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LeBron James Joins The Heat: The Day The Music Died

Posted on July 10, 2010 by Ryan Durling

Bosh, Wade and James made their first official appearance as members of the Heat on Friday night.

Three times last night, I tried to start writing my recap of ESPN’s newest 30 for 30 Special: The Day Basketball Died. I couldn’t really decide which angle to take. Like when you just get out of a bad break-up and you think you’re still in love, only you soon realize how quickly love turns to hate and then you summarily stop caring at all. I’ve reached phase three. I don’t care about LeBron. His decision doesn’t affect me in any way. He is a basketball player, and basketball is what he does.  Nobody complains when the CEO of Wal-Mart decides to go work for Target because there is more money and more opportunity for growth of the brand there. It’s a pretty similar situation with LeBron.

I’ll say this regarding LBJ’s competitive spirit: he doesn’t have any. It’s all been said before, so I’ll just summarize: LeBron, if he’s the best in the game, should want to beat his competition, not cozy up alongside it. He hasn’t thrived with an average supporting cast, and now he’s signed on to not have any. The Heat will roll a team that runs 4-deep and then drops off. If Pat Riley had watched the Red Sox lineup over the past couple weeks (3-6 legit, 1-2, 7-9), he might have chosen a different option. LeBron, Bosh and Wade will be expected to play between 40 and 44 minutes a night over a 6-month season. While they may find success initially, by the time their contracts are up they’ll likely be in worse shape than today Celtics.

What Do You Think of LeBron James Now?

  • Boy did he make a big mistake (25%, 25 Votes)
  • What an Ego (24%, 24 Votes)
  • Better not go back to Cleveland anytime soon (23%, 23 Votes)
  • Really wants to Win a Title (17%, 17 Votes)
  • Still a Great Talent (10%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 99

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In the past 24 hours, a lot has been made of the Heat being the NBA’s first Yankees, their first Cowboys. By people, nonetheless, who root – or at least write – for the Celtics and Lakers, two teams who have combined for over half of all NBA Titles. Miami nearly borrowed from the mold created by Danny Ainge two summers ago when he re-ignited Boston’s Big Three; a strong, long power forward with range, a fierce small forward who looks for his shot and a fiery, sweet-shooting two-guard who wants the ball with the game on the line. Those Celtics get breaks at the 2 and 3 spots with the addition of Tony Allen and a on-the-cheap James Posey, had a citywide favorite in Brian Scalabrine coming off the bench and picked up a fantastic deal when they landed PJ Brown at the trade deadline. The Heat can find those pieces if they want to.

The Celtics had a hungry, fiery, quick, ruthless kid of a point guard who had a lot of talent and a ton of potential, but no polish. They also had a power-center with anger management issues whose wingspan, when coupled with Garnett, would frustrate anyone in a differently colored jersey who tried to get into the paint. Those are not talents the Heat will acquire in free agency. They have no point guard, although were LeBron to take one for the team and play the “1”,it wouldn’t be the least logical thing he’s done lately.

Which looks funnier on James, the number six or Heat name?

Miami is operating in a different environment than was Boston two years ago. They are in a much more competitive division, a much-improved conference and a much tougher basketball age, at least until the NBA and NBAPA reach an agreement on the CBA. And it warrants mentioning that the Celtics won their championship with defense. The same can be said of the Lakers the past two years. To win with defense, a team must believe in their coach staff and buy into the system. Anyone in the NBA can put up 120 a night against a couple plates of swiss cheese, and it stands to reason that Erik Spoelstra is not the coach who can corral the egos of his own big three and convince them to commit when the ball isn’t in their hands.

And even if he does, there will always be the matter of who takes the last shot. The answer, of course, should be Wade, just like LeBron did with Cleveland, Kobe does with LA and Pierce does with Boston. But something about this situation says that it just won’t be that easy. None of it, really, will be that easy. The Heat probably won’t win 60 games this year, and if they have enough legs to get through the first two rounds of the playoffs, when they run into a Boston or Orlando or much-improved Chicago who will play them hard, it remains to be seen if they’ll have the ability to stand up, much less show up.

Last year’s Heat averaged 96.5 points per game, 88 in the playoffs. Wade (26.6), Bosh (24) and James (29.7) averaged a combined total of 80.3 PPG. Somebody’s production is going to decrease. They averaged 41.8 rebounds; the Miami Sound Machine averaged nearly 23 (4.8/10.8/7.3) last year. That stat is more interesting than it appears. With LeBron, Bosh and Wade on the floor at the same time (not to mention newly acquired Mike Miller), somebody’s not getting to the basket as often as they’re used to. The points may not be such a big issue – after all, nobody on the team’s going to be in a contract year for quite a while – but Wade and James have relied on being able to get to the rim to open their games up, and Bosh’s ability to move around the basket usually opens up his mid-range game.

This isn’t even a conversation about selfishness or statistics. It’s a simple fact – defenses will isolate whoever isn’t getting to the rim and cut down their numbers. If the regular season were the All-Star Game, these guys would win 75. But it’s long, a slugfest, and even if everyone stays healthy (a concern after LeBron’s elbow and Wade’s shoulder problems), their games are going to have to change if they want to win. LeBron may be the main attraction in South Beach this winter, but it will always be Wade’s team. The same LeBron James who, in a one-hour televised special, simultaneously stabbed his native town in the back and proclaimed himself bigger than the game, will have to take a backseat to someone else for the first time in his career.

It wasn’t the first time he made it evident that he thought himself bigger than the game – the end of one Orlando playoff series comes to mind. But it really cemented that idea. As a result, he’ll be booed. Heartily. And not just in Cleveland. He’ll be booed everywhere he goes. He proved to the nation that he doesn’t think he can lead a team or win on his own when he decided to go to Miami, and now he’ll have to battle the same road animosity that Kobe Bryant fights every time he leaves the Staples Center, although it will likely be a more venomous energy with LeBron. It’s motivated Kobe and, it can be argued, has taken his game to new heights. How Bron reacts to that same booing may well define just what kind of legacy he leaves.

In twenty years, if LeBron really is everything that the ESPN bigwigs have suggested he is over the years, we’ll look back on this as the moment that LeBron decided he had to earn it – had to change his game and share the spotlight in an order to hoist a trophy. But, should he win with Miami, his place in basketball heaven is going to look a little bit different – he will no longer be the transcendent enigma, but rather, a Scottie Pippen in the model of a Greek deity, a Patrick Ewing among a forest of David Robinsons. He has effectively given up his spot in the pantheon, not only because of his inordinate greed, but by admitting that he’s just not as good as everyone thought he was. If he doesn’t win in Miami, the good folks living on the south-west corner of Lake Erie will have a lot of fun at his expense.

Win or lose, the only thing certain now is that despite his hard work over the past seven seasons and his business team’s hard work at marketing LeBron’s brand, he’s not even the best player on his team anymore.

The King, let it be known, has become the court jester.

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