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Hubpagian Justice -- LEBRON JAMES
This week on Hubpagian Justice, we follow the story of a man who never actually committed a crime, but did something heinous regardless. For the year 2010 was the year it all came to a head for LeBron James. Relive the cause and effects of the "Decision", and his first game back in Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat. Hubpagian Justice acknowledges that if a legacy is a living body...a murder-suicide has taken place. For LeBron James's legacy...is officially dead.
LeBron James was introduced to the world throughout the 2002-03 high school season. Every single game of his senior year was broad-cast on ESPN. He would get 90 million dollars from Nike before playing a single game. This Ohio native would be picked #1 overall in the NBA draft by the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. He would go out on the court feeling not a glint of pressure and become even more then anyone ever believed. It was clear to NBA fans that they were looking at a guy whose very presence shifted the entire paradigm of the contest. Unlike Michael Jordan who never actually had an effect on the win or loss column by himself ever, LeBron's presence alone meant the difference between a last place team and a solid contender. In the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron's Cavaliers were tied at 2 games a piece with the Detroit Pistons. They went to Detroit for Game 5 and LeBron had 49 points as part of a triple double to put the Cavs up 3-2. In Cleveland, before a delirious crowd, the Cavs won their first Conference title...propelling them to their first ever NBA Finals.
The one-man Cavs would lose to the boring San Antonio Spurs in a non-climactic sweep.
The Cavs organization, led by a man who went blind when he was 32 years old due to retinis pigmentosa, never ever ever ever stopped trying to help LeBron out and give him what he wanted. Imagine an owner that almost built a team around you consisting of Shaquille O'Neal, Tony Battie, Carlos Boozer, Antwaan Jamison, and Michael Finley. I mean Michael Jordan gave Chicagoans everything every single night. And how was he repaid? With Dave Corzine, Brad Sellers, Dragan Tarlac, Dickey Simpkins, Will Perdue, Stacey King, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington.
The city of Cleveland has not had a world championship since 1964 when the Browns won in football. Since then they've had titles stolen by John Elway, Michael Jordan, and Edgar Renteria. They have a long line of former sports greats who met their worst days in Cleveland -- such as Marty Schottenheimer, Bernie Kosar, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Mark Price, Hot Rod Williams, Ernest Byner and Craig Ehlo. Yet Cleveland doesn't hate nor blame any of these men. Philadelphia and Boston and New York might, but not Cleveland. And this will illustrate why what LeBron James did was particularly damaging to himself. Because Cleveland is concerned with something much more precious -- the fact that neither Ehlo, nor Byner nor Schottenheimer, Belle, Price Williams, any of these guys...proved un-loyal.
Up until the Decision in June of 2010, Cleveland's most hated athlete had been power forward Carlos Boozer. In 2004, the Duke product they drafted had become an all-star with Cleveland. He then left to go to Utah for 60 million dollars and played a big role in Deron Williams' current status as a world-beater. He does for Williams what Mark Chmura did for the young up-and-coming Brett Favre. The Cavaliers fans in Cleveland now hated Boozer, as they were now left with failure after failure when it came to roster implantation. It proved to be almost impossible to build a team around LeBron James because he completely overshadowed the backcourt...and the only competent front court player in the entire NBA throughout this new decade of skinny, malnourished, extremely hungry inner-city high school phenoms...was Boozer!
More on Boozer, for Boozer literally becomes Sheldon's Wil Wheaton after the lunacy that takes place on the night of the Decision.
ESPN had throughout the decade, due to Michael Jordan's retirement, become the new CNN, desperately looking to make what was traditionally minor news and making it major. Lots of free agent superstars have made a decision at a press conference as to where they will be going next season. It's never a worldwide television event. But thanks to there BEING nothing anymore, it is. Yet here came one of these traditionally minor news events that -- in a waterdown sports league like the 21st century NBA...which also happens to be rigged in favor of which team has the stars that draw the biggest viewing markets...the decision as to where this genetic and historic anomoly of an athlete was going, who was as strong and tall as he was fat and smooth...this WAS BIG BIG BIG BIG NEWS.
As far as we were all concerned, whoever takes LeBron James will make it to the 7th game of the NBA Finals against the Lakers. That's what the tagline was when it came to this marquee television event on ESPN at 7 P.M. that Tuesday night in June...
The Miami Heat with Dwayne Wade? The Golden State Warriors with Jason Richardson? The Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose? The New York Knicks? Each of these teams had made a bid for LeBron James, each of these teams thought they had an equal chance at getting him.
The city of Cleveland would go into this night fully confident that LeBron was going nowhere.
Originally they had assumed that he was going to leave. The New York rumors had been abound ever since 2007 when it was clear that the Knicks would have cap room in 2010. The media here in the Land had a way of making it seem like it was done deal for going on three years...but the Cleveland owner kept giving LeBron what we wanted...assembling that Cleveland team around him any way he wanted, to the point where from 2007 on they were a shoe-in for at least the Conference Finals every single year. And any doubts as to LeBron's happiness in Cleveland would be laid to rest upon the announcement that he would be making his decision for 2010 and beyond on ESPN, on this interesting special known as "The Decision".
What kind of human being, market, company, business, anything...would...in front of legions of adoring children...Cleveland rationed...would LeBron James, the hometown hero of this family friendly enterprise where he had been given everything possible for a fan to give...be part of a TV special like this and NOT declare interest in staying put in Cleveland? And so just the mere announcement of this announcement being televised nationally on ESPN...made Cleveland excited.
They went into the night of the Decision on the same kinds of pins and needles that you're on when you see an action movie. You know the good guy's going to win regardless of the tension you're watching.
For the first fifteen minutes of the program, LeBron James answers the following question --
1) what do you like best about Cleveland?
2) were you nervous about coming on tonight to make your decision?
3) how did you come up with the decision?
4) Was breakfast harder to eat this morning then most breakfasts on other days?
5) What is it about LeBron James that makes him such a potent decision maker?
6) Did you watch the Butler Bulldogs almost beat Duke on that fucking forty foot shot?
7) Wasn't that god damn insane, LeBron? Wow.
8) How would you rank Butler's season compared to other seasons in Butler athletics?
9) Do you own a dog?
You know, so Cleveland is watching this, and just thrilled...see? There's no way he's leaving. There's no way that this much suspense would be built up so playfully like this if he was just gonna leave us.
And you know what finally happens? Forty minutes in?
LeBron James declares...he's going to the Miami Heat.
He's going to "take his talents to South Beach".
It gets worse.
One of the teams that LeBron is saying no to as well is the Chicago Bulls, who didn't have hardly the money LeBron was looking for. They had 50 million dollars to offer one of the remaining free agents. And who did they acquire...for a team that, with him, now has a 17-8 record for the first time since Jordan's 1998 departure?
Days following "The Decision", LeBron's critics began vowing to disregard anything he does in Miami. This player, LeBron James, was in the same position Kobe Bryant was -- being followed by the eyes of 30 year olds who were gauging him the way they did Jordan, Bird, Isiah and Magic. Since LeBron got to live out our dreams from a very young age, he was focused more on the statistics and the game plans and the moves of NBA history -- not the behind-the-scenes politics that his historians will focus on. And when they do, it will be the same thing as the others -- in a situation when Jordan, Bird, Isiah and Magic were losing on their roads to championships, did any of them for one second so much as contemplate becoming a sidekick on the team that was beating them?
David Justice? Your thoughts? Hmmmmm?
It's been well established, since 2006 and even before, that the leader of the 2006 world champion Miami Heat was Dwayne Wade. Now LeBron was there as well. Even should LeBron eclipse Wade in noterity, nobody planned to ever forget that this was all Wade's stuff he was winning with. His team, his city, his teammates. Wade's.
Add to that is the tragic shift in marketing strategy that has taken place in the NBA since Jordan left. As early as 1993, when Jordan left the first time, David Stern and the NBA front office panicked like nothing you've ever seen. It would eventually lead to paranoia in other sports by the other owners, leading to the baseball strike in 1994.
Baseball watched in October, 1993 as David's Stern now Jordanless basketball league featured Jordan's jilted rivals going to Chicago for their games against the Jordanless Bulls and trying to beat the shit out of them for stuff they got away with doing to them for years. All throughout the 93-94 season, it appeared to the casual fan like the NBA had become a form of fruity kickboxing and even the ones who had fallen in love with the rest of the NBA due to originally watching for Jordan were finally turning onto other things. And so David Stern would have to resort to something he didn't like to do -- he had his officials assure him that the New York Knicks would make it to the NBA Finals in an attempt to recoup a fraction of the viewership for the showcase event. This act shook the baseball owners to their knees. For baseball could not do such a thing -- everything about them since the 1919 White Sox were caught trying to throw the World Series had been geared towards keeping the game scandal free. And so they went on strike.
One of the ways that baseball had attempted to keep itself scandal-free, in using the 1919 Black Sox and how they'd handle that incident as a template, was to keep players from having any power beyond a measly players' union when it came to who was the commissioner of the league. That honor would be kept in the hands of the ones setting all these rules -- the owners. The owners picked the commissioner of baseball. And in 1994, it was an owner. When it came down to the issues of arbitration and salary caps, the man in charge of the sanctity and welfare of all parties of Major League Baseball...was a concerned party.
Baseball would use New York's fan base to cash in on the new divisional playoffs and incumbent four-team post-season.
Then they would use steroids to bring everyone who hated the Yankees back into the mix.
Well the NBA, which LeBron James is an employee of, would not have this luxury anymore to manipulate proceedings to accommodate bigger markets once their referee scam was finally finally revealed in 2007. Tim Donaghey was busted on an unrelated gambling charge, and supplied prosecutors with tons of information on David Stern and Bob Delaney an official in exchange for leniency. Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals were among dozens of games rigged in favor of teams that the officials had bet on. Possibly these degenerate gamblers had been caught for all this a long time ago by David Stern's board members, and to rig these three particularly big games to grab Los Angeles and Dwayne Wade dollars was the condition of their freedom.
And so from 2007 on, as allegations swirled so hard in the sports world that almost 70 percent of modern NBA fans now know the game used to be rigged and may still be...David Stern would have to recoup his investment by appeasing the only fans remaining who will actually spend money -- high school kids. And the only way to win over high school kids was to sell this game like it was the video game NBA Jam -- superstars, dunkers, star individuals.
Of which the NBA in 2007, as LeBron entered his third and fourth seasons, was definitely one of them. As well as Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Jason Richardson, Richard Hamilton, etc.
It seemed like everything would be great.
LeBron had officially everything.
Already the one man among this group above to day-and-night be given anything he needed to compete for a championship, Lebron James was a premier star in the game.
Yet...that shift in marketing had, by 2008, started to intervene...
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, these heroes of high school kids, were viewed by the 30 and 40 year old fans to be trying to copy Michael Jordan. That was it and that was all.
And when the COMMERCIALS started copying Michael Jordan's, that was it.
LeBron James, like Kobe Bryant, was officially a big time star who everyone in the world was waiting to tear down.
All setting the stage for LeBron's first trip with Miami Heat back to Cleveland...
LEBRON'S FIRST GAME BACK IN CLEVELAND
The fans made lots of cute signs, painted their bodies, booed and yelled stuff at James as he came out of the tunnel.
James goes to mid-court and throws the chalk in their faces. The booes are now off the charts that measure sound.
James and the Heat are up by 27 points late in the 3rd quarter and up by 40 with 8 minutes to go in the contest. During the whole time, James is hitting a shot...and laughing it up with his former Cavalier teammates on the bench.
The booes can now be heard on planet Melmac.
So let's review how much fun Cleveland had:
1) The Miami Heat win big.
2) LeBron James has almost a career night from the field.
3) Their own players have no problem making it seem like it's all fun and games while they're clearly furious and had showed up expecting the Cavs to either try...or get pissed if the guys on the court didn't try.
So LeBron seems to be coasting.
The Chicago Bulls at the time had a better winning percentage then the Miami Heat, with Boozer back off an injury and co-leading them brilliantly.
From all of us at Hubpagian Justice, thank you for reading.