LeBron James’ one-hour special “The Decision” was like a black hole, sucking all integrity out of anyone around it. First of all, LeBron’s announcement itself was disturbing. He clearly showed that he is an attention whore and loves having all eyes on him. But can we really blame him for that? This is what happens when an 18-year-old kid is handed everything on a silver platter.
The Cavaliers bent to every whim LeBron had from the first day he arrived. He was crowned “King James” while he was still in high school, the Cavs made him out to be the savior of their entire franchise, and they lumped as many benefits on him as they could find. They hired members of his entourage who needed jobs and allowed his family members to fly on the team jet. There is a reason why parenting books tell you not to give your children whatever they want; it spoils them. The concept is the same here. LeBron got everything he ever asked for, so he was trained to think almost solely about himself.
The media hasn’t been any better. They had just as much to do with LeBron’s oversized ego as the Cavs’ ownership, and their trespasses go back just as far. They started hyping him while he was still in high school and nationally televised several of his games, making him a household name mere weeks after he could legally see his first rated-R movie. He was praised for showing off his athleticism and making opponents look like fools, teaching him a “me first” mentality from the get go. Then we flash forward to last night, when ESPN willingly allowed itself to be commandeered for an hour just so LeBron could make his announcement. In psychiatrists’ terms, they were enablers. They provided LeBron with an outlet to speak whenever he wanted it, and the sports world seemed to come to a complete standstill once he had something to say.
And then Dan Gilbert came along and made all of that pale in comparison to the most harshly-worded lambasting I’ve ever seen. What’s weird is I can’t entirely disagree with the words Gilbert used; words like “selfish” and “narcissistic.” But the fact that the owner of a professional franchise publicly disseminated such comments defies logic and suddenly makes the Cavs look just as bad as LeBron. People across the country already recognized the fact that LeBron was turning his back on his hometown team. They already realized he was backing down and taking the easy way out, joining a team of superstars instead of trying to carry a team to a championship. Everybody was already on his side, but then his letter made everyone realize there really isn’t any side to take.
Not only did he completely destroy the public support he would have otherwise gotten, he may have damaged the Cavaliers for years to come. Publicly ripping a player that was the face of your franchise for seven years will make players think twice about joining in the future. His guarantee (written in ALL CAPS, no less) that the Cavs will win an NBA Championship before LeBron is not only stupid, it puts far too much pressure on new coach Byron Scott and his players. LeBron leaving should have freed them from all expectations, but now Gilbert has put them right back.
This public spat is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen becuase I actually agree with things both sides have said, but the way in which the statements were presented were so wrong they make my head spin. Gilbert’s assessment of LeBron’s one-hour special was actually pretty accurate, but to attack him personally went way too far. After all, LeBron put the Cavaliers on the map and kept them there for seven years.
Even if he felt betrayed, Gilbert should have thanked LeBron for his time in Cleveland and wished him well in the future. We all would have known he was full of it, but we would forget about it and move on. Instead, he threw fuel on the fire and essentially made it impossible for LeBron and the city of Cleveland to ever be on good terms again. And really, that’s just sad.