I am a sports fanatic and if you saw me this past Sunday cheering for my Chicago Bears against the Dallas Cowboys, you would have serious proof. My wife actually wonders who is this guy she married and why didn’t she realize how crazy I was in regards to my favorite teams and players.
Hey, I get it. We love our sports and players. I am a diehard Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks and Suns fan. I am emotionally tied to these franchises and I follow their every move. When the 1985 Bears won the Super bowl, I remember exactly where I was. I was in Portland playing the Blazers and I went out and had a great game and we won later that night. The following year, the Bears did not repeat and Mike Ditka started allowing key players to leave. Wilber Marshall, a key player and linebacker, left for the Washington Redskins and my team just crumbled after that. I was never mad at Marshall. I was mad at the Bears organization for allowing him to leave. I understood the economics of sports and Marshall made a decision based on security.
When the Cubs got swept out the playoffs by the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers in successive seasons, you did not want to be around me. Then they traded my two favorite players in Ted Lilly and Derek Lee. I was irate, but I will be back next year cheering and still keeping an eye on those two players as well.
The Suns just lost a great player in Amare Stoudemire and that is going to leave a big void for me, especially because I broadcast Suns' games. But I will cheer and hope the best for Amare and still love my Nash-led Suns.
When my favorite teams might make a decision I disagree with or a favorite player decides to leave, I don't change my feelings about them. Maybe I am different. Heck, I am an anomaly. I have been married to the same girl for 25 years. Loyalty and commitment should never waver. If you profess a love for something, you just can’t erase it because they make a decision you disagree with.
That brings me to my point about LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat. This situation has really gotten out of hand. I will be the first to agree that James handled his decision poorly in regards to respecting the Cleveland Cavaliers. Should he have gotten on the phone and contacted Dan Gilbert? Absolutely. But let me get you into the psyche of a 25-year-old in that situation.
Dan Gilbert is one of the top businessmen in the country and he didn’t make his money without being extremely persuasive. LeBron did not want to face him in that scenario and thus made a decision to avoid confrontation. I ask the question... Haven’t we all run away from confrontations a time or two in our lives?
LeBron was like a kid who was committing a no-no, but did it anyway in hopes that it would turn out alright. He justified his decision thinking money raised for the Boys & Girls Club would make it OK. He forgot that human emotions and feelings are priceless.
I have no problem with LeBron having his close friends represent him, but he really missed not having an experienced agent speaking for him in this situation. With all that said and done, Gilbert proved afterwards with his letter to the fans what it would have been like on that phone call that LeBron did not make.
So now here we are – two weeks from training camp and the feelings towards James, Bosh and the Heat are picking up steam.
I actually thought emotions would calm down, but when I see a poll that states James ranks sixth on the most disliked athletes' list that tells me this is going to get worse before it gets better.
I don’t really care what a Q score poll really is, but I do have a problem with any poll that does not release who is voting and only has African American athletes in the Top 6 – Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Michael Vick are there too.
The list unsurprisingly includes Bosh, but the absurdity is Dwayne Wade is listed too. What did he do? Oh, I assume Wade should have said to both players, "Oh no, don’t sign here; I want to win by myself."
I wonder how the rest of the league and Heat fans would have viewed Wade knowing he selfishly told LeBron and Bosh to stay away.
Look, I have heard all the voices of past great players, coaches, general managers, etcetera… Give me a break.
Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley have all given their opinion, saying they wouldn't have made the decision LeBron and Bosh made.
Magic, whom without a doubt is my favorite player ever, forgets that he was never put in the same situation because he went to a city and team that had everything already. Then the following year, after winning a championship with arguably the best center in history in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, somehow they had the No. 1 pick and drafted James Worthy. Throw in Byron Scott and Michael Cooper. What else did he need and why would it enter his mind to leave?
Larry Bird was drafted by the top franchise in NBA history and his second year he got rewarded with Hall of Famers Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and, a few years later, Dennis Johnson. Throw in very good players like Danny Ainge and Cedric Maxwell and you see why Bird would make that statement. He could never leave that great franchise. The pressure would have been immense.
I will go on the record and say Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant kept Michael Jordan from bolting the Bulls. He went seven years without a championship and people where ripping him to shreds with accusations of selfishness and not being a great leader. Jackson forced Michael to share the ball and Scottie became a star. Jordan was in the same boat as LeBron, but he was in a desired destination for players. That helped in subsequent years when picking up players like Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman.
Barkley is a dear friend and the best teammate I have ever had among stars. He made you feel so comfortable and he never ripped or embarrassed teammates. If he had to do it over again, I think he would have. That’s the balance of a star – they have to be one level down from the coach, which means hurting feelings when they have to. Charles played for three teams and every one of them had a chance to win because of his unique abilities. I disagree with him. He needed a future Hall of Famer or two aligned next to him in their prime and he never got the chance. I think he would have gone to Chicago and played with Jordan in a heartbeat.
When ex players complain about what James and Bosh did, they are speaking out of turn. I remember a few years ago Kobe Bryant wanted out of Los Angeles and now that he has Pau Gasol and the potential of Andrew Bynum you would have to tear that jersey off his body. Every player plays for and desires a championship. Put in a tough predicament, they would have made a decision to achieve it.
I think Otis Smith has become one of the top general managers in the league for the Orlando Magic and Stan Van Gundy reminds me so much of my favorite coach ever – Cotton Fitzsimmons. But you too: Give me a break. If LeBron James had said, "I want to play with Dwight Howard" you would have shipped Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter out the five minutes later.
Mark Cuban said James is hurting his brand. Hey, why should I care about how much money James is going to make? Last I checked, he has not sent me one dime.
When front office personnel complain about LeBron and Bosh changing teams, it’s because they have another reason to despise Pat Riley. It’s not about James and Bosh. It’s about how their job has become a lot harder when it comes to winning a championship and they despise the fact Riley always comes back.
Here is my final thought on why James and Bosh left and why they chose Miami. Then I will tell you why they will win 65 to 70 games and win the championship.
James left Cleveland because he is really Magic Johnson. He wants to distribute and lead like Magic. We compared him to Michael, but he is not Michael Jordan. He actually feels guilty when he takes 25 shots. Jordan was mad he missed out on 30 attempts. James loves to pass and lead. We as critics forced him into having to lead the league in scoring. We complained when he passed up last second shots and deferred to Maurice Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas or whomever. We said Jordan would never do that and we criticized him. Magic was in his element right away. He had Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem, Bob McAdoo, etcetera. He didn’t have to shoot and when he did, critics said his jump shot was flawed and wondered why he wouldn't pass the ball.
People thought Chicago would have been his best destination, but could Derrick Rose play without the ball? Did the Bulls have enough shooters to spread the floor? I say not and that is why it was easier to go to Miami and watch shooters flock to the three stars.
Bosh made it a no-brainer because he gets a big man that can spread the floor and stay out of LeBron's and Wade's way when they are attacking the basket. Bosh left because he realizes he will not lead a team to a championship and that would have continued to be the plan in Toronto.
Free agents were not flocking to those destinations and that had to be disheartening for both of these players.
Now they will indeed win a number of championships together if healthy and here is why...
People are saying it will be a struggle for this team to win 70 games. I find that hard to believe because LeBron has led a less talented team to 60 wins by himself.
They are saying teams will zone the Heat and make them shoot from outside. Oh, really? OK, that zone better be extremely efficient because when you put James and Wade on opposite sides of the zone and place Bosh, Mike Miller, James Jones, Big Z or Eddie House on the floor, are you telling me it will not be exploited? We are talking about the two best penetrators of defenses in our league and now they can kick it out to wide open shooters who have experience.
If Erick Dampier signs in Miami, they will also have size to match everyone defensively, thus allowing the two best perimeter players in the league to roam and create havoc.
Look, I am a realist and I know there are certain people who truly believe that this union will not work. What are they looking at?
This team is as dangerous as it comes and I will accomplish a lot without playing the Big Three a ton of minutes. That’s the one stat people are not considering.
Kobe, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan have to carry a major load of minutes. That will not be the case in Miami and that is why come playoff time these guys will be fresh and in peak form.
Wade will lead the team in scoring because that’s what he does. LeBron will lead the team in assists and rebounds and flirt with a triple-double ever night. Bosh will be the balance of the two, one night scoring and another night defending and rebounding. I honestly think that it’s a tremendous devastating mixture of athleticism and smarts, which will give teams nightmares when scouting.
“They will not be able to play together.”
I have heard that all summer.
Well, all I can say is that deciding to play in one uniform is the reason they will play together. I say they will because LeBron (I want to be like Magic) will make sure of it.