I waste a lot of time on Reddit shoveling through tired memes and reposted questions. But occasionally I will stumble upon a worthwhile piece of content. This comment from /u/Arthur_Dayne made me reevaluate my opinion on LeBron James:
LeBron has never gotten the adulation from Miami that he has from Cleveland, and why would he? Sure, he delivered two titles, but in Miami, LeBron’s just a piece of a well-oiled championship machine. In Cleveland, he was a savior. He fell from heaven into our lap. The stars aligned for us to get the boy grown down the road in Akron. He was the messiah. We were all witnesses.
Let’s be honest – Michael Jordan has never inspired the fanaticism that LeBron James managed to inspire in Cleveland. Kids wanted to “be Like Mike”. Michael Jordan was an icon and a brand. LeBron James was a religion.
The big one kept eluding him. It was fine. We’d get it in the end. We only wanted one. That’s the funny thing – LeBron went to South Beach and it was clear that he’d wanted to win multiple championships — to be Like Mike. Cleveland had only wanted him to win one.
And then… The Decision…
It’s now been 50 years since Cleveland’s won a professional sports championship. 50 Years. It’s been four years since the Decision. I recognized then – and I recognize now – that the decision LeBron James made was a great decision for him personally and professionally: he won his championships, he upgraded his help, and he got to live in Miami which is a great city from everything I’ve heard.
But that’s what makes it hurt so bad: LeBron left not because he was afraid, not because he was weak, and not because he was unhappy.
He left because Miami was a better team, a better fit, and a better location than Cleveland.
All Cleveland had to offer was worship and unconditional love. And in the end, that wasn’t worth as much to him as we thought. That’s what hurt the most.
The Cavaliers may be struggling at the moment, but LeBron’s return to Cleveland still makes sense. He has a chance at being the greatest player of all time, but LeBron will never have the most championships. Bill Russell’s eleven is an untouchable number in the modern era. Even Michael Jordan’s six seems out of reach, although LeBron believed that feat was possible when he came to Miami.
The Heat then proceeded to have one of the greatest four year stretches in league history but still walked away with only two championships:
2010-2011: The Big Three take time to build chemistry but are eventually able to pull together and make the NBA Finals. However, Dirk Nowitzki has a dominating athletic performance, and his teammates step up at the right times, ensuring the Mavs win the series 4-2.
2011-2012: This was the Heat’s most successful season, but Miami still faced two elimination games in the Easter Conference Finals against the Celtics. And while they beat the Thunder 4-1 in the Finals, LeBron must have believed Oklahoma City was going to improve over the next few years, not knowing James Harden would be traded to the Rockets during the offseason.
2012-2013: The Heat were saved by Ray Allen’s Game 6 3-pointer against the Spurs. No championship team has ever come closer to losing their title.
2013-2014: In a rematch against the Spurs, this time Miami is destroyed. LeBron sees that the Heat are getting older, and the team will not improve.
Despite all of his talent and the spectacular team built around him, LeBron could have walked away from Miami with zero titles if events had occurred a little differently in 2012 and 2013. He is not getting another four rings.
But fortunately for LeBron, not all titles are equal. The Rockets’ two championships have asterisks next to them because they happened during Michael Jordan’s first retirement. Boston’s 2008 title, their first in over two decades, was more important than their 1963 one, which was Bill Russell and Red Auerbach’s sixth.
Right now there are two possible championships that would mean the most: 1) the New York Knicks winning their first title in over four decades and 2) the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their first championship ever. /u/Arthur_Dayne is right. Cleveland only needs one title, and LeBron can bring that to his hometown.
Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, and Bill Russell are some of the greatest athletes ever, but is it just a coincidence that they worked with Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson, and Red Auerbach, some of the greatest coaches ever? Maybe those coaches are overrated. Maybe those players are overrated. Or maybe top players can create great situations around them, but the requirement to do so is to pick the team with the best opportunities and ignore your hometown ties.
LeBron did so in Miami but has now rejected that deal. Cleveland may have been a better opportunity than Miami at the time of his second decision, but the Cavs are hardly ideal. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have never taken their franchises to the playoffs. Cleveland has had little to no success with coaching or general managing.
But LeBron ignored the problems and risks because he knows that legacy is written in stories, not numbers. Wilt Chamberlain has The Hundred Point Game. Jordan has The Shot and The Flu Game. LeBron has The Decision and hopefully one day The Redemption.