will, because I really don't care.

But this LBJ thing is just too much fun. I tuned in last night for the spectacle, because that's what it was, a reality television show with ratings probably higher than the final episode of MASH. I won't bother offering any commentary, other than to say never before have I seen professional sports drift so close to the theatrics of the WWF of my childhood, but I've instead put together a compendium of "hot sports takes" from around the country:

"Does James want a title because he thinks he deserves one? Or does he want to actually, you know, win it? His behavior suggests the former more than the latter. James seems to regard a championship as a birthright, as if it is something to be given to him rather than to be earned. And the more time that passes, the more you cannot help but wonder if James is just another damaged, spoiled, and self-absorbed brat who cannot understand the simplest rules in life." - Tony Massarotti, The Boston Globe.

"I blame the people around him. I blame the lack of a father figure in his life. I blame us for feeding his narcissism to the point that he referred to himself in the third person five times in 45 minutes. I blame local and national writers (including myself) for apparently not doing a good enough job explaining to athletes like LeBron what sports mean to us, and how it IS a marriage, for better and worse, and that we're much more attached to these players and teams than they realize. I blame David Stern for not throwing his body in front of that show. I blame everyone." - Bill Simmons,

"As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his "decision" unlike anything ever "witnessed" in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us." - Dan Gilbert, majority owner, Cleveland Cavaliers.

"James made a more grandiose show of free agency than anyone ever has, but he didn’t create the culture of entitlement. He’s just the latest to exploit it, and Joyce was right about one thing: all would have been forgiven had he just told his interviewer, Jim Gray, he was staying in Cleveland, basking in his own stardust.

Maybe that was the main selling point in Miami. When the playoff dust finally settles, it won’t all come down on him." - Harvey Araton, New York Times.

"Now - even though he took less money to go to Miami - he will be seen as a mercenary of sorts. And with the way the Heat have been loaded like a team of ringers trying to swoop in and take a tournament, the club might want to add black hats to their uniforms. They will be the biggest curiosity in sport when they begin play this fall, but they will also surpass the Celtics [team stats] and Lakers as the NBA teams that fans most want to see defeated." - Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald.

"In LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat becomes more than a basketball team. It's South Beach meets Cirque du Soleil meets Hollywood meets YouTube meets ESPN meets the '27 Yankees.

Now, a Tuesday game against Sacramento becomes a show. Any game against the Los Angeles Lakers becomes a national event. June is reserved for the NBA Finals. They're basketball's Beatles. LeBeatles." - Dave Hyde, The Baltimore Sun.

"When a major American municipality's identity is that wrapped up in one special athlete, what does it say about Cleveland's self-worth? LeBron made that city millions, made an NBA outpost matter again, and Gilbert has the temerity to call the guy who filled his building "callous" and "disloyal."

You're lucky you had him for as long as you did. He just outgrew you, Cleveland. He fell in love with somebody else. Deal with it.

That doesn't make how LeBron handled everything right, but it makes him look bigger than the place he left." - Mike Wise, The Washington Post.

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