Mandel’s Musings – LeBron’s Legacy Changed Forever

Published on: 9th July, 2010


wade and bosh
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New York – As a free agent in the National Basketball Association, LeBron James was entitled to make the choice to play for any team he preferred. He had the right to work anywhere for whatever amount of currency he chose to accept in exchange for his great skills on the basketball court. There’s no surprise and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is America, you know.

What does make James’ decision to join the Miami Heat triumvirate of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh so unusual, particularly in the NBA pantheon of legendary winners of the past, is how this singularly great player has chosen to pursue championships by becoming a supporting player on his new team. the Miami Heat.

Although James, in his seven years as a Cavalier, had taken Cleveland and Northeast Ohio to heights of euphoria, he ultimately fell short of bringing that struggling area the big prize, an NBA championship. His decision to leave the area where he was born and raised will now be forever viewed by Ohioans as an example of the worst kind of athlete to ever wear a Cleveland-based uniform. This morning, LeBron James is nothing more than an interloper in the eyes of this shocked, hurt, disgusted community that hasn’t had a championship in a major sport since the 1964 Cleveland Browns.

Is it fair to James that Ohioans are now burning his once-beloved #23 jersey on the streets? Of course not. James gave his body and soul every night to try to bring a championship to his hometown. But, as the self-styled “King” of the sport and the clear leader of his franchise, he wasn’t able to get it done.

Now, it’s evident James felt the Cavaliers roster didn’t give him the best chance of winning an NBA championship the way playing in Miami with Wade and Bosh might be able to. But, no matter how many championships he wins down in South Beach, his legacy in the NBA has forever and permanently been altered.

He will never, ever be “The Man” who brought Miami its title. That event has already taken place, care of James’ new teammate, Wade, who along with Shaquille O’Neal and a supporting cast of players brought Miami the big prize back in 2007.

And, that’s the thing. Wade will forever be the hero of this town and of this franchise for carrying the team on his back to its first championship. For that reason alone, the Heat is Wade’s team. Down in South Beach, Dwyane Wade is and forever will be, The Man.

James, because of last night’s choice, announced in a weirdly megalomaniacal one-hour special show on ESPN called “The Decision,” will no longer be viewed by sports fans on the same exalted status that set apart Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. These are all-time NBA greats not only because of their superior playing skills. They are the greatest of the greats because they had the mental capacity to carry their teams and the weight of the pressure to win on their own backs. Yes, they all had terrific supporting casts but when you looked at the makeup of those championship Celtics of Bird and Lakers of Johnson and Bulls of Jordan and Celtics of Russell, there was zero doubt as to why these individuals deserved legendary status. They were the leaders of their championships. They welcomed the role and thrived on it.

Could you imagine either of these NBA greats taking their talents elsewhere in search of a title? Me, neither.

“We play this game to get the opportunity to win championships,” Wade said on ESPN television last night. “I’m glad we will have a bulls-eye on our backs and people will be gunning for us. It’s what I love about competing.”

In every way Wade seems to rise to the challenge of winning championships, James appears more comfortable being just a fantastically-talented athlete who doesn’t have that extra, indescribable intangible that separates the superstar player from the legendary winner.

James tried to carry the Cavaliers on his strong back for seven years but in the end, he decided he could no longer do the heavy lifting, as The Man of his franchise. He’s a great player and from what I’ve seen over the years talking to the young man and watching him in the locker room, a great teammate. But, by his decision yesterday to join Miami, The King has abdicated his throne.

In what will surely be his new role as a supporting player in Miami while still at the peak of his skills, he has chosen his path. James can no longer be classified by the sporting public who follow these things as a legendary NBA winner who by sheer will and talent, carried his teams to championships. Like Jordan, Russell, Bird, or Magic did.

Lebron has chosen to take his work to a smaller stage than New York or Chicago. He has also chosen to become a follower on his new team, the team whose “Man” is Dwyane Wade. James, by himself lowered the LeBron “brand” from the highest of pedestals to one much lower.

He used to be the heir-apparent to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, each of whom have multiple championship rings. That status is now over, no matter how many championships he and his pals may win in South Beach.

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