July 8, 2010

Simmons on LeBron

Reading Bill Simmons, five hours before LeBron announces, with his 23 thoughts on "The Decision". Let's face it. He's the best... Read it all, but here's a large slice of it...

Countdown to the LeBron James decision

19. I always thought the goal was winning rings. That's what Russell, Bird, Magic and Jordan taught us. That's what I grew up believing. But sports are different now. You're a brand as much as an athlete. In the past 72 hours, with the suspense building for his announcement, LeBron created a Twitter account, launched his own website and agreed with ESPN on a one-hour live selection show that, incredibly, was the exact same idea that a Columbus reader named Drew had in my Thanksgiving '09 mailbag … but I thought he was kidding. Now I think he's Nostradamus. Or even Nostradamu-SAS.

Drew from Columbus looked into the future, and here's what he saw: A world in which it was totally conceivable that an NBA superstar would sell an hour-long show in which he picked his next team and tainted his legacy in the process. I played along and pushed a "Bachelor"-type setup ("The LeBrachelor!") in which LeBron whittled 29 teams down to six, then four, then two, then one over the course of six episodes. Hell, have him hand out roses. Why not? It's not like this would actually happen, right?

20. Seven months later, it's happening. I can't wait to watch for the same reasons I couldn't turn away from O.J.'s Bronco chase or the Artest melee: it's Car Wreck Television. If LeBron picks anyone other than the Cavaliers, it will be the cruelest television moment since David Chase ended "The Sopranos" by making everyone think they lost power. Cleveland fans will never forgive LeBron, nor should they. He knows better than anyone what kind of sports anguish they have suffered over the years. Losing LeBron on a contrived one-hour show would be worse than Byner's fumble, Jose Mesa, the Game 5 meltdown against Boston, The Drive, The Shot and everything else. At least those stomach-punch moments weren't preordained, unless you believe God hates Cleveland (entirely possible, by the way). This stomach-punch moment? Calculated. By a local kid they loved, defended and revered.

It would be unforgivable. Repeat: unforgivable. I don't have a dog in this race -- as a Celtics fan, I wanted to see him go anywhere but Chicago -- but LeBron doing this show after what happened in the 2010 playoffs actually turned me against him. No small feat. I was one of his biggest defenders. Not anymore.

And here's where I really worry, because I don't think LeBron James has anyone in his life with enough juice to hurl his or her body in front of the concept of "I'm going to announce during a one-hour live show that I'm playing somewhere other than Cleveland." It's the best and worst thing about him -- he has remained fiercely loyal to his high school friends, but at the same time, he's surrounded by people his own age who don't stand up to him and don't know any better. Picking anyone other than Cleveland on this show would be the meanest thing any athlete has ever done to a city. But he might. Assuming he's not malicious, and that he's just a self-absorbed kid who apparently lost all perspective, that doesn't make him much different than most child stars who became famous before they could legally drink -- or, for that matter, Tiger Woods. That's just the way this stuff works. Too much, too fast, too soon. You don't lose your way all at once; just a little at a time. Then one day you look up and there's a TMZ photo spread with 15 of your mistresses, or you're agreeing to stab an entire city in the heart on a one-hour television show.

Posted by dan at July 8, 2010 3:36 PM