Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

LeBron James: Legacy vs. Championships 1

Posted on July 23, 2010 by Ryan Heller

Will it hurt LeBron James' legacy that he is no longer an individual superstar?

It’s hard to tell what is in store for Lebron James as he tries to change his sense of direction for greatness. He may have a plan to make himself known as a champion team player rather than leaving a legacy of individual greatness like Michael Jordan. In some respects, it seems like Lebron gave up on the Cleveland Cavaliers and instead took a shortcut to becoming a champion by joining Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

I am not taking anything away from James, because he is a great athlete with unbelievable skill and talent. I just think that leaving a legacy is more impressive than just being a champion with no sense of leadership. James was a great player for the Cavaliers, but he was just learning to show the type of leadership that you now see from Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Read the rest of this entry →

Grading the LeBron James Experience 5

Posted on July 14, 2010 by Dean Hybl

LeBron James is starting to get used to his new uniform and surroundings.

Now that the dust has settled on the LeBron James sweepstakes, let’s take a look at some of the key participants in his announcement and how they fared during a strange week that seemed to captivate the interest of the sports media as much as any game or event in recent memory.

LeBron James the Basketball Player:  A

You could say that the decision to take his talents from a Cleveland squad where he was the primary factor in whether they won or lost to a Miami squad where he will share the load with Dwyane Wade was a great move for LeBron James the player. I believe that had he stayed in Cleveland, James would have eventually led the Cavaliers to an NBA Championship. However, it would have been excruciatingly difficult and it is unlikely that he would have been able to lead them to multiple titles. He now joins a team that has a championship pedigree and three very talented players capable of building a dynasty. I’m not necessarily saying that the Miami Heat will create a monopoly on championships, but once Pat Riley has time to surround his three stars with some solid complimentary players they will certainly be in the mix every season. James knows that he must win at least one NBA title to be considered an all-time great and with at least 10 years left in his career, this should guarantee that he will get at least one ring.

LeBron James the Global Brand: D

Team LeBron has been force-feeding LeBron James commercials and his greatness to the American public since before he even graduated from high school. He has definitely become a powerful marketing machine – big enough to commandeer the largest sports television network for more than an hour in prime time. However, part of what has helped make James a national icon is the assumption that he is the heir to the throne as basketball’s next great superstar.

By leaving Cleveland, where he was undisputedly “The King”, for South Beach, James has in some respects abdicated his throne of greatness. His decision to go to a team with another nearly equal superstar has signaled that he doesn’t want/need to be “the man” on his team. That may help him win championships, but it is not going to help him build his global brand.

I predict that with the exception of fans in Cleveland, James will eventually overcome much of the negative hits he has received for leaving his hometown city at the altar. However, unless he does something quickly to distinguish himself from Wade and Chris Bosh, I also predict that many fans will lose interest in LeBron the individual talent. He will now become part of the “The Trio” and his individual prominence will diminish accordingly. Read the rest of this entry →

LeBron James Joins The Heat: The Day The Music Died 8

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. Read the rest of this entry →

Miami’s Big Three won’t mesh like 80s Lakers, Celtics 2

Posted on July 10, 2010 by Matt Petersen
U.S. player LeBron James (R) congratulates Dwyane Wade during their game against Puerto Rico in the first round of the world basketball championships in Sapporo in this August 19, 2006 file photo. James said Thursday he is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join forces with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the Miami Heat next season in the hope of winning an elusive NBA championship.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson   (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Will Dwyane Wade and LeBron James be able to co-exist in Miami?

LeBron. Wade. Bosh. Three superstars, one basketball.

Can they make it work? That’s one question (out of dozens) facing the newly minted super-troika in Miami. Supporters scoff at the question itself, pointing to the Lakers and Celtics of the 80s and their respective Hall of Fame trios.

Too bad there’s no similarity other than the idea of a star-studded threesome leading a team to the promised land. You can’t compare store-bought with home-grown. You can only point out how painfully different they are.

The Showtime Lakers featured Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the mid-eighties. Their counterpart Celtics boasted Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. While the names and games are impressive in and of themselves, their origins are important to remember. Abdul-Jabbar was the only player of the six to not be drafted by his respective team of the 80s. The others were selected at different points, integrated into the system gradually one piece at a time.

If you’re not old enough to remember, you need to know something else – as teammates, those players complemented each other perfectly. Kareem posted in the half-court, Worthy flew in the fast break, and Magic directed the whole operation. McHale, Bird and Parish were all capable of and willing to move without the ball in their hands. Whether it was McHale in the post or Bird from the perimeter, the ball would always find the open man.

Put all that up against what Miami’s done. Sure, the talent is there, but it hasn’t been gradually honed or developed for optimum chemistry and cohesion. The whole operation has been slapped together with a combination of mercenary mentality and budget-straining spending. There’s little wriggle room for role-playing types like Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper and Byron Scott  that rounded out those 80s teams so well. It will stay that way while all three are earning near-max money. Read the rest of this entry →

Playing to Win Now Cost The Cleveland Cavaliers 2

Posted on July 09, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Reaction to LeBron James' decision was swift in Cleveland where some fans chose to burn his jersey.

Finally, the sideshow that has been the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes is over with the Miami Heat potentially as the big winner and the Cleveland Cavaliers (and potentially the rest of the NBA) as the big losers.

Even though the Heat currently don’t have enough players under contract to field a full roster,  on paper they quickly become one of the elite teams in the NBA with the addition of James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade in forming one of the best trios in NBA history.

James clearly has made this decision based on a desire to win multiple championships that will help solidify his place as one of the best players in NBA history.

However, as one of the “faces” of the NBA, James has taken a major risk that his previously pristine image will be able to withstand his first taste of being seen as a villain.

As could be expected, the reaction in Cleveland was immediate anger and a sense of betrayal. After seven seasons in which he lifted the franchise to NBA relevance for the first time in more than a decade, their hometown hero has left without producing that elusive championship.

For a city that has withstood many sports heartbreaks since last winning a title (NFL) in 1964, this is just the latest and perhaps most devastating blow.

That was illustrated immediately after James’ announcement with footage of a burning number 23 Cavaliers jersey and some bitter words from the owner of the Cavaliers. Read the rest of this entry →

It’s Official, LeBron James Has Ruined The NBA 14

Posted on July 08, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will bring smiles to Miami, but frowns around the rest of the NBA.

LeBron James has gone over to the dark side.

In hindsight, those who said he had already left Cleveland in his heart by the last game of the semis against Boston were probably right. It seems he had already left. Perhaps he hadn’t chosen his new destination– hence the hyped courtship process he created– but it appears that he’s known where he wouldn’t be playing for several weeks.

Don’t believe what he said on ESPN, how hard it was to leave, how loyal he is. Those are the words of spin doctors. Spoon fed to him, no doubt, to try and soften the blow back in the Mistake by the Lake. To keep him from having to send for his things because it’s too dangerous to set foot back in Northeast Ohio.

I don’t care what anyone says. There are some things that are worth more than money and there are some things that are even worth more than championships. There are certainly things that are worth more than championships won by a team full of ringers. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

      Read more »

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