I can admit it, along with millions of other fans, I fell victim to the conceived marketing ploy of King James and found myself in front of the TV watching ESPN’s, “The Decision.” Not only that, I found my heart thumping a little bit as they came back from each commercial, wondering if this would be the moment we’d all been waiting for. Moments later my heart sunk as my fears became reality, LeBron James would be taking his talents down to South Beach.
Those words will echo throughout the basketball kingdom for years to come. What surprised me though was the faint groaning coming from the people at the interview. I was a little surprised that there were more people like myself, who did not want to see a, “Super Team” next year go around and trounce the NBA.
In the ensuing days I followed the story a little bit, surprised to see even a few NBA analysts express their disappointment in the recent events. Everyone had their angle on it, some were critical of the way he chose to announce it. Others were disappointed he wouldn’t be in Cleveland. None were more critical than the Cav’s owner Dan Gilbert who spewed from his pen fiery darts at the two- time MVP. I can’t lie, this has been all very entertaining to watch. Grown men making themselves out to be fools because they didn’t get there way, still, my heart reaches out to Cleveland fans. Public humiliation was never part of the deal when they drafted their hometown hero.
So a month later I find myself asking, “What has just happened? Did the NBA really just allow the teams to stack up like that? What about the Atlanta, Denver, and Orlando fans out there who were cheering for their teams to make a run at a championship? Haven’t we paid our dues? Didn’t we live through the hard years so we could see our teams make it to this point? And for what? So that a team of guys who lost their competitive edge can join forces and walk their way to a championship.”
Such is the case when you’re a sports fan. You often get overlooked in the matters. When Carlos Boozer and Amare Stoudemire decided they wanted more money, causing there teams to take on unwise financial loads, did anyone consider the fans who now would have to dig deeper into their wallets to pay the newly raised ticket prices to go to the games? No. They were not mentioned in the discussions with the owner.
Sports fans everywhere have felt the pains of those contracts, but decade after decade we’ve remained loyal to our teams. Night after night we’ve watched those athletes compete and perform at high levels for our entertainment. But what happens when you take away the competition? What happened to watching the best, try to beat the best? Now we’ve entered the era where the best, team up with the best, to take on the rest. (No rhyme was originally intended.)
That competition has slowly been dwindling over the past 15- 20 years, without us knowing it. Since I started watching basketball in the mid 90’s the only teams that have ever won a championship are the Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat, and Detroit Pistons. 6 teams in 15 years, I think that, “The Decision” was a long time coming.
Oddly enough, if you go back to the 80’s you’ll see a lot of those same teams on the list. Maybe those groans came because for the first time in awhile, we were about to see a team emerge from the obscure city of Cleveland come in and take a championship, and that hope was destroyed with the phrase, “I’ll be taking my talents down to South Beach.”
As an NBA fan, I’ve learned you must be optimistic. You must believe it will all work out for the better. In my optimism I’ve given myself a reason to watch the up and coming season of basketball, something I’ve been worried would not happen. It happened at work as my coworkers and myself began discussing the age old argument of who is the best NBA player. We brought it down to the usual suspects of, “His Airness” Michael Jordan. The, “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant, and “King James”.
I see on the horizons, a faint possibility of these discussions coming to an abrupt halt. Imagine with me, the 2012 NBA finals. Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat square off. Finally the world gets to see Kobe Bryant take on LeBron James for seven straight games. My honest prediction is that the Lakers will take the series. Assuming they did, which I think odds do favor them to do so, we can at last crown a king of the NBA.
Charles Barkley recently said you can take LeBron out of this conversation. I would agree with him because you cannot be the best, unless you’ve beaten the best. LeBron has not done that, and won’t do that in the foreseeable future. So we can narrow our suspects down to Kobe and Michael. As much as I have respect for the great, Air Jordan, a finals victory over the stacked Miami Heat, is an accomplishment he never got. While fans may still be able to argue who’s got the better all around game. I see now, and I think he sees it too, that Kobe Bryant has the greatest opportunity to crown himself the True King of the NBA, and wear the victor’s crown with a win over LeBron, Wade and Bosh this upcoming year.
The fate of the NBA however, rests in the hands of greedy owners, and childish athletes. When will they realize that this is more than just a game for the fans? After a tough day at work, we love coming home to the NBA double headers and watching out teams compete. The new question to ask ourselves is, what will happen when you take the competition out of the league? Who will step up? Let’s all hope and pray for a miracle this season.