Part 1: Lebron James
The 2003 NBA draft class is a class that will forever go down in history as one of the most talented groups of players in the history of basketball. Leading the way was Lebron James, the hometown hero of Akron, Ohio, who got to play for his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stories like this are often scripted because it seems so unreal. A five-star basketball talent gets to not only go straight from high school to the pros, but he gets selected first, and it's by the team that represents his home state. The Cleveland Cavaliers were at the time a team that had barely any history. Starting from expansion in 1970, the Cavs had zero championships (and still don't), zero NBA finals appearances, and only thirteen playoff appearnaces. The biggest Cavs legends (the players with retired numbers) were Larry Nance, Mark Price, Nate Thurmond, Bingo Smith, Austin Carr, and Brad Daugherty. Nate Thurmond is the only one of those guys who is currently in the hall of fame, and he was only a Cav from 1975 to 1977. Lebron was supposed to be the man to change everything, and he was on the right track. It only took him seven years to leave the greatest mark in Cavaliers history. It only took seven years for Cavs fans, and many other NBA fans, to completely turn against him. It only took him seven years to change the NBA as we know it, and completely alter what his legacy could've and should've been. All the sudden the Cavs were getting much more than they had ever gotten. Their games were starting to get nationally televised regularly, just so the nation could tune in to watch what was supposed to be the second coming of Michael Jordon. He even chose the number 23. Now he's decided nobody should be allowed to wear that because of MJ, but I guess he decided that because he finally realized he can never match MJ's success, so if he can't do it, nobody should get the chance to wear #23. Also, the Cavs were selling out games. Those who had just started attending games were reeled in by the appeal and marketability of their new king. This new king of theirs was not only a great scorer, but he also came out with great passing skills and solid rebounding. This guy could play point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. He was a little bit of Michael Jordon, and he was a little bit of Magic Johnson. These fans had never witnessed anyone like him that they could call their own. This season also just so happened to be the first full season that I watched basketball, and Lebron was one of my favorite players right from the start. I thought he was different from the typical NBA stars of this era. I viewed him as less egotistical and less selfish than guys like Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Latrell Sprewell, and Kobe Bryant (at the time). These are just a few players to name that I disliked at the time. When I looked at Lebron James, I saw a man who was truly committed and truly dedicated not only to basketball, but to his home. I believed he would be one of those rare players who stayed in one city his whole career and would eventually lead the Cavliers to a dynasty of greatness. When I grew up I was gonna tell younger generations about how much of a thrill it was to watch him do everything great players do. I was gonna brag that I was a witness of one of the best to ever play the game (I missed out on MJ). Instead I will tell younger generations about how he was the biggest disappointment of my generation in all sports. Yes, I'm saying all sports. Children could look up to Lebron James as an example to follow. He appeared to not let fame get the best of him. All he wanted to do was win, and if it came with an image boost, so be it. At the same time, he was teaching kids to never give up. Every season he came up short of winning the title, but he returned to Cleveland with the same goal every year: bring the Cavs an NBA championship. He never complained or asked to be traded like many great players have done before. Like the true greats, he was playing his hardest to win with the team that gave him his first minutes in the pros. He was LOYAL. Loyalty is rare in this day and age of professional sports. When the going gets rough, demand a trade. When the team can't afford the maximum salary desired, sign with someone else. When a championship looks miles away, go to a team that looks inches away. How can that be as satisfying as overcoming adversity? How can that championship mean nearly as much as winning it all for the team that drafted you? If he wins it all in Miami, that's not overcoming adversity or achieving greatness. That's just stacking a roster and doing what many people expect to happen. That's simply admitting you're not fit to be the leader, the hero, the man, the king. It's taking the easy way out. These are choices kids should not look up to. This is a player that should no longer be idolized. This is a player who does not deserve to be a champion. This is a player who gave up on a team that gave everything they had to make him happy. A team that wins 66 games in a regular season of 82 games is always good enough to win it all. If they don't win it all, the team has nobody to blame except themselves. The 2010 Cavs fell short of their expectations, so Lebron simply gave up on that team. If he had chosen to come back, I bet the Cavs could've finished with the best record again. He could've learned from failures of the past and he could've given Cleveland their first sports championship since 1964. Of course the Lakers would've given Lebron a huge challenge, but no championship player should go unchallenged. Now Lebron has decided the grass is greener in South Beach. He is now a member of Wade's team. He has dethroned himself as king of Cleveland only to be part of a tandem that appears super human on paper. Joining forces with Wade and Bosh, he is now on what shall be the NBA's most hated team. He will only be a hero in Miami. The rest of the league shall view him as the NBA's ultimate villain. By giving up on the Cavs, he is setting a bad example to young athletes everywhere. I know the NBA is a business, but it should only be treated as a business to those involved in management. For those who play, it should be treated simply as a love of the game. His actions tell young athletes to make decisions solely based on the best odds of winning. It's telling these athletes that when they make the pros, they should make all their choices based on winning. The greatest players can take a team from the bottom and bring them all the way to the top. The greatest players don't bail out on their teams because they're afraid they'll be "31 and without a ring." The true greats stare down that fear, look it in the eye and say, "I will prove my doubters wrong. I will give my all to my situation and rise above all of those who are against me." If he truly feels bad about leaving Cleveland, then he shouldn't have even considered leaving. He made his decision only based on winning. That means that if he never wins a ring in Miami, he will look back at "The Decision" as not only "The Decision," but also the worst decision of his career. Championship or respect? If he stayed in Cleveland, he would've been guaranteed respect, at least. He could've also gone into every season with a legit chance to win it all. He could've had both. Now he has nothing, and no matter what he does in Miami, he can only have one of the two, and that's not respect. Sure he'll get respect for his skills and respect from the Heat fans, but he'll never get the same respect and appreciation he had in Cleveland. People will only respect him for the player he is, but the ego is too large to respect him as a person. In seven years, he has gone from one of the best people in sports to the most self-absorbed, egotistical person in sports.