A Letter To LeBron (Part 2 of 3/NBA Wrap Up)
"Didn't fuckin' think so."
- Freddy with Jesse moments before slicing him. - A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
Well LeBron, it's all over. Or it will be for you, if you stay.
It's funny that I had this written in advance, or at least a few hours before I walked out the door to see Robin Hood back in May and didn't bother saving the document. But the exchange I have up top here, is what should be in your mind along with what KG conveyed to you at the end of Game 6. You can't get your youth back when it's gone. Trust me, I'm 29 going on 30 feeling like I'm older than that. But before I go on, let me say this...
You may have had "three bad games in 7 years", fine. Everyone has them. But the problem is, you had two of those three bad games in the last 7 days. The problem is for your two MVP awards, the town of Cleveland is still titleless since 1964. But ya know what? It's time to come clean, LeBron. You're talking to a Jerseyan who's not awestruck by your presence and is certainly not a "Witness". You love Akron. No doubt. I love Jersey. But like you, I've reached a point where I can no longer stand living here because of all the BS that comes with it. You, are sick of Cleveland and all the BS that comes with it. Having to watch management give you body bag after body bag and expecting you to lift all of it to a title, it'll put some grey hairs in your skull I imagine. On top of the responsiblity that comes with having to ensure the gold stays on American soil every 4 years in the Olympics, yeah. Your plate's full. So as the man who knows what he speaks when it comes to basketball, let me break it down for ya. The good, bad and utterly repugnant as you sit for the next 72-96 hours making the decision that could decide how you play out the prime of your basketball career.
Staying In Cleveland...
- Only if you're a glutton for punishment my good man. Let's look at all that's come from your being there, shall we?
A) You had a fairly good coach in Paul Silas, only they replaced him with a glorified assistant in Mike Brown. Now sure, Mike Brown went on to win 60 straight in two straight seasons and even found a way to outcoach Flip Saunders when faced with an 0-2 hole (now proving that really wasn't THAT BIG a deal, Flip just sucks huge balls)...fact are still facts.
You've still regressed ever since the improbable 2007 run to the NBA Finals. Whether it was right or not, justified or not, Mike's finished and most likely, his record will take a dip as you don't figure to be a part of his future roster. (We think...)
B) I know this is before your time, but back in my day, there was a guy who wore that #23 for the Chicago Bulls. The very first team I was ever a fan of, were the Bulls. Before the bandwagon took on a life of its own, there were as many skeptics doubting Jordan as they are presently doubting you. The Bulls in the playoffs, were good, but couldn't get past Bird and the Celts or Chuck Daly's Bad Boys in Detroit. (Also note, back in this day, you could get clotheslined on one of your breakaway dunks and it'd been as legal as a pick. Come to think of it, to keep you from doing it as often as you do, consider it highly probable you'd catch one the way Kurt Rambis did in the 1984 Finals.) Anyway, the Bulls up until 1989 had much difficulty getting around Detroit in the playoffs. Management didn't blow it up, they merely sent Doug Collins packing and moved an assistant head coach a few chairs down. I think even you know how this story finishes...
The Bulls own the 90s, with Houston mopping up the two titles in 94 and 95 that a bored Jordan didn't care about, only to return to claim the last three before walking off for "good" in 1998. (I disavow all knowledge he ever returned as a Washington Wizard. That never happened, just like Rocky V, Rocky Balboa and the rest of Rocky after Apollo gets mauled to death by a roided Russian never happened. Let's just move on.) See what I'm getting at? In 1991, it could've been easy for Reinsdorf and Krause to simply say whatever it was that Ferry said after that 2007 season before blowing up a potentially young nucleus and replacing it with older, more dilipidated pieces.
That's why after your ouster at the hands of the eventual 17 time World Champions in 2008, you said the roster needed to be fixed. They listened, but somewhere along the lines, I think something got lost in translation. Instead of trying to get you Amare which would've given ya a definitive reason to stay put while keeping S.T.A.T. in Cleveland with you for at least a few more years...they give you The Big Aristotle one year later than they should've. In a year where virtually everybody worth a damn reloaded and did so in a huge way.
So when you sit down this Summer and ask yourself how the way older Celtics were able to simply dominate you without any S & M gear on...you know why. Ya see, here's the formula for any successful championship team. Feel free to take notes as you get ready to make the decision that will inevitably determine how you spend the next 3-5 years of your prime...
A) An Alpha Dog. Has to be someone who at the drop of a hat, can and will cut your throat like he's cutting bread in a bakery.
B) The Backup Plan. A reliable #2 option who isn't quite on a #1 level, but when the Alpha Dog isn't feeling it, this guy steps in and the team doesn't miss a beat.
C) The "Payday" Guy. Best way I can define this is like so...
Remember those Bulls teams I talked about? John Paxson, Steve Kerr and Toni Kukoc were what you call "Payday" Guys. When teams closed ranks around the Alpha Dog, the AD would kick it to one of this Payday Guys behind the arc or wide open and BOOM. Pay day. You don't have any of those guys in Cleveland and it's highly unlikely you'll see any brought there this Summer.
Fact is, with the exception of the 2004 Pistons, you'd be hard pressed to find any NBA Champion that didn't fit the model I just laid out before you. With the 1999 Spurs, Tim Duncan was that Alpha Dog with The Admiral as The Backup Plan and Avery Johnson being your "Payday" Guy. (Note, I think that's why to this day, I really don't like him. I was a Knicks fan back then and he absolutely crushed the little fleeting hope I had of seeing the Knicks... okay, that's a lie. I knew they had no chance in hell of beating the Spurs without Ewing that year, let's move on.)
Right now LeBron, you've got a slew of #3s on your team and no definitive #2. Say, isn't this the same damn problem everyone said needed to be corrected like...FOUR YEARS AGO?! It is debatable to argue whether or not Boozer walking was essentially your best #2 option, only it was realized too little, too late. I'd be willing to argue, he was, only management didn't catch this until it was...TOO LATE. The reason you said nothing about roster moves before 2007 IMO, is simple...
You liked the cast of characters around you and you were cool with it. Why say something about a cast that you like? You spoke on this in 2008 because well, you knew full well you'd be walking up an icy hill with roller blades and look what happened? Two straight years, you have carried this "group" that the talking heads have gone as far to label "your best supporting cast ever" until that elimination comes and then it turns into "management hasn't done nearly enough to put help around you to put you in position to win championships". If you stay, know what you become?
Kevin Garnett 2.0
You become the guy who could've told people what was going to happen and ended all speculation, but didn't because you wanted the attention. Michael Jordan never did that. If he knew, he made it official so management could get on with keeping pieces around him to ensure the winning titles thing kept going. Period. Deep down, you know you're not coming back. Rather I know it, even if you're set on DENYING IT.
Going To Chi-Town...
- Well, sure, you'd be ditching #23 for a red and white #6. You'd be taking your powder tossing gimmick to the place it originated from, if only on a simpler scale with Jordan. You'd be tasked with bringing the town its first basketball championship since I was a Senior in High School (1998) and restoring the natural order of things in the Association (if you're a Chicagoan). The cupboard's far from bare here, what with Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose here to help you on your way. You could hit the ground running here and within a year or two tops, you'd get to shake hands with President Obama who would be eternally grateful you got his homestate team to his place on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
All things being equal, this is Smart Move 1A.
Going To The Knicks...
- Yeah, this is neck and neck with staying in Cleveland in all honesty. Sure, Donnie Walsh is your Team President and a great basketball mind in his own right. But understand that even with offensive minded Mike D'Antoni as your coach, your new boss would be James Dolan. The same James Dolan that hired Scott Layden who proceeded to send this team on a downward spiral in the early part of the last decade, then compounded that by hiring the man who sunk the CBA, Isiah Thomas. Note, maybe it's just me, but hiring a guy that sunk an ENTIRE ORGANIZATION and then fires one of the best coaches in basketball history (only man to win a title on the college and pro level) just because he could...
Not the kind of guy you want to rely on to build the type of team you need to get you a title. Also note, this should put the kibosh on any thoughts of playing for the Clippers. Donald Sterling's apathy is LEGENDARY in the annals of "Bad Owners". He's in a class all by himself.
Coming To New Jersey...
- Is not as laughable as many are thinking it is.
A) There's a young nucleus in place. One that you can run with and not feel as if you're waiting on old geezers to catch up to you. Just imagining running a three man break with Brook Lopez and Devin Harris running alongside you. Tossing an alley-oop to Brook or getting one from Devin. Your point guard was made an All-Star by default, Devin IS an All-Star point.
B) The Nets have two Eastern Conference Championship banners that are going to reside in the Prudential Center in downtown Newark for at least the next two seasons before they're moved to Brooklyn. (Also note, only Miami has had success in the last decade that has resulted in banners being hung from the rafters.) The architect to those teams has been given the reigns back by our owner Mikhail Prokhorov...at least until he quits one week after contracts can become official. Prokhorov's a Russian Billionaire (that's Billionaire with a B) and oh yeah, your best bud's a part owner. Your best bud's not going to let you walk into a suicide situation, so trust and believe if Jay gives you the approach anytime in the next month or so, he feels what I do.
The Nets can win a title in the next 5 years, but it can't happen without YOU.
C) Playing in Newark can't be any worse than playing in Cleveland, Bro. It can't be. At least in Newark, you've got a TON to do, tons of clubs to hop and oh yeah...we're next door to NYC. Go chill at the 40/40 Club with Jigga.
D) You can be part of something historic, the first team to bring a basketball championship to the great state of New Jersey. (If it happens in the next two seasons...)
So let's cut through the crap, shall we?
As great as the attention will be for you over the next two weeks or so, I think you know you're not going back to Cleveland. Your body language at the end of the Boston series did not speak of a man who was ready to hit the ground running this Summer trying to talk at least one other "big name" into coming to Cleveland. It spoke of a man who was ready to haul ass out of town in a hurry. Now sure, Cleveland's got the "edge" heading into next month's sweepstakes.
But just as sure as a woman with big boobs may have "an edge" in trying to get at me, nothing beats a woman with a brain that can keep me mentally stimulated. Having "an edge" means jack when it comes down to the get down, ya dig? Now sure, there are a slew of other places with cap space I didn't mention. But for good reason...
A) You're not going to Miami. While the thought of you, Wade and one other guy is a wet dream come to life...there are only two other players under contract. Beasley and Chalmers. That's IT. Oh and not for nothing, unless Riles runs another head coach so he can take over... I don't see how that's happening.
B) Unless there's something akin to an act of God and Donald Sterling sells to Geffen, forget Los Angeles. At this rate, you going West might be the only way we get Kobe/LBJ in the playoffs, but eh. Clips got talent, but Sterling's killing that franchise moreso than Dolan's screwing the Knicks.
C) I highly doubt you're staying put. Even if the Cavs play the "loyalty" card, what can they possibly do in the next three years that they haven't done in the last SEVEN?! Whether you realize it or not, your legacy will hinge on the next piece of paper you sign. You're out of time and excuses to be playing your ass off for 82 games, only to be owned by Boston, Orlando, etc. in four out of seven games.
D) As much as folks make Chicago into the place to be (and it's damn attractive from a roster standpoint), consider this. While Reinsdorf is one of a few men who can claim championships in two different sports he owns teams in, he's one of the tighest wallets in the game. That's fact. Ever stop and ask yourself why Pippen and Jordan aren't around Chi-Town more often? Ever stop and ask why nobody disputed what Wade said earlier this year about Chicago and how they treat their legends? Or whatever inspired Jordan's rant about organizations not winning championships, but players doing it?
Exactly. Bron, this is your career within the next week or so. Staying put ensures you'll spend the next three years idolized by the masses who have embraced mediocrity because it's all they've ever known. Leaving may ruffle the feathers of many and sure, it'll put you up there alongside Art Modell as men who dared burn the city of Cleveland...but guess what Art's got?
A Super Bowl Championship. Sometimes you gotta get away to make a way. T.I. said that.
- Unofficial Spokesperson of the LeBron To Jersey Coalition
- Resident Basketball Expert for Sportsbastards
- Most Knowledgable Basketball Expert To Call In 88.1 WZIP FM, Even If I'm Not Physically In The State Anymore. :P