Why LeBron James is the Most Polarizing Superstar In NBA History

Why LeBron James is the Most Polarizing Superstar in NBA History

Photo Courtesy of NBA.com

It’s official. “The Decision, Part II” has passed though the wire, this time through the print medium. The biggest free agent in NBA history summed it up in three simple words: “I’m coming home.” Cleveland’s favorite son is returning to his roots. The return wasn’t exactly predestined, but the allure of a potential roster consisting of himself, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Dion Waiters and Andrew Wiggins was too enticing for James. Who could blame him? The King now has a court that is potentially even stronger than Miami’s.

The backlash and reverberations in Miami have already begun. First off, the Cleveland Cavaliers are relevant again, and have subsequently gained millions of new fans. One man alone has turned a low-end sports city into a top-ten market, and the new “witness the forgiveness” shirts are already in production. Fans have developed short-term memory loss about “the decision” and a few PR moves have non-verbally mended the fence between James and owner Dan Gilbert.

On the contrary, Heat fans aren’t burning their number 6 jerseys in effigy yet, but already have a symbolic depiction of how James literally defaced the franchise by covering up his face on a mural of the Heat roster that took years to make.

In wake of the news, the Twitter-verse exploded with an amalgam of memes and vehement diatribes, which shows that some angry Heat fans may have caught some retrograde amnesia regarding the two championship banners hanging in the raptors of American Airlines Arena. The move makes it look like James used the Heat to ensure he would win his first title, and then return to Cleveland. He confirmed this theory in his statements released on SI.com.

“I always believed I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when,” James said. The quote hinted that James used the Heat as a vacation spot, get his bling and make a hero’s return. However, fans welcomed him with open arms as if he never left.

James subliminally created a new genre of superstardom with his volatility, and that isn’t exactly a good thing. He carried the “bad guy” tag ever since he took his talents to south beach. James turned face with the move, and for the first time in his young career, he was the antagonist in 29 of the 30 NBA arenas.

His self-indulgent publicity move turned himself and the rest of his teammates into the most divisive team in that decade, even though it only just begun. His haters often cherry-picked on his failures in his first year in Miami, and after their crushing loss in the NBA finals, fans had much more to demean James about than his hairline.

James is scrutinized so heavily because with his skillset and pure ability are second-to none when compared to NBA greats. The association has never witnessed a player like James in its entire history. If Dr. James Naismith ever were to mold a perfect basketball player, it would be James, who is built like a Hummer, but runs like a Ferrari.

Despite five NBA finals appearances, two championships, four MVP trophies and two finals MVP’s, James somehow finds himself in the critic’s crosshairs every year. Despite his accomplishments, I have never seen someone take more condemnation than James this past season, which was the year after he won back-to-back championships nontheless.

The Jordan comparisons may be the pressure point that damages James mental stability. Who could blame him; holding the title “the chosen one” comes with a lot more pressure than many realize. However, James doesn’t even fit into the parameters of a player of Jordan’s stature.

He didn’t exactly embrace the label, and didn’t really ignore it either. He forgot that as the poster boy of your sport, you are in the sights of the press and paparazzi 24/7. The postgame press conference after the 2011 NBA finals loss was where his tolerance for inflammatory probes got the best of him.

The comparison is a heavy burden to carry, but in a sport like the NBA, a substantial emphasis is placed on individual achievements. That is the nature of the NBA. There is no other sport in the world that is boiled down so succinctly to one-on-one play. The weight of that label proved too much for James.

Unlike Jordan, James is a passive-aggressive player who lets his game talk. Sure Jordan made a living off of his talking, but he backed it up. James faces evisceration from media outlets based off of his potential alone. Many think he defers to his teammates and does not trust himself enough under two minutes. James somehow disappears during the closing seconds of games, and seems to lack trust in himself in the moments that make players legendary.

His most infamous stunt is when he suffered from somatization in his legs during the climax of game 1 of the 2014 NBA finals. Yes, I know about heat exhaustion and the effect it has on the leg muscles, but everyone else in that arena was sweating profusely. Maybe LeBron should have tried some of the Powerade he is paid millions of dollars in endorsements to use. Gatorade certainly thought they could have remedied his hindering limbs.

Jordan may have missed his fair share of late-game shots, but at least he attempted them. Wayne Gretzky famously said you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, right?

Jordan also wins in the competitive category as well. Losing precipitated an unfathomable pain for him, which pushed him harder than ever to take the reins and avoid that feeling as often as possible. Even nearing the age of 50, Jordan never backed down from a challenge. A prime example of this is when then-high school hotshot OJ Mayo challenged him to a game of one-on-one. Jordan shut down the entire camp and made it abundantly clear to Mayo that he may be the best high school player in the country, but he is “the greatest that ever lived.” Jordan is the paradigm of pure competitive embodiment, and will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise.

The ultimate deciding factor here is his off the court actions. Jordan spent his off-the court TV time in inspirational ads, while James spends a majority of his time on TMZ/Twitter blogosphere. I know James plays in a different era with the internet and social media, but his actions are still a personal choice.

James has also developed a habit of flip-flopping. As of now, he has jumped ship for the second time in five years to a team more conducive towards winning a championship. This is antithetical behavior of Jordan. He encountered his fair share of struggles early in his career, but he never fled to a more talented team as a shortcut to winning.

As the best player in the league, you don’t go join other players, other players come join you. The best player in the league should be a leader, and a leader doesn’t go flee to another team for the sake of winning an NBA title. That is the definition of a follower. Granted, James played for the Cavaliers before, but this year’s team is much more promising in comparison to the team he left in the summer of 2010.

LeBron James uses a very unconventional approach to success, and in turn, is the antichrist of the NBA, and possibly the sporting world as a whole. The Jordan comparisons only worsen the situation.

The Crown Jewel of the NBA is home, and it looks like he is there to stay. Time to break out your charcoal-covered number 23 jerseys. In order to avoid the pending disappointment of not living up to MJ’s success, LBJ must write his own hall of fame story. Instead of trying to be the next Jordan, he should become the first LeBron.

 

A Look at the Catch-22 That is Modern NBA Free Agency

A Look at the Catch-22 That is Modern NBA Free Agency

Issac Baldizon-Getty Images

The morass that we call NBA free agency has taken some stark changing curves over the past half-decade. Instead of building from the bottom up, NBA franchises find a loophole to the Davey O’Brien trophy by congregating in a top market with other superstars to create “super teams”. To supplement this money scheme, free agents take a short hiatus from making any decision and feed the flames of the media revenue by a series of circular bush-beatings and empty, oblique answers to reporters. It is as if these prominent sports networks take a page out of TMZ’s book and make a usually meaningless update seem like front page news.

This year’s free agent signing period is no anomaly; it has more seismic changes than people think. With two of the top players in the league hitting the market, it is the most heralded free agent class since 2010, which explains the meticulous wall-to-wall coverage by the media. Knicks fans are anxious about possibly tossing their Carmelo jerseys away, while Cavalier fans may want to fish their burned LeBron James jerseys out of the compost pile.

The “super team” phenomena began in the 2007 offseason, when the Boston Celtics coined the first “big three” when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen took subsidiary roles and pay cuts to join Paul Pierce and win a championship.

Initially, the players received praise for their sacrifice. Lowering your scoring average and salary in order to win a title was a selfless move back then. After the move led them to a championship that year, it opened the floodgates to a new era of basketball. Pending free agents would plan on creating their own “big three” in a city of their choosing. Now with the allure of a super-team on the horizon, organizations make sacrifices to their roster and budgets by vacating room for a group of players that may never even walk out of their own home tunnel.

Money is still the hidden variable in what directs the flow of the bidding war. Not many NBA players will want to live off of a base rookie salary when they can make more money somewhere else. That’s just the standard sovereignty in all professional sports. The only problem here is that some players try to unnecessarily expand their already sumptuous salary. Certain players make more through endorsements and commercials than their own base earnings. As of June 14, Forbes.com reports that LeBron James makes 53 million dollars a year off of endorsements alone, while his salary is only 17 million a year. That is a combined 72 million per calendar year.

Unfortunately, in this age, players who want a new set of walls to look at end up in a perpetual double-standard that has diluted the portrait of an NBA star. Before the Celtics’ 2007 offseason, personally lowering your price tag was considered unselfish. Now if a superstar takes a pay cut, the presumption that pops up is that he is creating room for other stars to join him and create a super-team overnight. In summation, a superstar can either take one for the team, or be labeled as an impatient glutton.

To combat this, the front offices and NBA itself have taken immediate forceful action to thwart this new trend. Owners place their players in the prisoner’s dilemma, where they can sacrifice a portion of their wealth for the better, or they can depart for a new home, leaving both sides with nothing. Former commissioner David Stern took the market into his own hands to maintain parity back in 2011 when he declared a trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers dead. Don’t get me wrong, it was an unwarranted abuse of power that backfired, and made a parody of parity. The move suppressed the iconic power of one of the NBA’s brightest stars from being absorbed in one of the league’s biggest markets. His actions were scorned heavily, but conducting the veto was a necessity to halt trades that conflate superstar-laden teams.

However, as controversial as it was, it was a necessary executive decision. The NBA needs to maintain an equitable distribution of assets to each of its franchises. This helps smaller markets grow, which will increase revenue. The move may have made Lakers fans foam at the mouth, since Paul ended up joining the backseat Los Angeles franchise at the time, but it was paramount in order to send a subtle message that the NBA is on to the scheme that its players are pulling.

To thwart it in the future, the owners themselves should take the matters into their own hands. I’m not saying they run their business off of some anarcho-capitalist principle and take the rules into their own hands. They should however, be willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to achieve their ultimate goal that maintains their job security: winning. It may cost some investments, but didn’t Platus say that you have to spend money to make money?

The players are culprits in this as well. Most NBA players are in solid gentry, but their worth alone makes them request more than the team really can afford. There is a bright-line distinction between rich and wealthy, and a majority of professional athletes as a whole are meters beyond that mark. They ask for a raise from their bosses for one reason: because they can.

The NBA is player-driven, and their opulent, narcissistic players are never satisfied as long as someone is making more. It is a never ending swirl of greed and pretentious status-symbol seeking. I don’t care what you are feeding your kids, Latrell Sprewell. A professional athlete should be able to subsist off of an eight figure salary, unless of course, your name is Allen Iverson, go figure.

NBA players discard their loyalty to their towns and look for way to flaunt their wealth through sumptuous and uneconomical methods. This is a common denominator in the NBA business model, which is why league rosters fluctuate every year. Biggie Smalls said it best: more money more problems.

As long as NBA players look to create a poor man’s “dream team,” NBA free agents will continually find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Dancer Dimes: Gabrielle – Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders

Photo Credit: NBA.com/hawks (Nathan Bolster)

Photo Credit: NBA.com/hawks (Nathan Bolster)

The Atlanta Hawks Cheerleaders recently named their 28-dancer roster for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Gabrielle, a returning Hawks dancer, is one those selections. She also recently celebrated a birthday. Check out the rest of the cheerleaders here.

Twitter: @Gabrielle_Lexa

Twitter: @ATLHawksCheer

Rumors and Lies: Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers

Carmelo Anthony

Rumors and sources dominate what you may consider sports journalism today. Regardless of whether these published articles are true or not, we’ll never know what’s going on through an athlete’s mind until it comes right out of the horse’s mouth.

A recent SBNation.com piece claims the Lakers are the true headrunners for Carmelo Anthony, citing a credible journalist in Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. The article states that Melo is likely to head to the Lakers for a four-year contract worth $97 million. If these ramblings were to become concrete, the Lakers would find themselves back alive in the West after suffering the worst record in franchise history last season.

Lets have fun with that idea for a bit. Anthony rocking the purple and gold, alongside future HOF, Kobe Bryant.

Even sexier rumors have it that the two superstars played a pickup game with Kevin Love today at an UCLA gym on campus. Kevin Love is another hot topic for the rumor mill, but let’s continue our focus on Anthony, and how he’ll affect the Lakers if things were to work out.

Lakerland is searching for answers after having Jodie Meeks lead their squad in points and minutes played this past season (Meeks went on to sign a bogus $19 million contract over the summer after that stint). With Kobe returning for the ’14-15 season after an absent year hampered by knee issues, the Laker fans have a reason to wake up for what’s next.

Sources say that Pau Gasol has already met with the Miami Heat, opening to another door in the front court with his possible departure, while also giving Anthony more space to mess around with since he can easily slide into the four-spot whenever he desires. Melo charted 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds last season for the Knicks, with a 45 FG percentage.

His decision to come to the Lakers is more than monumental for the franchise, but with the hundreds of stories published every hour, it’s best to wait until signings are official.

Free Agency Frenzy: Plenty of Deals Already

While the big names haven’t made their decisions just yet, many key NBA free agents have already agreed to deals—verbally—through three days of negotiations. Here are some of the top signings and rumors thus far in free agency.

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig (AP Photo)

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig (AP Photo)

LeBron James – The King’s free agency tour is much different than his 2010 spectacle. While he hasn’t visited any teams so far, news recently broke  that James’agent has spoken with a number of viable candidates for the superstar’s rights—Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns. The Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are also rumored to be interested.

Carmelo Anthony – Following Anthony’s meeting with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, he met with the Mavericks, Rockets and Lakers on Thursday. The Lakers have reportedly offered Anthony a max deal, but the Knicks can offer more money over one more year. New York has a meeting set with Anthony for Thursday as well, and he’ll have a $129 million contract to weigh.

Dirk Nowitzki – The Mavericks have signed the face of their franchise to a new three-year deal. The numbers of the deal allow Dallas to target another top free agent in the market, presumably Anthony. The Numbers: 3-year deal worth 30$ million.

Kyle Lowry - One of Miami’s top targets in free agency, Lowry ultimately decided to stay in Toronto after posting 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game in 2014. The Numbers: 4-year deal worth $48 million.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - It seemed as if Wade’s opt-out, along with Chris Bosh’s, paved the way for Miami to make a deal for the Big Three coming back. After it was reported that Wade and Bosh would take a big pay cut, then hearing those numbers may not be right, the two are now puzzled what James’ future holds.

Pau Gasol – The Heat are very interested in Gasol, and will meet with the free agent in L.A. in attempt to lure him away from other potential suitors. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Knicks and Mavs are also interested.

Avery Bradley – The Celtics overpaid for Bradley’s services, but if he was their main target in free agency, Boston made it difficult for him to say no. He’ll be in green and white for four more years. The Numbers: 4-year deal worth $32 million.

Gordon Hayward – It looks as if Hayward may get a max offer from Cleveland. Interesting to see the Cavs pursue Hayward at this stage after re-signing Kyrie Irving and planning a pitch to LeBron.

Marcin Gortat – After cracking the playoffs this past season, the Washington Wizards wasted no time in securing their top big man on Tuesday. The Heat were also interested in Gortat. The Numbers: 5-year deal worth 50$ million.