If you’re a sports fan in South Florida, you probably think LeBron James and the Miami Heat are the best things since sliced bread. If you’re a sports fan anywhere else, you probably hate them just about as much as non-New Yorkers hate the Yankees. LeBron’s recent decision to leave his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, has resulted in bitter backlash against perhaps the biggest name in the NBA. After the announcement was made, Cavs fans set fire to LeBron’s jersey and threw rocks at his ten-story billboard…and it’s only gotten worse from there. This is a drastic change in public opinion. Since entering the NBA as the No. 1 draft pick in 2003, LeBron has consistently been widely admired not only for his athletic abilities and accomplishments, but also for his character and the manner in which he conducts himself. If you know anything about the NBA, this certainly can’t be said for a lot of the other players in the league.
Since I am a sports fan in South Florida, I am happy to see LeBron join the Miami Heat. But as much as I would love to see Lebron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh bring a NBA championship back to Miami, I have other reasons for supporting LeBron and his decision to leave Cleveland. Why? Because it was a carefully calculated business decision. Nothing more. Nothing less. According to LeBron, the Heat made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, saying he believed leaving the Cavs was the only way he could fulfill his dream of winning a championship. He actually walked away from $30 million by NOT signing with the Cavs. How can you fault him for that?!
Many people – Cleveland residents, Cavs fans and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in particular – are making it personal and accusing LeBron of deserting them. (Gilbert was actually fined $100,000 by NBA Commissioner David Stern for the rude and inappropriate comments he made about LeBron in an open letter on the team’s website.) Overnight, it seems that the Miami Heat has become the most hated team in the league thanks to LeBron. That’s ludicrous. Why on earth would LeBron choose to leave his hometown team if not for sound business reasons? Wouldn’t it have been easier (and perhaps more lucrative and personally fulfilling) for him to stay put in Cleveland? In LeBron’s own words, “At the end of the day, I feel awful. I feel even worse that I wasn’t able to bring an NBA championship to [Cleveland.] I never wanted to leave Cleveland. My heart will always be around that area.” Doesn’t sound like a guy who’s trying to be an inconsiderate jerk to me – quite the opposite in fact.
Do I agree with LeBron’s decision to announce his decision in an hour-long national ESPN special? (He actually used the program to raise money for the woefully underfunded Boys and Girls Clubs of America.) Perhaps in hindsight that wasn’t the right move. It did come off as a bit insensitive and self-serving, especially considering how devastating the announcement was to the Cavs and the city of Cleveland. But does that mean it was the wrong decision? Absolutely not. LeBron put in seven years with the Cavs. He brought innumerable dollars and joy to the city itself during that time. How can you have anything but the upmost respect and admiration for someone like that, both from a professional AND personal standpoint??
So, welcome to Miami, LeBron. I’m looking forward to seeing great things from you in the future, not the least of which is a championship. Just remember that the reason the Yankees are so hated is because they are the undisputed leaders of MLB and have been for years. Apply the same logic to your arrival in Miami, and it suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.