Tag Archives: Miami Heat

LeBron James’ Lego® Legacy

1 Jul

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To bump the World Cup off the anchor desk teleprompter in late June, well, such a story had better be one bodacious bit of breaking news.

That’s what happened in the AM last week Tuesday. Care to guess what it was?

A beloved star’s unexpected retirement announcement? Not this time.

The sobering, sad news on the passing of a sport icon? Not that either.

Report of a celebrated sport figure having spent time in custody of local police with sketchy details on the circumstance? There were none.

Another wind-gauging politico just announced they’ve come to a belief, after giving tacit approval in silence for decades, that the NFL’s Washington franchise has a racist motif and then proceeded to board the anti-Redskins bandwagon? Nope, not last week.

Rich Sherman contacted Jon Manziel about working part-time crowd control on his front lawn, w/ Leer jet ride included, to occupy the throngs of on-lookers invited to his King County estate by the Seattle Times, so Dick can come & go peaceably? No, didn’t happen.

The big news: announcement that current Mr. NBA LeBron James had invoked the power to conclude his 6-yr. contract w/ Miami and opt for quasi-free agency (7-1), passing on the remaining 2-years of scheduled salary at $21M (avg) yearly.

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Shortly after the report, Heat general manager Pat Riley stated he, the team, expected the opt-out and welcomes the opportunity to sit down and talk with their megastar.

Back in 2010 when Cavalier James (reads like 40s pirate flick) was at a career crossroads pondering whether to stay in Cleveland or find greener pastures, I thought he’d stay put.

He didn’t, of course, and has gone on to forge a formidable legacy in Miami.

James recent opt-out, while certainly a necessary prelude to a decision to move on, is more likely a first step to re-organization of, and re-vesting in, his Miami Heat venture.

Whether he re-signs with MIA or goes elsewhere he’s likely to get much the same deal: a yearly salary upwards of $23 million, for a term of 4 to 5 seasons.

It would be surprising, at this juncture in time, if James got the happy feet again.

He’s had a tremendous run in FLA: four Finals, back-to-back O’Briens and friendships formed. That he wants more (“max?”) moolah and a re-commitment from Heat owner Micky Arison (D1: Napier), is understandable.

Teammates Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem have reportedly followed LJ’s lead and also opted out of their Miami contracts to become free agents.

One view holds that their actions are designed, not to take full advantage of free agency but rather to create a status that allows restructuring of their deals, some paid more, some less, and make money available for Heat acquisitions this off-season. Team spirit.

Lending credence to that notion may be a realization that presently, it’s not exactly a bull market where Chris & Dwyane’s services are concerned.

Wade is in fade (knee / age), as ‘14 Finals evidenced, having seen his best days, and Bosh didn’t exactly distinguish himself, either, though, not many Heat did (Spurs: 4-1). It fuels speculation on to whom DW might pass the torch, making the C. Anthony acquisition a topic of talk. Carm’s top talent but hasn’t shown same floor savvy as Wade or Nowitzki.

Bolstering belief that Miami’s “Three Amigos” will sit-tite in S. Beach is the fact that, for those with a relocation bent, pickens for top-tier teams in today’s NBA are about as slim as the toy aisle day before Christmas, whether cap friendly or purse-string pursed.

That sparsity of opulent opportunities was likely one of the topics the Miami trio jawed Wednesday when they reportedly met for chow, two trying to keep one (LJ) in fold.

Side-bar: I’ve never liked the clique in Miami, preferring Alex Dumas’ team-take, “All for one and one for all (Three Musketeers).” But it did give me an idea for a TV commercial: McDonalds® drive-thru, Wade at the wheel, LeBron special ordering and Bosh in the back-seat rolling his eyes: ‘Just order already, big guy! It’s all good.’

Irrelevancy is reversible (See; Heat), knowing that ‘some assembly is required,’ but most of those w/payroll play (PHX, PHI, UTAH, DET, CLT & ORL), lack the lustrous lure.

Dallas: That dog won’t hunt. Mark Cuban has the cap-jack but has reportedly stated his Mavericks won’t be paying top dollar for traveling men this round-up;

Midwestern fare: It’s where LeBron’s roots lay, but you can’t go home (Cavs), not until the end game, and Detroit is too close. Besides cap crunch, Bulls limbo’d on Rose and no one wants in middle of Durant – Westbrook thing, not unless ‘dude space’ opens up.

East Coast Bias: Knicks & Celtics don’t have c-space but ‘where there‘s will there‘s a way,’ sometimes. Other Clevelanders have taken to the brightly lite stage that is NYC, i.e., Steinbrenner, and easy to appreciate what Jim Dolan (MSG) is trying to achieve in Jackson’s hire (Riley – MIA), but that world is not for country LeBron, not yet, anyway.

California Dreamin: Still Earth’s top destination, but only Lakers have loot for one of the celebrity & on-court caliber of Mr. James. The Minnesota transplant has become NBA flag-ship, topping Celtics, Spurs, Bulls, Knicks and Heat. Lakers are title laden (16) and Los Angeles world’s capital of all things entertaining. Sounds like James Country.

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And what about Kobe Bryant? It’s still his team.

Could the Lakers’ legend co-exist with the NBA logo that is LeBron? He did it before w/Shaq, and appeared willing with Dwight who proved a bird of a different feather.

And with a healthy Bryant(?), James would have again that which he must: a maestro.

LeBron, like Shaq, is not a natural born leader. Physically, a tremendous talent, he relies on a multi-skilled player like Wade to set a tone, feed the flow. What Wade at times lacks in maturity off the hardwood, he seems to have an abundance of on the court.

Question on Bryant and Wade: How long does that knee, the body hold up? Wade’s fade is why Miami did not three-peat against vintage Spurs. If LeBron set up shop at Staples Center, how long could he count on the current Lakers’ superstar?

It’s a dice roll in workman’s dungarees, were James to relocate again, which brings us to maybe the best reason he doesn’t leave Miami: his family. Florida is home.

LeBron James is still in his prime, and believe it or not, there’s room to improve, i.e., embracing inside presence. That can actually bode well for whomever signs the man.

If it’s Miami he favors, content with his life and having already forged a legacy of note, the Heat remaining viable is important. And in order to nurture that winning way to which James has come accustomed, Wade’s proxy is a big step.

It’s fair to assume Arison plans to keep the party-barge afloat ($) but he may already have memories to last a life-time (See; J. Jones). Don’t count those chickens yet, Heaters.

If by some chance James makes a change, he’ll need a tough exterior and building permit (team $$) to add the structure necessary (roster) to make his new House Beautiful®.

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There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or enhance a legacy, as it were:

1) You can go the usual route: stay put, make house (team) improvements, try to bring home the accolade bacon (titles / MVP) and build your on-court legend, or;

2) Be bold and go Lego®. It’s that rare player who takes on the challenge of helping draft a blueprint to construct a crown palace in a new setting. Ruth & Jabbar did it, Favre & Gretzky tried. Owners & GMs do it, coaches can, but a player, that’s rarified air indeed.

When James NBA story is written, his most telling chapter won’t be of his on-court prowess but instead that which details LeBron’s panache for building winners.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo Credit: Bausteine von Lego / 5.28.14 / R. Roletschek / wc.gnu.fdl;  Wade & James / wc.cca / K. Allison / 3.30.11;  L. James / wc.cca / 1.15.14 / K. Allison;  Lego-cube-heights / 11.24.11 / wc.cca / Andreasstoltz

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LeBron at the Crossroads

22 Apr

 

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“From a jack tooooo a kiiiiing.” That’s LeBron Raymone James.

Country crooner Ned Miller could’ve been foretelling the odyssey of Miami’s majestic one with the title of his ‘62 crossover hit.

From highly-touted high school phenom (Akron), to celebrated draftee (#1 ‘03), erstwhile underachiever (’07), scorned defector (MIA) and MVP totting NBA champ (’12), Le. James has finally claimed the throne so many had presaged.

Though Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, two-time titlist teammate Dwyane Wade, Finals force Chris Bosh and the rest of Miami’s squad contributed nicely to the conquest (OKC) that secured King James long-awaited coronation, generously spreading the love is not how it’s done in the sporting world.

It’s all about celebrity and there is but one crown. The team gets booty ($) and medals (rings) while the Finals MVP gets a well-deserved scepter and steady-stream of adoration.

But before his Highness gets too comfy in his royal state he should be aware he faces yet another crossroad in his storied and oh-so scrutinized career.

Unlike previous junctures (college vs. NBA, Miami or Cleveland), this intersection is not of his own choosing and the landing-spots not entirely within his control.

The destinations: a little hamlet know as ‘Greatness’ (Pop. 21), and the other, a terrific town that all too rarely topped America‘s ‘Best Basketball Place’ called ‘Wilt City.’

If James can lead his Heat to a repeat feat in taking another Larry O’Brien Trophy he’ll be in the driver’s seat cruising down Legacy Lane and headed straight for Greatness.

Back-to-backs mean dynasty and that would put LeBron and his Heat teammates in select company, a rarified-air few in this current NBA have inhaled, with team president Pat Riley and a handful of current Spurs & Lakers being among the lucky.

And another title is looking better-than-fair for favored MIA, having secured PS home-court with NBA’s top tally (65-16), set 2nd longest win-streak in NBA history (27), showcasing the 2012 MVP, exude a confidence that “super-abounds” after last year’s break-through win and face a field of competition that hardly sends shivers down one’s spine.

But LeBron’s got “miles to go” before he can buy that beachfront lot in Greatness.

With just one title in tow nobody, not even LRJ, can be sure which guy will show up in these playoffs: the hard-driving, post-season MVP of 2012 or the fade-away fella who saw Dirk Nowitzki take him and his Heat to school in 2011. The precedent here’s open to interpretation (a bit murky).

These Knicks are smoother (‘12) but Celtics are a tough draw, Bulls a darkhorse and Heat top the East. In the West, Clippers seek their first Final since birth (Buffalo), Grizzlies the darkhorse and until Westbrook (and Rondo) plays to his position (OKC) and Spurs time-travel back (age), both clubs will need all the stars in alignment to reach Finals ‘13.

If the Heat by chance drop the ball these playoffs, detouring from Greatness, watch as the Wilt Chamberlain comparisons begin for LeBron in earnest.

“Stilt” was the most talented player in the history of b-ball and did not lack for toughness, but the gold standard is the ring count, an item Chamberlain conceded far too frequently to nemesis Bill Russell and the Celtics.

If the Heat do win BTBs and forge dynasty, something Wilt & Co. never did (PHI / LAL), will that put King James on the Emperor’s throne as the greatest all-time (“GAT“)? Many a writer are today preparing to make just such a claim on LRJ in anticipation.

But not this scribbler. That the Heat will hoist another O’Brien in 2013 is a pretty good guess. James going GAT? That‘s a whole ‘nother conversation.

While the NBA gold standard is measured in championship metallica, it is weighted by it’s karat-count, competition.

Neither LeBron, nor Jordan for that matter, faced Finals foes the likes of Russell, Elgin, Oscar, Wilt or West, Willis, Walton or Jabbar, Larry, Julius, Moses or prime Magic.

MVPs glitter, scoring titles carry cachet, All-Defensive teams show substance, All-Star accolades are cute costume jewelry and who you beat matters BIG time.

And the ‘BIG matters’ Heat could face this PS: Kobe & Dirk are out, Duncan, Pierce & Garnett will be present while Nash & Parker are <100%; rising stars Rose (out), Durant, Randolph, Anthony, Harden, Howard, Paul, Griffin, J. Smith, George, Deron, Westbrook, Rondo, Amar‘e, Curry and Noah have more to prove before they add to the karat count.

Might there come a day when LeBron is referred to as ‘the greatest?’ He already is in some circles. But consider that those are the same folks that when the next highly-hyped star comes down the pike they’ll be calling that guy ‘the greatest’ first chance they get.

Because of the competition-gap, because of his ‘Johnny come lately’ status in the title category (Y10) and the orchestration employed to fashion his Miami championship melody that left more than a few people miffed, it’s doubtful James will ever overtake the names Magic, Russell or Chamberlain when historians rank the best ever.

In his favor is the man’s age, still a youngish 28 (12-30). Amazing. If he avoids the serious injury bug, can cajole ownership to keep investing, stay hungry and play another ten years, those MVPs should keep coming and with no other player today under-30 who plays to his caliber, more titles should be had.

The big question: Does LeBron James even care about GAT? Maybe not. He probably needs one, maybe two more titles to feel fully validated but with all the fame, fortune and accolades he’ll have accumulated he might just decide to hang ‘em up at 35 and leave the rest to fans & media to sort out.

Whether or not LeBron James ever dons ‘greatest all-time’ regalia, there’s no doubt he’s ready to set down roots in that exclusive community know as Greatness. It’s a place fit for a king.

Steven Keys

Nothing But Net

Photo Credit: LeBron James / wc.cc / “Cesar” / 3-30-11