Thursday, July 8, 2010

Super Teams

In keeping with the "All LeBron" theme of the week, I thought I would share my thoughts and add a little perspective to one angle of this whole, NBA free agency season.

First, there is no need to watch the special tonight, LeBron is staying in Cleveland. I can't understand all the speculation when I have already been very public with this announcement. I have solved the mystery so you can all stop looking for clues.

Second, I hear the talking heads say that "rings" or championships are how we judge athletes but that's just not true. Dan Marino is considered one of the best QB's of all tme despite his unadorned fingers whereas Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, all QB's on championship teams, are not in that conversation. Carl Malone and John Stockton are always listed high in the NBA pantheon but neither won a ring in their careers. Patrick Ewing is considered one of the best centers of all time with no ring. Think about Pete Maravich, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Charles Barkley Reggie Miller, and Jason Kidd. All considered great; no championships between them.

Football, basketball, and baseball are team sports and no individual can be fairly judged by the quality of the team surrounding him. Sure, one sign of greatness is making your teammates better, but that's a pretty opaque scale.

Finally, a little perspective. When I was in 5th grade, I somehow ascended to the role of "leader of the kickball field" and found myself with the authority of deciding the rosters for the teams. I quickly learned to abuse this power by adopting all of the skilled kids to my team and transferring the nose-pickers to the other team. Naturally, we drubbed our untalented opponents for about 3 or 4 recesses, and then everyone lost interest.

It turned out not to be fun getting drubbed and taunted, nor was it fun to pummel a clearly inferior team. The lesson, which I am sure all NBA players learned somewhere along the way, is this: if LeBron were to go to Miami and join the other star free agents on a "Super Team", it would be a blow to the excitement of the NBA, and any success earned by the super team would be forever pale when compared to those victories earned in a balanced league.

The King without a ring

Contributed by Auggie
I want to like LeBron James, I really do. But he’s making it difficult. James is one of the faces of the NBA, and like other modern athletes he’s used his athletic popularity to brand himself as a global entertainment icon. The reason for James’ popularity on the hardwood is that he is good, really good. It’s not his personality which is no more interesting than two or three hundred other NBA players. But it seems to me that James is more worried about being a brand than being a great basketball player. If I were his publicist, my message would be this: “there is nothing better for the brand than being great at your craft, and a couple rings wouldn’t hurt”.

The latest thing stuck in my craw is the televised announcement of his free agency decision (tonight). Is this really necessary? I had been blaming the media (as I am wont to do) for over blowing the ‘summer of LeBron’ for two years and then complaining two days after the free agency period began because they are sick of all the talk. But this one is all on LeBron. I already thought his whole free agency courting process was a bit tawdry, but this televised event brings it to a new level; “All bow to the King - tune in tonight and I’ll declare who will be blessed with my greatness for the coming years”. I won’t be tuning in. There will be more slobbering at that event than a puppy convention.

LeBron ought to be working on his jumper. I don’t pretend to know his off season workout schedule but I’m guessing he doesn’t have the work ethic of MJ and Kobe. If James would develop a consistent long-range jumper and a couple low-post moves he could be the greatest ever. Maybe if he could televise his workouts he would have a real incentive.