“I am taking my talents to south beach”, those were the words that came out of Lebron James during the now infamous ‘The Decision’ segment on ESPN in the summer of 2010. He was leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and was joining the Miami Heat, alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. It was not the first time that a superstar athlete decided to join forces with other superstars on a different team, but the way it was done, certainly was different. It opened the door for more ‘decisions’ in the future.
Many sports journalist, fans and players have gone back to this particular moment in time and agree that there is a before and after in the NBA. Today, superstar players are hoping to play with other star players in the league, and some are unwilling to take on the challenge of becoming the ‘savior’ of a particular franchise and build a contender team from scratch.
The creation of super teams was definitely not Lebron’s idea, but on July 8th, 2010, building a team organically, through the draft by the GM and the coach was severely disrupted. All NBA players past, present and future were watching Lebron’s move, including a young Anthony Davis.
After the Lebron move to the Heat in 2010, we saw many more NBA players leaving and joining other super stars around the league. Chris Paul pushed a trade to leave the Hornets and later joined Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan with the Clippers, Kevin Durant left OKC to play alongside Klay and Steph in Golden State, Steve Nash joined Kobe and Dwight Howard in L.A to challenge Lebron’s Heat, and Carmelo Anthony joined Russell Westbrook and Paul George in OKC among several other moves.
As we were all watching those actions taking place in real time, everything was becoming normal. Kevin Durant left OKC to win a championship in Golden State. In some of those finals he faced Lebron James. Although, some people in the media also criticized KD, he was not demonized for wanting to leave OKC.
For once, it signaled a great time to be an NBA player. It meant that players had more freedom to choose where they wanted to play, and at the same time for them, less individual pressure to deliver wins and a championship for a franchise.
In Cleveland, the pressure was all on Lebron James, as their star player, the media marveled at his play, but also blame him for the losses. In contrast, in Miami the media was on Lebron, but they also were on the rest of team.
The pressure to win a championship was on everyone, including the coach. If they lost, it was because ‘there is only one ball or the three stars’, or ‘ Spoelstra doesn’t know how play three stars’ as many journalist were writing at the time. When teams have multiple stars , the blame is usually on everyone.
The best part about it, was that superstar players would still be making the same money or even better money in their contracts. Playing in the team that you want along superstars players while making a fortune, what is wrong with that?
Fans will always remember that Lebron James took the shortcut. He was unable to deliver a championship on his own in Cleveland. He needed help, not just the help from the GM or owner of the team, but help from other superstar players. People were scratching their heads wondering why such a gifted player like Lebron would want to leave and joined someone else’s team, in that case it was Wade’s Miami Heat. We know what eventually happened, he won a few rings in Miami and went back to Cleveland to finally deliver a ring there.
According to LBJ, beating the Celtics in a Heat uniform was like beating the Pistons for Michael. He is obviously referring to him beating the Celtics, not the Cavaliers, and that is a big difference. At his return to Ohio, It is important to remind you that he won that ring in Cleveland by recruiting star players like Kevin Love and J.R Smith, and playing alongside Kyrie Irving did not hurt either. He seemed to do a Miami in Cleveland all over again.
Lebron James is the best all around player I have ever seen. He is arguably the most gifted player in the history of the game. He is strong, he is fast and he is big. He has also won 4 NBA Championships and appeared in 10 NBA finals, those are tremendous accomplishments. But he is not the GOAT, not even close, and that is not even coming from me. After winning the NBA championship with the Lakers most journalist, fans and even players rank him in the top five.
The debate is whether he is 3 or 4 or 5, or at best 2. Ironically, many people place players like Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson, in the mount Rushmore of the NBA. All of them winning multiple championships with one franchise.
The days of the Jordan’s, Duncan’s or Nowitzki’s may be long gone. Although, very few, players like Damian Lillard, Giannis and Bradley Beal have decided to stay in hopes of delivering a championship to their respective teams and their city, most players are looking to join other star players.
Anthony Davis could have stayed in New Orleans were he was drafted. He could have delivered a championship and become the savior of that franchise ala Michael Jordan in Chicago or Tim Duncan in San Antonio. He decided not to. There were rumors that he was considering signing with the Chicago Bulls, that would have been a legacy move. But, winning a championship in his hometown of Chicago was definitely going to be a lot of pressure.
We know that AD desperately wanted the ‘shield’ Lebron had in Miami. He wanted to play with other superstars. It is true that playing in Los Angeles with Lebron has given him a championship. However, he, like Lebron, and Kevin Durant took the shortcut. It is not his fault though, he is the product of the Lebron James era.