Athletic Integrity?

We sports fans, often unknowingly impose double standards upon the athletes that we so intensely look up to. I want to try and bring some perspective into LeBron’s decision to go to South Beach.

“He’s milking this free agency crap so much, what a diva!”

Give the guy a break, he’s making a decision for the next six years (and probably more), not just for himself, but for his family too. Taking a week to think it over is more than reasonable. We forget that star athletes are human beings too, with lives of their own outside of their sports.

“The Heat are about as organic as a tin of luncheon meat!”

True, but so were the Celtics and nobody questioned the Big 3’s championship win, probably because people realized that they were in the twilight of their careers and that their window to win was closing. But besides that, there is no real difference in the two situations. All 6 individuals wanted to win right away and found a way to do it.

“His legacy will be tarnished if he doesn’t win this on his own!”

This is actually something I somewhat agree with. No matter what James claims, I think he knows deep down it would have meant more if he won it in Cleveland on his own. But does this necessarily mean that his legacy will be any less than it was supposed to be? The Heat are probably going to win 3 – 4 championships in a row, at least. This will cement him in history, but not just as a great player, but as part of an amazing team. Basketball is a team sport, that’s what everyone is preaching nowadays. But wanting to be part of a great team right away is for some reason the wrong thing to do?

“He didn’t stay with his team. He’s not loyal!”

The guy stuck it out with the Cavaliers for 7 years, playing his heart out for them. LeBron gave the city countless thrills and playoff runs. The organization and fans knew this might have happened when he signed the three year deal instead of six, but were mum on the sensitive issue because they were scared of upsetting him. Now he’s officially gone and suddenly everyone is taking shots at him:

“You certainly don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.” – Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers

Does anyone else see the irony of that statement?!

“He’s taking the easy way out and he’s even taking less cash to do it!”

This is really rather hypocritical, as we all know that if LeBron chose to take the Knicks’ maximum, people would have criticized him for caring only about the spot-light and business opportunities of New York and not thinking about basketball. I’m still trying to figure out why wanting to win and sacrificing tens of millions of dollars to do so is apparently so wrong.

With fans in Cleveland burning his jerseys and the whole world on his ass about his decision, it almost seems like James can’t win – wherever he went haters were bound to follow, armed with ready-made insults to throw his way. By no means am I saying LeBron handled this free agency the right way. It was definitely disrespectful not to tell the franchise that catered to his every need for seven years that he was leaving them and I do think the one hour special was a little much. But maybe we’re just old-fashioned, sure the idea of a live public announcement would never have even crossed MJ’s or Kobe’s minds. But LeBron is LeBron, there is no need for us to compare him to the older bunch of players.

This is a new generation of superstars, who are living in a time where business is much more “in your face”. In this day and age, people are inevitably more money-minded and calculative in their every day lives, LeBron is no different to us. Should we crucify him and scrutinize the 25 year-old’s every move because he is such a great basketball player? Would we have gone about this any differently if we were LeBron James? We can hate all we want, but at the end of the day, we will be watching any of his games that we can catch. So I say we should sit back and enjoy the awesome spectacle that will be the Miami Heat.

– Brian

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