Friday, July 9, 2010
LeBron James Is an Idiot: The Top 10 Reasons
The Yankees have now won 6 straight. They followed a 3-game sweep in Oakland -- 3-1, 6-1 and 6-2 -- with a 3-1 win in Seattle last night. Andy Pettitte pitched 8 strong against the Mariners, and Alex Rodriguez's 9th-inning single won it. Not a homer, but at this point I think it's safe to say he understands that you don't have to hit the ball a country mile to help your team win.
A-Rod has 597 homers now, and 21 grand slams. He's 3 homers away from 600, and 2 slams away from Lou Gehrig's career record of 23 -- another record I thought would never be broken. Of course, both of those stats have steroif asterisks on them.
But this post is about the biggest idiot in sports, LeBron James.
"Wait, Mike," I can hear you saying, "Look what he's done: He's made all that money, and found a way to get the whole world to pay attention to his every move, his every word, his every thought! How can he be an idiot?"
Last night, after the announcement, WFAN's Steve Somers repeatedly said that LeBron was an idiot. (Even though I'm a Yankee Fan, I gotta love the Schmoozer.) And Somers' next caller went further, using that great N'Yawk insult: "He's a bum." They were both right.
Why is LeBron an idiot? Because he left the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the Miami Heat.
"Wait, Mike," I can hear you saying, "since when do you care about the Cavs? And what's wrong with the Heat?"
Two fair questions. I can best answer them by going back to the first question: "How can he be an idiot?"
The Top 10 Reasons LeBron James Is an Idiot
10. LBJ. I get it, it stands for "LeBron James." Well, there's a reason LaDanian Tomlinson's nickname "LT" didn't really catch on: Lawrence Taylor already has it. To millions, "LBJ" still stands for Lyndon Baines Johnson, a President a lot of people still haven't forgiven for Vietnam. But he passed civil rights, education and job-creation legislation that helped millions.
Because LeBron grew up in the Clinton Years is no excuse. He might as well have called himself "Tricky Dick." Or "Dubya."
9. The Uniform Number. By wearing Number 23 until this past season, LeBron wanted to build a connection with Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. Well, as a forward, not a guard, he isn't the same kind of player at all, and he's never going to be held in the same esteem.
Now, before announcing where he was going, he'd already announced that he was switching his number to 6, to match Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics from 1957 to 1969. Except that Russell had already won 2 titles by the time he was 25, LeBron's current age.
8. Why Not the Bulls? Face it, if you're going to leave Cleveland, it made more sense to go to Chicago than to anywhere else. The Bulls have a pretty good structure in place. True, the shadow of Jordan and those 6 banners would always be over LeBron until he won 1 of his own, but despite having 5 teams in town, all but the Bulls being very old franchises, Chicago hasn't won a lot.
The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 or a Pennant since 1945, yet their fans stand by them no matter what. The White Sox didn't win a World Series from 1917 to 2005, only 2 Pennants in that 88-year stretch, but when they won it was an incredibly cathartic event. The Bears haven't won an NFL Championship in 24 years, only 1 in 47 and 2 in 64, but when they're good, the city is behind them like few cities are behind any team. And the Blackhawks just won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years -- still only 1 in the last 72 -- and a great sports tradition was reborn.
LeBron in Chicago? There would be 22,000 a night at the United Center, many of whom can't remember Michael Jordan as their team's superstar, and many of those who do are upset that he moved on, first to Washington and now to Charlotte. For them, LeBron could have been The Man. The fans, egged on by the 3rd-biggest media market in the country, would have worshipped him. If he had to leave Cleveland, Chicago would have been a great place for it. But he didn't go there.
7. Why Not the Nets? New owner Mikhail Prokhorov has practically declared war on the Knicks by putting up that billboard with himself (not yet easily recognizable) and minority owner Jay-Z (very easily recognizable) on a building facing the front entrance of Pennsylvania Plaza, where it can be very easily seen by commuters going into and out of Penn Station and fans going into and out of Madison Square Garden.
Whatever else they have done, Mik-Prok and Jay-Z have made people already place the Nets' hideous 2009-10 season of 12-70 in the past. With the move out of the Meadowlands, into the Prudential Center (a 15-minute New Jersey Transit ride from New York's Penn Station to Newark's and then a 5-minute walk), and in 2 years (so they say) to the new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn (further by Subway from Penn Station than the Prudential is by NJT), the Nets are showing they are a team building for a glorious future.
And with Juilius Erving last having played for the franchise in 1976 and Jason Kidd now playing out the string elsewhere, LeBron could have been something neither Doctor J nor J-Kidd will ever be again: The longtime face of a franchise. And they could have beaten the Knicks at their own game: Hype. But LeBron didn't go this route, either.
6. Why Not the Knicks? No city is more identified with basketball than New York. I honestly believe that, if all 9 New York Tri-State Area sports teams were equally capable of challenging for their sport's championship, a Knicks title would be more welcome than a Yankee or Met World Series, a Giant or Jet Super Bowl, or a Ranger Stanley Cup. (We've already seen that the Islanders and Devils didn't generate the same kind of interest, and that, for the moment, not enough people care about the Nets.)
Because the Nets have always been seen as a suburban team (and will be, even in Newark, at least until they move to Brooklyn -- assuming they do), there's no division at The Garden. Yankee Fans and Met fans, Giant fans and Jet fans, capable of sitting side-by-side to cheer on the Knicks. The Knicks, more than any team in any sport, are the New York City team.
And we've seen what New York does to its sports heroes. Babe. Lou. Joe D. Mickey. Thurman. Reggie. Donnie Baseball. Derek. A-Rod. And that's just the Yankees. Tom Terrific. Darryl. Doc. Frank Gifford is still beloved after half a century. Sam Huff. Broadway Joe. LT, not that he deserves it. Messier.
And the Knicks' title heroes of 1970 and '73: Willis Reed, Walt (Clyde) Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Earl (the Pearl) Monroe. And, though he never won a title, Patrick Ewing. LeBron could have been one of those.
And if he cares about "The Brand" so much, despite the media machines of Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, where better to market it than New York? There's a reason the American advertising industry is called "Madison Avenue": Because that street, the Midtown Manhattan part of it, anyway, is the capital of the industry. Hence the title of the TV show Mad Men: In this case, "Mad" doesn't mean "insane" -- at least, not necessarily -- it's short for "Madison Avenue." LeBron could have been tailor-made for the Mad Men ad men.
LeBron could have owned this town the way Mickey, Broadway Joe, Clyde and Reggie owned it, the way Derek owns it now. He turned that down. Still think he's not an idiot?
Which leads directly to the next season he's an idiot:
5. The Brand. It's all about LeBrand. He wants to be the 1st billionaire athlete. I guess he hasn't heard that Magic Johnson beat him to it. Jordan may also have done so. But who gives a shit about endorsements?
Face it, when you think about Bill Russell, you think about 11 titles/rings/banners. You don't think about his TV commercials or billboards. In fact, I can't think of a single commercial he ever did.
When you think about Wilt Chamberlain, you might think of 100 points in a game, or 50 points as a seasonal per-game average, or the record-breaking '67 76ers and '72 Lakers he led to titles. Or the 20,000 women he alleged to have bedded. His Volkswagen Rabbit commercial? I gotta admit, that was a good ad, and it was the first time I saw him (I was 3 when Wilt played his last game), but it's not the first thing I think about now.
Jordan is the obvious example for LeBron. But until the Bulls won that 1991 title, Jordan was a joke. Sure, he could dunk, and he made good commercials for Nike, and Gatorade, and McDonald's, and Hanes underwear. But what did it matter? He was a loser. Until he became a winner, on the scale of Magic and almost on the scale of Russell.
And why do you suppose Jeter's commercials for Nike and Gatorade get remembered, and Mike Piazza's commercials for Claritin aren't as easily remembered? Well, let's face it, who wants to be remembered for struggling to avoid allergies? But, also, Piazza never won a World Series. Jeter won his 1st at age 22, and at 36 he now has 5. Would he still be an ad magnet if he hadn't won any? If 3 years in Miami go by, and LeBron still hasn't won a title, how dopey are any commercials he makes in that time going to look?
4. Pat Riley. Talk about a preening primadonna, Riley makes LeBron look as modest as Walter Payton. Riles is going to take charge again in Miami, and no one, especially he, can deny it. He'll act as though it's all about him.
3. Dwayne Wade. He's already led the Heat to an NBA Championship, in 2006. He's already The Man in Miami. LeBron didn't even think about this: He wants to be The Man for the entire NBA, maybe The Man for all of North American sports, idolized on a level with the world's most heralded soccer players like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. But how can you be The Man for the entire league when you're not even The Man on your own team?
2. The Last NBA Superteam. By bringing in both LeBron and Bosh, Dwayne Wade has basically formed a superteam in Miami -- or, as they used to say in rock and roll, a "supergroup." Essentially, though, Bosh is an afterthought. It's going to be all about LeWade.
That's right, "LeWade." We might as well give them one of those dopey "supercouple" tags, like Bennifer and Brangelina and TomKat.
Did LeWade, together or separately, learn nothing from the "supergroup" that the Lakers tried to build for the 2003-04 season? The Lakers won the title in 2000, 2001 and 2002, but in 2003 they got beat by the San Antonio Spurs. Desperate to avoid another defeat, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, agreeing on little else, pushed team owner Jerry Buss to beef up the squad. They got Karl Malone, the "Mailman" of the Utah Jazz and one of the best power forwards ever, and Gary Payton, the "Glove" who'd starred with the Seattle SuperSonics.
With such an overload of talent, the Lakers roared through the Playoffs, despite the legal cloud hanging over Kobe's head (which swelled to the point where it was, at least metaphorically, even bigger than Shaq's massive dome), and then got embarrassed in the Finals by the Detroit Pistons. This was a team with not one player who's a sure thing for the Hall of Fame. Maybe Ben Wallace will make it, or Rasheed Wallace, or Chauncey Billups, or Lindsey Hunter. Or maybe none of them. It doesn't matter: The '04 Lakers were a collection of players, while the '04 Pistons were a team.
This isn't a "fantasy league," this is real life. Face it, you could have taken Ringo Starr off the Beatles and replaced him with Keith Moon of The Who, Ginger Baker of Cream, or John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and you would have had a better drummer. But you wouldn't have had a better band. There was something about the way those four guys played together that made them the best band of all time.
This wasn't the first such Laker experiment, either: I mentioned Wilt Chamberlain earlier: The Lakers picked him up for the 1968-69 season, determined to dethrone the Celtics by adding Wilt to Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich. That's 4 Hall-of-Famers. But the Lakers lost Game 7 of the Finals, at home, to the Celtics. Then in 1970, with Russell retired, the Lakers figured their path to glory was clear. But again they lost Game 7 of the Finals, this time to the Knicks. The 1960s Celtics and the early 1970s Knicks were the NBA's standard-setters for team play, and remain so to this day. Finally, early in the 1971-72 season, Baylor retired. In the Lakers' very next game, they began a North American major league sports record 33-game winning streak, set a new league record by winning 69 games (breaking the record of 68 by Wilt's '67 76ers, broken in '96 with 72 by Jordan's Bulls), and won the title by beating the Knicks in 5 games. The Lakers were actually a better team by having subtracted a superstar.
Adding superstars didn't make the Lakers the best team in 2004, and the recriminations were epic. When the dust cleared, Shaq, Malone, Payton and even coach Phil Jackson were all gone, leaving only Kobe, and the team had to be rebuilt. That is has been, and Jackson has returned, and the Lakers have now won the last 2 NBA titles and reached the last 3 Finals, is testament to both Jackson and Kobe's skills. But the "supergroup" philosophy didn't work.
I can see the same thing happening to the LeWade Heat: Maybe, as Cavs owner Gilbert says, the Cavs won't win a title before the Heat win another, but having all that talent is no guarantee that the Heat will win one. Not with the recently retooled front offices in New York (Knicks and Nets), and Boston, and Chicago. And the continued contention in Detroit in a front office led by Joe Dumars. And that's just in the Eastern Conference: Maybe the Heat have the best collection of players in the East, but that doesn't mean they'll ever even win the East with LeWade.
UPDATE: I forgot that the 2003-04 Lakers weren't the most recent "supergroup" team. The 2007-08 Boston Celtics were, with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
And the Number 1 Reason Won LeBron James Is an Idiot:
1. What He Could Have Meant to Cleveland. If LeBron had stayed with the Cavs, he would have been Northern Ohio's biggest sports god. Bigger than Jim Brown, bigger than Bob Feller. Bigger than any Indian, any Brown, and any Ohio State sports legend (even though Columbus is closer to Cincinnati than it is to Cleveland).
And, with Cleveland baseball legends Nap Lajoie and Tris Speaker long dead, and pretty much anybody who remembers them as active players dead or quite elderly, and anybody who ever watched Cy Young almost certainly now dead, LeBron, just 25 and with a good chance to still be alive in 2075 (if he lives to be 90 as Feller has), would have been IT.
Remember the fuss that Cleveland made over Bernie Kosar arranging things so that he could play with the Browns? Remember the fuss that was made after Kosar was forced out by that dumb coach the Browns had? (Yeah, Bill Belichick: He only wins when he's cheating.) And Kosar didn't win a title: 3 trips to the AFC Title Game, all lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Can you imagine how big Kosar would be in Northern Ohio now if he had won just one Super Bowl? In a football city in a football State? He would have been a god.
LeBron James could have been a god. Instead, he chose to do something worthy of the Devil.
Before LeBron arrived, the Cavs were known as the Cavalosers and the Cadavers. They debuted in 1970, made the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 1976, and in the early 1990s looked like they might challenge the Chicago Bulls for Eastern Conference supremacy, before injuries did in their stars. Other than that, they were a joke franchise. Before LeBron arrived in 2003, they were playing before 6,000 fans a night in a 20,000-seat arena.
Here's a link to the open letter that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert -- unknown to a lot of people before last night, but a hero to millions now -- sent to his team's fans, and damn, does this man speak the truth.
He may be talking out of his ass about his team's ability to win an NBA Championship, but I love that he wants to, not just to show up this preening primadonna, but to give a long-suffering fanbase what they deserve.
The Cavs have never won a title, and have made only 1 trip to the Finals. No titles, 1 trip to the Finals in 40 years. The last Cleveland team to go all the way in its sport is the Browns, in 1964. No titles, no trips to the Super Bowl, 0-for-6 in trips to the "final four" game under whatever name, in 46 years. The Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948, are just 0-for-3 in World Series since then including a 41-year drought, and have made 8 postseason appearances in 62 years. And except for an awful 2-year stretch with the Barons, 1976-78, Cleveland has never had an NHL team.
And there have been so many, "Noooooooo... " moments. The Catch in 1954. Losing an NFL East playoff in 1958. Red Right 88 in 1980. The Drive in 1987. The Fumble in 1988. The Shot in 1989. Losing the Browns temporarily in 1995. Jose Mesa in 1997. Blowing 3 straight in 2007.
If he had led the Cavaliers to just 1 title, LeBron James could have been The Man in Cleveland for eternity. More than Bob Feller, the best pitcher of his generation. More than Jim Brown, still considered by many to be the greatest football player ever.
Instead, he goes to Miami, a city so screwed up that it considers its greatest sports hero not to be Bob Griese, who quarterbacked the Dolphins to back-to-back Super Bowls; not Gary Sheffield or Ivan Rodriguez, the slugging emotional leaders of the Marlins' 1997 and 2003 World Series wins, respectively; and not Dwayne Wade, leader of the Heat's 2006 NBA title. No, Miami's greatest sports hero is Dan Marino. A stat machine. And a loser. 17 seasons, no Super Bowl wins, just 1 visit and he got humiliated by both the 49ers' defense and Joe Montana, who showed the world the difference between a passer (Marino) and a quarterback (Montana).
And, as I said earlier, Wade is already currently The Man in Miami. Another Heat title will give LeBron lots of money, maybe some recognition, but not the credit. And doesn't that mean something to him?
I guess not. The only thing that means anything to him is LeBrand.
LeBron James is an idiot. No matter what he wins in Miami, he will always be an idiot.
UPDATE: LeBron reached the Finals all 4 years he was in Miami, winning 2 of them. Then he went back to Cleveland, and all was forgiven. He reached the Finals his 1st 2 seasons back, and, in 2016, won Cleveland that elusive title. Now, as far as Ohio is concerned, he was never even in Miami.