A friend and I once shared stories about our childhood. I told him how I was born left-handed, which my father believed was a curse. My father tried everything to stop me from using my left-hand including tying it behind my back and making me write hundreds of lines each night with my right hand. Once out of frustration he grabbed my left-hand and bent my middle finger back so far, it felt broken. I went to my room and cried not so much because of the physical pain but because I was being punished for the way I was born. It was not natural for me to be right handed. I told my friend how later when my father wanted me to excel, instead I sabotaged myself. Failing gave me more pleasure. I admited that after a lot of growth if I had it to do all over again I would win for me.
My friend then told me his story about how his father told him to climb to the top of the ladder and jump reassuring him that his father would catch him. His father nurtured him with enough self-confidence to climb and developed enough trust that his father would be there for him in his descent. With confidence that his father was on his team he climbed the ladder and jumped. His father let him hit the ground. Then said, “Don’t ever trust anyone. Not even me.”
In 2008 when Dewayne Wade and LeBron James were Olympic bound there seemed to be a clear fit between the two star players. So it seemed odd, when I woke up on Sunday, June 12, 2011 excited about game 6 of the NBA Championship between the Heat and the Mavericks to read the opinion of Dan Le Batard, published on the front page of the Miami Herald. He questioned whether LeBron and Wade really fit and implied that they had not fit all season. In his article, Batard found the problem was in 2010 celebrating a dynasty before a basketball had been bounced. What I found odd was the timing of his article. Before one basketball had been played in game 6, the Heat was being doused with gasoline although the Heat had demonstrated its ability to come back from being down and out. The article high lighting the under-achievements of LeBron James seemed more appropriate for the Dallas Morning News. What I found most odd was Batard’s statement in the Miami Herald that LeBron or Wade would be “all alone;” fame and money would not help him now. “Now” I wondered, it’s the morning before game 6 and there is a game 7 scheduled for Tuesday so what is this reporter really trying to say? Batard went on to say, “…America has pushed you way, way up toward that unreasonable/understandable shelf… And now only one of you is going to fall very far and very hard.
How odd, the article announced to the entire circulation of the Miami Herald the write-off of a key player on a come-back team. And how odd the timing, before the 6th or 7th game is played. How, I wondered, could this news writer be so adamant about LeBron (or Wade) falling, unless, it has been pre-determined; like a bet in the movie, “Trading Places” where actor Eddie Murphy’s life is sent spiraling up side down over a one-dollar bet. Batard’s article mentioned something about “trouble at home,” I thought about the rumor I had recently heard and its timing. What an opportune time to pour gas on a flame. I remember something my father taught me. “Whenever there is conflict between two people there is always a third unidentified party lurking in the bushes.”
That evening, I found it odd that game 6 of the NBA play-off between Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, a most important game of the season, bar none, was treated like a pre-season game. When Dallas players went to the free throw line to shoot, there were no colorful “white hot heat” banners or shakers waving in the background to distract them. Unlike Play-off Game 5 – Miami Heat v Boston Celtics, you could hardly see through all the banners and signs held by fans. The shouting and screaming in Game 5 against Boston was overwhelmingly distracting. As I watched each game of the play offs I always admired the gadgets and widgets handed out to each fan as they entered the American Airlines Arena to make noise and distract the opposing team. It seemed that nothing was spared for player support. Even when the players were out-of-town, fans at the American Airlines Arena had so much energy it could be felt miles away. I was always impressed by the marketing machine that contributed to the hype and energy of each game.
I also found it odd that in the 4th quarter of game 6, there were no fans shouting “Defense” or “Go Heat” even though the 4th quarter started with the Heat down by 9 with a score of 81-72. It was not unusual for the Heat to go on a tear and breeze back from being down. In the 4th quarter when Wade had the ball (87-77) just before he dribbled it off his foot there were no fans shouting “Go Heat.” I found that odd. This is D. Wade, not LeBron. There were over 8 minutes left in the game. The fans were missing in action. In prior games, the Heat had come back from being 12 or more points down with 4 minutes to play and won the game. In the 2006 NBA Final Championships against Dallas, the Heat started out the gate losing the first 2 games but, came back with Wade scoring 36 points in each of the next 3 games and went on the win games 3, 4, 5 and 6 in that Final Championship.
I suffered through the loss of that night, thinking that the 2011 NBA Championship and basketball season were over. But, I woke up the next morning to learn that it was not over. I found it odd that next morning, Monday, June 13, 2011, when CNBC aired a poll showing LeBron James to be the most hated athlete. “But why,” I wondered? The poll of some 400 responses did not expound, yet, the commentator compared LeBron to O.J. Simpson. There was some reference to Tiger Woods not being on the list. O.J. Simpson defied the odds by initially winning against a legal system where he was perceived as a murderer but subsequently went on to lose. That seemed like a comparison of apples and oranges.
The only similarity I saw was that LeBron James had defied the odds by letting go a certified sports agent, Aaron Godwin in 2005 to be managed by a team of trusted peers and friends that appeared to have little experience. That was a gutsy move and I soon heard that it would be LeBron’s down fall. But LeBron seemed to take Michael Jordan’s suggestion from his high school days, “Keep your head on straight.” Despite what some Cleveland fans said, LeBron seemed to have made a smart business move to Miami in 2010. It also seemed a smart move to join the EPL’s Liverpool Football Club (At least as far down the road as I can see). LeBron’s decision would probably have been made by a majority of others, given the opportunity.
I listened as CNBC discussed hatred towards LeBron, who had just played in six games where the Heat won games 1 and 2, lost games 3 and 4, then lost games 5 and 6 where LeBron scored poorly in game 3 but had a triple double in game 4 against tight defense and the Heat lost game 6, where LeBron scored 19 points.
Later on the afternoon of Monday, June 13, 2011, CNBC interviewed Jack Brewer, CEO and a former Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants foot ball player who said that LeBron’s image was tarnished because, LeBron caused the “economy” of Cleveland to fall, caused people to lose jobs and caused the team to tank. Several things struck me as odd about that interview. Foot ball and basket ball compete for the same household disposable income but have different fans. Why is a former football player being interviewed about the performance of a basket ball player? To me, that is like interviewing a Republican, as the voice, the morning after the Democratic National Convention. It seems that would be comparing apples and oranges, not to mention denying equal access.
I also found the timing odd. The front page of Batard’s Miami Herald article stated that LeBron James (or D. Wade) would fall very far and very hard. Then, a day later, hatred is being spewed at James for a decision LeBron made a year before in 2010. During the 2010-2011 season Cleveland fans had quieted down and seemed to forget until Batard’s article and CNBC media poured gasoline on the flame again. Blaming Cleveland’s economy on LeBron James, come on. LeBron is not Boeing. Just because Comcast, owner of the Philadelphia 76er’s now has a financial interest in CNBC should not be a reason to stretch economic news to reach basketball.
In April 2010, before LeBron announced that he was leaving Cleveland the unemployment rate in Cleveland was over 9 percent. Today the unemployment rate in Cleveland is down to 7.6 percent. This means that unemployment has actually decreased since LeBron left Cleveland. Hello, that means more people have jobs.
In 1950 Cleveland’s population was 914,808. In the 2000 census, Cleveland’s population declined to 478,403. In 2010, it declined another 17 percent to 396,815, making Cleveland one of the fastest declining cities in the United States in the past decade, despite a favorable business environment. ESPN records show that Cleveland has not won a trophy in any major professional sport since 1964. ESPN shows Cleveland to be the most tortured sports city. Also, before LeBron James left Cleveland, Art Modell in 1995 relocated Cleveland’s entire football team, (Former Browns) to Baltimore.
I also found CNBC’s story odd because when Wilt Chamberlain left Philadelphia for the LA Lakers and when Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley left Philadelphia and when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left Milwaukee Bucks for L.A, all were superstars, similar to LeBron James. These superstars were not blamed for causing the economy of their former cities to tank. In fact, when Allen Iverson left Philly in 2006, his fans created a “Tribute to a Legend.” His fans were just as emotional, but instead of hatred, they gave him love as a going away gift. Fans wrote on a blog, “I think you will go down as Philly’s most loved athlete of all time… You can pretty much say Basketball has left the city.” Other fans dedicated Evanescence’s “My Immortal.” Fans defined him as a warrior, with a Heart of a Champion.” While Iverson’s situation may have since changed, consider the love that his fans gave him instead of hatred.
Charles Barkley, like LeBron James was a rebounder, dominant defender, 3-point shooter, dribbler and play maker. Barkley left Philadelphia in 1993 for Phoenix. LeBron shares these and other traits, except, LeBron James never spit on a fan and LeBron never threw a fan out the window. However, Barkley was never hated. Yet, LeBron James, a star athlete gets a bad rap for making a business decision to move to Miami.
After disparaging LeBron (or Wade), Batard’s article suggested that the solution is to win. This is an oxymoron. Who can perform their best after waking up to see yourself being ridiculed on the front page of the newspaper circulated to between 173,000 and 1.5 million readers, predicting that you (or your side-kick) will fall very far, fall very hard, and be all alone.
LeBron gave some of his best years to Cleveland and played hard to win a ring. If Cleveland did not win a championship while LeBron was there giving his best, is LeBron’s absence really the blame now.
What LeBron did when he came to Miami was to share the basket ball with his teammates. He inspires them to greatness, but also gives tough love. LeBron , Wade and Bosh’s artistic athletic abilities helped the TV Nielsen ratings to rise to 15, the highest in 11 years for an NBA Finals game 6.
LeBron is getting an unfair rap at both ends. While being blamed for causing the economy in Cleveland to tank, LeBron came to Miami, and was blamed for workers at the Miami Heat losing their jobs after all the Heat tickets sold out when there was no more work for them to do. It was a smart business decision by the Heat management to close the Heat ticket office with no more tickets to sell. Likewise, it was a smart business decision for the downtown bar owners in Cleveland to close when the customer/fans stopped coming on game nights as they had in the past.
It seemed strange even Governor Kasich of Ohio is joining the act of LeBron bashing. With the amount of free media Cleveland has received by LeBron leaving, the city could have used that valuable airtime to show the positive aspects of Cleveland to entice other businesses to move there, instead of complaining how doomed Cleveland is without LeBron. The situation makes me think about the song, “50 ways to leave your lover; get on the bus, Gus; make a new plan, Stan…” It is not unreasonable to think that without a new fan plan, all the lovers will get on the bus (headed to Dallas maybe for a sports fix) leaving only the haters behind in Cleveland to complain.
Remembering back to the 2006 NBA championship series; Dirk Nowitnski finished 3rd in league MVP behind LeBron James. After scoring 50 points to take the Mavs over Phoenix, Nowitnski faced Shack, Wade and the Miami Heat in the Finals. Before playing the Heat, ESPN Columnist complimented Dirk Nowitnski saying that he was playing at a higher level than any forward since Bird. The Mavs won games 1 and 2 against the Heat but then Nowitnski played poorly in game 3, ESPN then criticized him as not at his best. It is said that the criticism impacted his performance in the remaining games where Nowitnski made only 20 of his last 55 shots and Wade went on to score over 35 points in each of the next 3 games and to win the Championship. That next morning the Dallas Morning News generally read that Nowitnski was soft but there was no hatred.
After considering Batard’s article, and ESPN’s comparisons of Dirk Nowitnski to Bird, it gives significance to the McDonald’s commercial, which aired during the 2011 NBA Finals where Bird eats LeBron’s lunch (Pun intended).
Batard’s article sheds light on other odd co-incidents throughout the season. Until recently, some broadcast journalist and commentary have sent LeBron James up the ladder praising him as the greatest athlete in basketball today. Then, recently I started seeing a trailer advertising the yet-to-be-released movie, “Bad Teacher.” A student, arguing on the side of LeBron James challenges the teacher who argues on the side of Michael Jordan. Comparing the two, the teacher scolds the student, “…Call me when LeBron has won 6 championships.” I can understand the student’s point and the trailer seems premature because at age 26 (LeBron’s current age) Michael Jordon had not yet won a championship. However by age 30, Michael Jordon had won 3 championships. He retired from basketball but later came back and by age 35 when Michael Jordon retired a second time he had won 6 titles. Assuming LeBron James wins championships he can match Michael Jordan’s record title by the time he retires. However, there seems to be significance in the timing for the release of the movie and its underlying message. I suspect Part II will come out next year just as the Heat is preparing to play in the 2012 Final Championship game.
When the 2010-2011 season first started, I initially suffered as I watched the Heat lose 8 of their first 9 games. That uneasy feeling of having my left-hand tied behind my back would not let me rest. Although the new players on the Heat team were adjusting and jelling, the team seemed to be playing an awkward game as though their hands were tied behind their backs? There seemed to be a lot of thinking instead of natural playing. Out of frustration, on November 27, 2010, I fired my first fax to the Heat c/o Pat Riley, “Untie their hands and let them play their game.” Someone upstairs must have been listening, because from that point the team played with more freedom in their movement and the Heat went on a winning streak.
After the Heat v Sacrament game on February 22, 2011, I sat in the player interview press room at the American Airlines Arena listening as questions were being asked to LeBron James and Dewayne Wade. I raised my hand and first introduced my Blog then asked LeBron and Wade a question. I found it odd that after I said, “I am with MiamiHeat… but before I could finish (Florida.WordPress.com,) or ask the question, both LeBron and Wade put their heads down. I went on to ask a question about Carmello Anthony’s trade. After I finished both LeBron and Wade hesitated then LeBron muttered a response keeping his head down. Now, it is true that my question fell into that stereotype that media in general ask the same old lame questions over and over with nothing new. But what struck me as odd was that before I asked the question when I said “Miami Heat…” both heads dropped. Neither Wade nor LeBron really had ever seen me before (except pictures taken). Their body language when they heard the words, “Miami Heat” gave me a clear impression that there seemed to be a negative relationship between the players and the Heat.
I found it odd that before the first NBA Play-off game against Boston, the Heat media telephone line announced that the media would be allowed in the American Airlines Arena between 12:30 and 1:30. I sat in the lobby listening to other media representatives talk about the Heat and Boston. They were adamant that the Heat would not win against Boston. I voiced my two cents and said, “I do not see any reason why the Heat will not beat Boston.” (I distinctly remembered back on February 13, 2011 when the Heat lost to Boston towards the end of the game. I believed the Heat very well could have won that game.) When the Heat staff came to escort the media in with the players I was told that because my credentials were not approved by the NBA, I could not enter and was asked to leave. (My subsequent requests for approval went without response).
On another occasion I was asked to leave because I had improper credentials so I was considered a “fan”. Other media representatives expressed strong feelings against the Heat. What was odd was that I favored the Heat.
Late in the 2010-2011 season during a game I saw a commercial for LeBron’s shoe. During that same game I then saw a commercial for Wade’s shoe. Both commercials for LeBron and Wade aired during the same game. My first response was, “Why do that? It makes them compete against each other. Why not air one shoe commercial during one game, then air the other shoe commercial during another game.” You don’t normally see a McDonald’s commercial aired back to back with a Burger King commercial. What I also distinctly recall is that from that point I began to see more tension between Wade and LeBron and between them and other team members. It was odd the way Wade’s tension exploded against Mario Chalmers # 15 in the playoff series. That was not normal for Wade. I thought, “What’s up with that?”
Then I noticed that the tension increased as the media gave Udonis Haslem # 40, (a championship player who had spent injury-time on the bench most of this season) entitlement status because of his championship ring. It is true that Haslem is a very good player but the media appeared to create friction by pushing LeBron off the ladder in order to push Haslem up the ladder. I wondered, “Why can’t they promote both players?” In the end Haslem went up the ladder but fell down along with all the other Heat players. Or should I say that the Heat players jumped off the ladder thinking there was support but found no safety net.
It seems like the haters want LeBron James to translate a 50-page technical manual into Portuguese by tomorrow.