Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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And Now We Can Go Back To Appreciating LeBron the Basketball Player

An otherwise dull sports day will now be remembered forever after the news that a superstar is coming home. No, I’m not talking about Luis Suarez’s transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona, the home of his wife’s family. Frankly, I can’t be bothered to care too much about the carnivorous forward during his four month suspension. I’m talking about LeBron James, the best basketball player on the face of the earth, and his decision to return to Cleveland.

In a nicely written article posted on Sports Illustrated earlier today, LeBron James announced that he was returning home to his roots, signing a max deal with the Cavaliers. In one instant, the outlook of an entire city changed completely. Cleveland suddenly forgot about their history of sporting letdowns, and were able to celebrate the homecoming of the century. If only ashes could be turned back into jerseys.

What made this day great was that LeBron did not have another “Decision.” He didn’t even title his article in Sports Illustrated “The Return.” He learned from his mistake this go around, and tried to make this news as much about the city of Cleveland as it was about himself. The tone of his article was also a lot less self-centered. Instead of talking about what was best for him, he talked about what was best for all the kids in Cleveland that would be growing up in the coming years. This was a much more mature way to announce the huge news, even if a big event to announce this would have made many Cavaliers fans happy in the end.

Basketball wise, LeBron has a lot of work to do to make the Cavaliers a contender again. Even if a trade is made for Kevin Love, there isn’t much in the way of depth on the team – they weren’t particularly close to the postseason last season, after all. They are hugely inexperienced in the playoffs, including their new coach David Blatt, and while Kyrie Irving may be a superstar in a year or two, he’s not quite there now. It isn’t like LeBron is joining another dream team. However, LeBron’s arrival does bring that championship or bust mentality to the team. The expectations will be huge, but if anyone is equipped to deal with that now, it’s Mr. James.

As a fan of basketball, this could not be better news. Having a star choose his small-market hometown team over the allure of Los Angeles and Miami will be good for the game, restoring parity to a league that was losing much of the equality it was establishing. It’ll also be much nice to see real sports fans get to appreciate LeBron rather than those in Miami. And won’t it be much more bearable to watch LeBron lead his Cavaliers to a title than it would have been had he won 4 or 5 with the Heat? In addition to Cleveland residents, all NBA fans are winners today.

I’m not ready to forgive LeBron entirely for “The Decision” as a basketball fan and human being. However, while I’ll never forget that hour of television, I can put those feelings aside now, focusing on the basketball player we are all so lucky to watch. He did everything right this time, and for that, he deserves our respect. LeBron’s decision to be the better man and accept whatever apology Dan Gilbert offered for his letter says a lot about his increased maturity level.

LeBron shouldn’t suddenly become revered for his character on account of today’s news, but hopefully the image of him as a villain will disappear. Being able to watch LeBron without vehemently rooting against him will be nice for a change. I applaud him for his decision today, and now we wait for all of the other NBA dominoes to fall. This should be an exciting year in the NBA.


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You Deserve This, Duncan

This will be brief. But I would be remiss not to congratulate the San Antonio Spurs on their NBA Championship. After Game 7 last year, I did not expect this team to have another playoff run in them. But as I should have learned long ago, never underestimate Greg Popovich or Tim Duncan. Those two are beyond incredible. If everyone else in the NBA developed players like the Spurs, the quality of basketball in the NBA would go up tenfold. This championship by the Spurs has proved that the old style of developing talent still works in the NBA. You don’t have to bring superstars together in free agency. It gives hope to teams around the league that even if your city isn’t a destination city, you still can win a championship.

I hope discussion in the coming days on ESPN focuses more on the Spurs than on the Heat, but it will be inevitable that LeBron will still draw the headlines. LeBron was good this series, but not good enough to beat this Spurs team alone. And unfortunately for the Heat, that was what it felt like at times. When the Spurs were bringing in endless energy and scoring off their bench, LeBron was left looking at Michael Beasley as his savior off the bench in the fourth quarter of Game 5. He simply didn’t have the supporting cast this year that he’s had in years past.

I’d like to see LeBron opt out of his contract for his own sake. Wasting another year of his prime in Miami would be a shame. Wouldn’t it be exciting if we could go back three years and see LeBron play with a dynamic, athletic supporting cast again? I want to see LeBron get another shot with a younger team. As his career goes on, he will rue not playing with younger talent if he stays in Miami. If he does stay, the Heat will need to find a way to sign younger players instead of veterans to fill their remaining roster spots. At some point, the Big 3 become the veterans with championship pedigree, and they won’t need anyone else in the locker room to show the rookies what the playoffs are about.

Lastly, I want to say how happy I am for Tim Duncan to win another championship. That man is the consummate professional. He is the player that high schoolers need to emulate rather than the LeBron’s or the Carmelo’s. I hope Duncan gets the credit he deserves over the next few years as he moves closer to retirement for being an all-time great. For he is one of the game’s true superstars. As he gradually passes the torch, he has turned the Spurs organization into one of the best in all of sport. That the Spurs gave hugs to the Heat before celebrating shows how classy this organization and this group of players are. They deserve this championship. Congratulations.

What were your thoughts on the Finals? Are you happy with the outcome?