Yesterday, I was online checking out new music and I saw something that caught my attention. Gucci Mane had a new song featuring Talib Kweli. If you know anything about hip-hop, you understand why this is a big deal. Kweli has made a career for himself by being a top-notch lyricist with socially conscious rhymes, while Gucci's rhymes are mostly about jewelry and not much else. As someone who's been following Kweli's career closely, I was truly disappointed. And I wasn't the only one; when he mentioned on Twitter last month that he might do a song with Gucci, a number of his fans got so upset that they unfollowed him. He might think that his fans are being close-minded, but I understand why they were bothered. For someone with Kweli's talent and skill, doing songs with a hack of an artist for the sake of some publicity and a nice paycheck is a slap in the face to the people who have been riding with him since day one. It's a middle finger to the people who know he's better than Gucci, and it almost tells them that he would rather dumb it down with rappers worse than him than display his skills on his own.
I'll give one more (weaker but still slightly appropriate) parallel. In the movie "The Godfather Part II", Mafia leader Michael Corleone is almost killed in an assassination attempt at his home. Although the attempt is unsuccessful, Michael draws the conclusion that the attempt had to have been carried out with the help of someone within his inner circle. Come to find out, the betrayer was his brother Fredo, who accidentally let some secret information slip to some people who wanted Michael dead. When Michael approaches Fredo, he grabs his face, kisses him, and tells him, "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart." After that, Fredo is as good as dead to Michael, who acts as if Fredo never existed. Towards the end of the movie, Michael eventually welcomes Fredo back into his life. But then in the end, he has him killed.
What LeBron James did last night reminded me a little of both Talib Kweli and Fredo Corleone. Choosing Miami was like doing a song with Gucci Mane. It was a complete disregard for his skill, and he deferred to a lesser talent instead of creating a better product on his own. Leaving Cleveland was like Fredo betraying Michael. Although the intent may not have been malicious, he could have single-handedly destroyed an entire organization.
Which brings me to the title of this post: Why I think LeBron James is a bitch. And I know what you're thinking. You think I'm just salty because I'm a Knicks fan and he didn't sign with New York. But you're wrong. I am obviously disappointed that we didn't get him. We basically forfeited the past two seasons to clear enough cap space to lure him to Manhattan. But we took a gamble, and it didn't work out. That's life. My gripe with LeBron is about much more than the fate of the Knicks. My problem with him is that he seems to be throwing his entire legacy away for no apparent reason. Had he come to the Knicks, he would have gotten the chance to play with Amar'e Stoudemire, live in NYC, turn a struggling franchise around, and go down in history as a legend.
But, I know New York wasn't the most appealing option. What I really thought he should have done was go to the Bulls. With Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, Chicago had the best possible roster that could have given him a maximum contract. Not only would he be getting paid, he'd also automatically make the Bulls a championship contender.
The only other choice he could have made was to stay in Cleveland. I don't necessarily blame him for leaving, because I don't think the Cavs could have gotten much better than they were last year. After they lost in the playoffs, I thought there was a pretty good chance that he'd leave, because they didn't have the players to win a championship, nor did they have the money to get a star complementary player. However, I think it's a huge contradiction to spend you're whole career telling everyone how much you love Cleveland and how great it is to play in your home state, and then hold a one-hour special on ESPN just to announce you're leaving them with nothing. It was unapologetic, mean, and seemed like a big "F*ck You" to the entire state of Ohio. He didn't even seem remorseful.
And for everyone saying that Dan Gilbert's letter was childish, immature, or unprofessional, I would urge you to look at things from a Cleveland perspective. His letter put into words what every single Cleveland fan was thinking last night. If anything, I would applaud Mr. Gilbert for having the guts to be politically incorrect. I saw his letter as a way of saying, "You know what? We lost LeBron, but screw him. I feel for you, Cleveland, I share your sentiment, and I will make it my personal mission to have him regret leaving here for the sake of us both." That's gutsy, and gloating on ESPN about how happy you are to leave the fans that supported you for 7 years is not. It was a bitch move.
(Speaking of ESPN, I found it wildly ironic that throughout this free agency period, their so-called analysts have managed to get every story incorrect for two weeks. Then, with a nationwide audience sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see what LeBron will announce on their network, they break the story before he even says anything, effectively ruining the suspense of their own program. Needless to say, ESPN lost a lot of points this summer.)
My biggest reason for calling LeBron a bitch isn't about the Cavs, though. This guy is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Yet, his decision to play in Miami was basically like him saying, "You know what? I don't really wanna chase a ring by building a team around me. I'd rather defer to Wade, play on his team as a second banana, and hope to win a ring without all the pressure. I'm good, but not good enough to do it as the main guy." What the hell was he thinking? He could have chosen any team, and it would have been better than chosing the Heat. When Bosh did it, no one was really upset, because I don't think anyone thinks he can win a ring as the main guy, anyway. But LeBron definitely has the talent to do so, so why would he ultimately decide not to try to lead a team to a championship? Even if the Heat win the Finals in 2011, LeBron will be the Scottie Pippen to D-Wade's Jordan. And really, that's a waste of talent.
Speaking of Jordan, my friend Nich raised an excellent point last night. He compared LeBron's career up to this point to Jordan in 1990. Jordan had excelled on every individual level, but had never been able to get past the Celtics or the Pistons in the playoffs. But he didn't say, "If you can't beat em, join em" and try to get traded to the Pistons. No, he stayed with the Bulls until they had the talent to beat the Pistons, and when they won the championship in 1991, no one could say Jordan wasn't responsible for the Bulls' win. He led them to the Finals, and he earned it. Because of the talent on the Heat roster, LeBron will never enjoy that Jordan-esque level of success. Even if they win, it will be because they were supposed to, and LeBron will never be seen as an all-time great.
I think what's so disappointing is that he's basically choosing to throw away his own legacy. Charles Barkley was talking about LeBron's decision last night, and he said that when he was 25 years old, he never would have joined another star just to win a ring. He made the point that he didn't try to ride other players' coattails until he was past his prime, because he knew he couldn't lead a team anymore. Chuck said, "LeBron's never gonna be the guy. Wade has already won a championship there, and it's his team... LeBron's legacy is going to take a hit." Now, you can make the joke that Barkley never won, anyway. But had he won a ring with the Bulls in 1993 instead of losing to the Bulls as the main guy in Phoenix, I guarantee you that despite him winning a championship he would not be regarded as highly as he is today. Barkley went on to raise the point that prior to 2009, Kobe had always been criticized for not winning a ring without Shaq. If Kobe, the best player in the league, could be knocked for never leading a team to a championship, why would LeBron consciously choose to assume the role as "the other guy"? Assuming he stays in Miami for the rest of his career, we will never see LeBron lead a team to a title. And that makes him a bitch for choosing the easy way out.
Last night, LeBron solidified his place as the most hated man in sports. Forget A-Rod. Forget Kobe. Forget Favre. Not only did he screw the Knicks and potentially kill the Cavaliers' franchise, he also ruined the balance of power in the NBA. Let's assume the Heat end up being as good as everyone assumes they will be, and they just reel off championship after championship. Doesn't that make the entire NBA suffer as a result? Who wants to watch a league in which one team is at a CLEAR advantage over everyone else?? If this happens, it can be assumed that LeBron's decision actually ruined the entire NBA.
So for these reasons, LeBron James is a bitch. I dislike him for screwing the Knicks, but I hate him for screwing the league. Not only did he show that doesn't care about Cleveland, he also showed that he doesn't care about his own legacy. A super-talented ball player signing up to be someone else's sidekick and taking less money in the process. How pathetic. LeBron James, you are a bitch. I hate your guts, and so does the rest of America. May you suffer an injury-riddled career with gut-wrenching losses and no championships. Screw South Beach, screw the Heat, and most importantly, screw you.
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