By Scott Tibbs, July 12, 2010
LeBron James announced his decision to take less money for a chance to win an NBA championship in Miami in an hour-long TV special that put the exclamation point on egomania. James is getting plenty of heat for making his decision (no pun intended) but this business of "loyalty" is silly. (See pathetic hypocritical whining here.)
Perhaps one could make the case that there was a time where loyalty existed in professional basketball. That has not been the case for many years. Does anyone think that the Cleveland Cavaliers would not trade James in a heartbeat if they thought it would benefit them? It would certainly not be an unprecedented move.
As the Atlanta Hawks were making a run for the NBA championship in 1994, they exiled star forward Dominique Wilkins to the L.A. Clippers because they thought they had a better chance to win with Danny Manning - a decision that infuriated Atlanta fans. The New York Knicks sent Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing to Seattle a decade ago, a decision that shocked Knicks fans. There are many other examples.
Michael Rosenberg compares James leaving Cleveland to Michael Jordan leaving Chicago for Detroit in 1990. What exactly did Jordan get in return for turning Chicago from an embarrassing lottery team to a team that won 6 championships in 8 years? An egomaniac general manager breaking up a team that could have easily continued that run so that he could prove he could build a winner without Jordan and Scottie Pippin.
This is a business. NBA teams have no loyalty to their players and should expect no loyalty in return. James made the decision that he thought would be best for his career. While the hour-long special on ESPN was a sleazy way to inflate his ego and draw even more attention to himself, I see nothing wrong with James going to Miami.
From a basketball standpoint, it will be interesting to see how James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade coexist in Miami. The three of them are intimidating on paper, but when the season starts and they have to play together, will three players who are used to being the #1 option be able to adjust to a reduced role and still be effective?
The 1999 Houston Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Houston was expected to go deep into the playoffs if not win the championship, but they fizzled in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics had three stars who were used to being the first option, but they meshed well and won a championship.
While the desire to win was the biggest motivator for James, We should not discount the role of taxes in his decision. After all, Florida has no state income tax. This is one of the big reasons Rush Limbaugh relocated there in 1997. Wade, Bosh and James were all free agents and could have theoretically signed with any team in the league, but they chose Miami. James could have joined Amare Stoudemire in New York, but he would have paid much more in taxes.
With all of this said, I would be remiss if I did not point out the completely idolatrous nature of this obsession with where James would play next season. I admit I am a casual basketball fan, though I do not follow the NBA nearly as closely as I did in the 1990's. But there is a line where being a sports fan crosses over into worship. We live in a culture that is completely saturated with idolatry and most Christians (to say nothing of pagans) have no idea of the dangers we face daily. Pro sports has a place, but that place must never be ahead of God.