Not Rip Torn, the actor, but torn torn. Unsure torn. Conflicted torn.
Now that some of the dust has settled since LeBron James publicly spurned Cleveland for the oft-unfilled American Airlines Arena, I’m still not sure whether the move was a) good for the league b) good for the fans or c) one I’m looking forward to watching.
While Miami Heat fans are still sipping mojitos in celebration, the general consensus is that LeBron James is the villain, that he took the easy road out and that even if he wins several titles over the next few years, they won’t be as hard-earned as Larry’s, Magic’s or Michael’s.
Either way, his bags are packed and NBA fans are now left to decide whether to root for, or against, this team. There will be no middle ground.
Look, people. Let’s put emotions aside (unless you’re Clevelanders) and call this what it is. A professional and personal decision by an individual to advance his career… with slightly extra media attention. In what other line of work would a person who wanted to work with the best in his craft be so publicly ridiculed?
James and his new running partner, Dwyane Wade, are two of the three best players on the planet. They were un-guardable together on the Olympic Redeem Team and have the potential to become the greatest, or at least most talented, duo to ever play alongside one another. They have a long way to go before they catch Jordan/Pippen, Abdul-Jabbar/Johnson, Stockton/Malone and Frazier/Monroe so we shouldn’t crown ‘em yet, but the table has been set.
Here’s where I’m conflicted though. Am I supposed to like this or hate this?
By most accounts, the Miami Heat have become Evil Empire South. They might soon become a bandwagoner’s paradise if they haven’t already. Call him what you will. Turncoat, traitor, egotistical, title-less. LeBron James is still the greatest basketball talent on the planet. Cheering against the Heat over the next few years might be an exercise in futility. So I hate it, however….
With the signing of Mike Miller, the Heat now boast two of the most beloved Florida Gators (my alma mater) of all-time, meaning that if I choose to root AGAINST the Heat, I’ll have to start hating two players I’ve revered for years. In the 2000 national championship loss to Michigan State, Udonis Haslem went a Walton-like 10-for-12 from the floor and 7-7 from the line for 27 points. Mike Miller boasts perhaps the greatest shot in Florida basketball history, a runner that knocked off upset-poised Butler. The Don Calvino’s ribs are still recovering from me tackling him when that shot went in. As anyone who attended a major university will tell you, that allegiance weighs heavier than any professional allegiance. How can I possibly root against those guys? So I like it, but…
While there’s been an influx of young talent into the league lately, there’s no player on the horizon as freakish as either Wade or James… and now they’re teammates. With Kobe’s career (eventually) on the decline, who can pose a legitimate threat to these guys over the next several seasons? The more I think about it, the more I wonder how that backcourt can be stopped. Will the “What Will They Do Next” factor be enough to attract viewers or will fans get bored of it? So I hate it, however…
Although I cheer for the Magic, I am first and foremost an NBA fan. I want to see talent, highlights, slam dunks and execution. And we will be seeing PLENTY of that in the years to come. So I like it.
Look, I don’t begrudge these guys the opportunity to win a title (or titles) in any way they can. Heck, they took less money (what’s a few million dollars among friends?) to play together. They’ve earned that right.
It’s just that the whole thing took us all by surprise and many are still miffed that LeBron’s fairy tale ending won’t come in Cleveland. But when LeBron does eventually hoist that O’Brien Trophy, and trust me, it will happen, whether you’re happy about it or not all depends what side of the fence you’re sitting on.