If you're even a mild sports fan, then you've been following the LeBron Saga either intentionally (refreshing twitter and espn.com every 15 minutes like us) or unintentionally (ESPN literally covered nothing since the US got knocked out by Belgium). For 3 weeks, LeBron James held the entire league, sports media, and hell, most of the American public hostage. He took his time, made no public statements, and waited until he was good and ready to make his
decision public statement. Just when it felt like he was going to leave us all hanging until after his little jaunt to Rio, he dropped, "the essay" on us. In an age where the pen has lost so much of it's luster to the sword (if you believe Rashad McCants then most athletes can't write sword, let alone pen), LeBron James changed the course of the NBA with a brilliantly written essay which explains his decision to return home to Cleveland. In a strange way, and in complete juxtaposition to his "decision", 4 years earlier, he left everyone feeling completely satisfied. After his announcement on Friday, the world started spinning again, the sports media started covering MLB and the World Cup again, and the NBA started signing players again.
Now that it's over, and we've had some time to let it all digest, some of the Jones and B writers and fans wanted to weigh in on LeBron's plan to come home to Cleveland:
Benny: 8 players who's lives immediately changed with LeBron's decision
Everyone knows that LeBron's decision had a massive ripple effect, but let's actually consider players who it directly effected:
- Kyrie Irving: Before the decision, Kyrie was destined to be the best player on a losing team. Even in the weak east, with an immense amount of personal talent, he still couldn't Allen Iverson his way into the playoffs. However, now, he's destined to be a perennial all-star and likely a multiple time NBA Champ.
- Dwayne Wade: He's back to playing the role of Batman, and the question is... can he still do it? With LeBron gone, Wade isn't going to be able to sit out games and keep everything in 3rd gear throughout the season. It will be interesting to see if Wade's career has a 3rd act or if he's really done.
- Chris Bosh: He'd either be in Houston as the 4th option or Making about $10mm a season in Miami if LeBron stayed. Instead he got a max contract and will likely be the highest paid player on a bad heat team.
- Pau Gasol: If LeBron stays in Miami, from what I hear, Carmelo would have forced a sign and trade to the Bulls. That means that Gasol would have been in SA or OKC. Now he's on the Bulls, and they'll have the two best passing big men in the game, and a guy like Noah to protect the rim and bang bodies because you know Gasol doesn't like playing D anymore.
- Kevin Love: Kevin Love never dreamed of going anywhere in the midwest, and now he say's he's "intrigued by the chance to go to Cle", and would resign if the trade happened.
- Carmelo: If the big three stayed together in MIA, then Melo was heading to Chicago and if the LeBron stayed in MIA but Bosh left, then Melo was headed to MIA. Instead, Melo is left to play on the Knicks with Jose Calderon and Amare. Hmmm, at least he got that 123 Milllllion!
- Luol Deng: He might actually be back in Cleveland or Chicago if Bron stays, but now he's got that $20m guaranteed because Bron left a wake of cap room in Mia.
- LeBron James: By going back home LeBron actually reinvented his own career. All he needs to do for his move to be seen as a success is win ONE title. Just bring a single title to Cleveland and he's a hero. Compare that with being in Miami and having to win a title EVERY year to even be considered good. Not to mention he's got from villain (the decision) to hero (the essay), it's a ridiculous and amazing turnaround.
Rene: Home is where your Legacy Lives
LeBron James will never, NEVER be as great as Michael Jordan. But the move he made Friday, the intelligence and foresight of it, brings about an excitement the NBA hasn't seen since then. An excitement that left for many when MJ walked away in 93, only to return on that fateful day in Indiana, leave again in 98, and return once again with LeBron's latest announcement. The NBA loves this, the city of Cleveland needs it.
It's not about the titles anymore though, I think LeBron knows that. I believe he's known it and accepted the fact he is LeBron James, not Michael Jordan — he's different (something I'm not sure Kobe ever realized). His is a test Jordan never faced, the prodigal son coming home. What it's about now is LeBron building something new, finally being the man, challenging his own legacy, running after himself and not the uncatchable ghost from the Windy City. There's no better place to do that than home and there's not going to be a team more watched, analyzed, scrutinized, doubted and ultimately celebrated, than the Cleveland Cavaliers. I never thought in a million years I'd say this, but the circus has arrived in Cleveland, Ohio — and I can't wait to see it.
Eric: He's not a businessman, he's a Business...MAN!
The handling of the entire situation was fucking genius, bordering on the type of CEO power moves you see played out in the movies. The entire time it felt like everyone knew something, and yet no one knew anything. Why? Because he kept silence and made his moves carefully and with precision. He made everyone come to him, and by him, I mean his agent, Rich Paul. The only meeting two meetings he took in person were with Riley and a secret meeting with Dan Gilbert. Not only that, but he made the man with a fist full of rings, fly to Vegas for sport. You know, just to show everyone who's in charge. Add all of this to the fact that he completely took over all of free agency, making everyone wait to sign deals til he did... CEO Boss moves. In fact, this borders on Michael Corleone moves. I wonder if he sent Bosh out on a "fishing trip" the day before he released the essay... "you broke my heart Fredo, you broke my heart."
Jonesy: For the love of the...
I have to admit it. I was watching Sportscenter like a mad man and checking Bleacher Report every 15 over the past week. Mainly because I was interested to see what was going to happen with Carmelo Anthony and the Bulls. I knew things were getting somewhat real when I heard LeBron wasn't meeting with any other teams and it was only down to Cleveland or Miami.
Then I thought about the letter. The Dan Gilbert letter. He called Bron some horrific things. Dude, you're the owner of the team. This is a business. This is basketball. Stop being so emotional. Yeah LeBron made an idiot out of himself with "The Decision," but he was a 25 year old kid who wasn't being advised the right way. Now LeBron is a grown man. He has two kids, with a third on the way and you can just tell that he is a completely different person. And his love for Cleveland transcends sports. It is emotional. The question was whether the emotion of love for his home town, could overcome the emotion of scorn felt by the entire city itself. It did.
I loved everything about LeBron's SI letter. I thought it was extremely well written and from a PR perspective it was dead on. He loves Cleveland and it was time for him to move onto something more important than winning. However, let's not ignore the fact that this was made a bit easier by the fact that he couldn't keep winning in Miami anyway. One thing LeBron James knows is basketball, he's bordering on genius levels at understanding the game, and he knew he couldn't keep winning with that team. Bosh didn't show up for half of the finals and he couldn't keep a 38 year old Tim Duncan from putting up double doubles. James watched as his boy, his ace, DWade completely broke down. I think Wade will rebound to a degree but his best days are done, and in the salary cap era, so are the Heat. Going back to Cleveland and teaming up w Kyrie, an athletic young wing in Andrew Wiggins, and an endless case of picks was just too hard to pass up, especially when he gets to go home to do it.
At the end of the day, LeBron's decision to go home wasn't just about love for a city, but it's also about love for the game. By going home to Cleveland he gets to help rebuild a city, rebuild a community, and rebuild a team. You can't make a better "decision" than that.
Sam: More transformative than Optimus Prime
The effect of LeBron's return to his homeland should indeed prove transformative not just for the Cav's but for the entire league as well. The Cavaliers + LeBron James are now the oddsmaker's clear choice for a title in 2015, and that's before the possibility of adding K-Love to the team as well. Meanwhile, Bron's departed team will revert essentially to its status to July 7, 2010 - the day before The Decision - with two All-Stars surrounded by a team of veterans. While they won't be as good without Bron, ironically, they may be closer to attaining the team-driven style of ball they wanted to play (but didn't have the depth to play) that was so well executed by the Spurs; but all of that is to be seen. When you look at all of the other moves that are taking place throughout the league, now that Bron's decision has been made, Adam Silver must be positively giddy at the state of the NBA. So many cities, including small markets like OKC, Cle, Phoenix and even Milwaukee are in great shape, and so many of the league's teams can feel as if they've made positive, difference-making moves thus far. The story lines have piled up (and will continue to do so), which makes it even better to be an NBA fan than it was last week.
Benny: The end of the "Small Market Myth"
Every time an NBA star becomes a free agent the media starts pestering them that they can expand their brand and make so much more money off-the-court by going to a major market. You know, New York, LA, Chicago and/or maybeeee Miami. This might have been true during the 80's and 90's. Back then, there wasn't the NBA League Pass, there weren't 3 national channels covering the NBA every night, and most importantly, there wasn't youtube to host hours and hours of highlight reel content from the night before. The fact is, however, that in today's modern NBA (and pro-sports world in general), stars are national no matter where they play. LeBron's free agency decision to return to Cleveland is living proof of that. LeBron isn't going to miss out on a dollar (real or opportunity) by going back to Cleveland. Much like KD in OKC, LeBron is a star no matter where he plays, and his endorsement deals have reflected that since the day he was drafted into the league. Playing in a big market can definitely help create opportunities for fringe level players (see Jeremy Lin), and can definitely help the owners make more money (local TV deals are what allow James Dolan to afford his own idiocy), but it really doesn't do anything for players that are already stars. We aren't a local world anymore, waiting for the morning newspaper to catch the box score. If Anthony Davis throws down a ridiculous dunk over Roy Hibbert, twitter will explode in that instant and Nike will be looking for ways to share the photos throughout their social channels in the next instant. That's just how it is. The only three things that matter are talent, marketability and winning. It is for this reason that I absolutely do not see Kevin Durant leaving OKC or LeMarcus Aldridge leaving Portland. These guys can stay on the teams they've helped build, continue to win at a very high level, live in an extremely affordable area, and not miss out on a single dollar of endorsement revenue. Trust me, Nike and Gatorade aren't losing track of either of them. However, it was LeBron's decision to return home that made that absolutely clear. LeBron James will more than likely be the first athlete to become a billionaire before he's retired, a goal he's stated multiple times, and it will be while playing and living in the small, blue collar, midwestern city of Cleveland. A city where everything is earned... not given.