LeBron’s decision about more than hoops

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 11, 2010

Everything about the LeBron James saga has created a strange dichotomy that has drastically impacted Ohio, the basketball world and our society’s perception of its celebrities.

At first glance it appears each facet has distinct and separate viewpoints, but that actually isn’t true.

This is an NBA basketball story. Or is it something that transcends sports?

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Is this a perfect example of an athlete having no loyalty and being a mercenary for hire or is this is a testament to a player putting winning over money?

Is LeBron a villain? Or is he a hero for following his heart?

In reality, it isn’t nearly as clearcut as it seems, with the truth being somewhere in the middle.

Is this purely a basketball story that non-fans shouldn’t care about? Yes and no.

It is about basketball but it goes beyond that into realms of things like economic impact. On the court, LeBron James made a huge impact, leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance and back-to-back 60 win seasons. He almost singlehandedly made the team a contender each year.

Off the court, he had a huge impact as well, injecting economic life into a franchise and an entire city. According to analysis by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, LeBron leaving will have an economic hit on the city and the region of nearly $200 million. The value of the Cavs is projected to drop by about $100 million a year.

This shows that LeBron James, while certainly over-hyped by the media, is about more than just hoops.

Is James a mercenary or was winning the truly most important thing for him?

You could say he didn’t show the team loyalty but that would be disregarding the business side of an industry where there really isn’t loyalty.

Teams cut coaches, players and staff all the time once the performance drops off. Often, these are individuals who have given their heart and soul to the team for years. Where is the loyalty there?

James left about $15 million on the table to go to Miami. Many players say that it “isn’t about the money” but James showed that it really wasn’t. In his mind, Miami gave him the best chance to win a championship. Isn’t that what players are supposed to play for? Right or wrong, at least he tried to do what he felt was correct.

Is he a villain or a hero? Right now, that likely depends on where you ask.

He isn’t nearly as villanous as Dan Gilbert, Cavs owner, would have everyone believe in the letter he wrote hours after the announcement. This was a classless thing to do that was classic sour grapes. Gilbert loved him enough to offer him more than $100 million a few hours before.

But James certainly could have been more cognizant of what this spectacle was going to do to the franchise and the fans. He basically ripped an entire city’s heart out with millions of people watching.

Is he a hero? I don’t think so, but not because he went to Miami.

The bottom line is that he is an athlete and we shouldn’t place such reverence on them in the first place.

So, if James is truly a monster, it is only because our society has allowed him to get that way.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.