LeBron Shows That He's the King of His Own World
LeBron James is a grown man who made a grown-up decision. He wants to take his massive basketball playing ability from Cleveland to Miami to get the one thing every true baller desires: the opportunity to call yourself a champion.
Forget all the nonsense about him "owing" his hometown and how his legacy could have been cemented had he stayed in the Midwest and continued to try and win a title in Cleveland. LeBron had the right to pick up his things and go where he thought it was best to win, and he did it.
Enough with all of this ridiculous chatter that he's a selfish, spoiled basketball prodigy. LeBron was an employee of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had no ownership stake and no control. Everyone talks about what his presence meant to the Cleveland economy. Did he own any of those businesses? No. But he made them, and the Cavaliers, richer by his play.
There is undoubtedly a trade-off because being a star athlete is a two-way street. You become richer by virtue of folks coming to see you play, and the league, team, marketers and surrounding businesses get to piggyback off of your success. LeBron gave them a solid seven seasons, and everyone enjoyed the ride. Say thank you for the LeBron gravy train, and now like any smart business owner, you need to figure out your next revenue stream.
Now, let's deal with the fans. I read with fascination about how LeBron "owed" the fans. Really? What exactly did he owe them? We need to stop with this belief that fans in a city "own" a particular player. We get to sit back and enjoy the skills of these modern-day gladiators in our gleaming new Colosseums, while they bust their butts, play injured, and have to take all of the criticism when things go bad. As fans, we justify it all by saying, "Well, he's getting millions to play so he should shut up." We need to grow up and realize that once his playing days are over, we will say, "Thanks, LeBron, now move over so we can worship the next stud." In fact, when a particular athlete has overstayed their welcome, the fans are the loudest in telling him to leave the court.
To me, there is a huge difference between a player like LeBron James and Albert Haynesworth of the Washington Redskins. Albert has pocketed nearly $40 million and has refused to show up at training sessions with Washington because he doesn't like the defensive scheme. That is dumb.
LeBron showed up, did his part, and when his contract was up, he exercised his free will to do as he pleased and shop his talents. He did what every single American wants: to go to a new job where your desires can be fulfilled. So, how is that wrong?
No one — athlete, stockbroker, Wal-Mart greeter, grocery store clerk, secretary, journalist — wants to treated like he or she is a piece of property. We all desire the freedom that comes with making our own choices, as to where we want to work and where we want to achieve our life goals.
I can identify with that. In 1993, I decided to leave the county government reporter position at the Austin American-Statesman. The city editor sat across from me and said, "I felt like it was a punch in the gut when I was told you were leaving." He had an indignant, paternalistic tone that I found offensive.
See, I was making $24,000.
So I told the city editor, "Look, you didn't take some kid off the street, teach him how to talk, write and dress. You paid me for a service and I delivered. Now I'm choosing to take my skills elsewhere." I then got up and left the meeting.
It was offensive to me that my bosses at the paper felt like I was being an ungrateful employee. I wanted to do more with my talents and I refused to allow someone to make me feel bad about my decision. It's my life, my career and my choice. So, how is that bad?
Now, I get folks who didn't like LeBron having a one-hour special to announce his decision. But we are all used to the hype in sports. Do we really need a six-hour pre-game show for the Super Bowl? Can't we play the NBA All-Star Game without all of the side attractions? Would boxing be boxing without the wild and crazy news conferences? Hype and sports go hand in hand.
That's why I found the letter written by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert so pathetic. Here is a man who was enriched by the play of LeBron James; according to Forbes, the value of the franchise increased by $100 million with LeBron's on-court performance.
Yet instead of being a gracious owner and simply reaffirming his commitment to the fans to put a winning team on the court, Gilbert ripped LeBron to shreds — calling him "narcissistic," his decision to leave a "cowardly betrayal" and "a shameful display of selfishness."
Gilbert even went on to trash all athletes by saying, "It's time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children?"
In an interview, Gilbert later said LeBron quit on the team in the playoffs the last two years.
Really? So if he was all of that, Dan, why did you want to resign him? Who wants a quitter on his team? If LeBron had chosen to stay in Cleveland, rich boy Dan would have been all smiles, slapping his back, getting ready to count the money he could make off LeBron's back. So who would have been the real selfish, narcissistic individual, Dan? Gilbert now says it's time to speak out against LeBron, yet as long as James made him richer, he would have kept quiet. Sorry, Dan, you've pimped LeBron long enough.
LeBron showed Dan Gilbert that only LeBron owes LeBron an explanation. No owner, CEO or boss has the right to demand that someone stay as an employee. The employee has a right to live their life as they see fit.
As the CEO of LeBron James Inc., he did what's in the best of interest for him. And as the most important shareholder, isn't that what he's supposed to do?
I'm sorry, folks, but the loyalty that used to exist from teams and companies is gone. Some still believe in it, but for many of us, we're simply a dot on the spreadsheet. Business is cutthroat, and we have to accept that reality.
So King James, go to Miami and do your thing. Grow your corporation to be as big as you want it to be. Don't look back at the haters who are mad you chose not to act like a highly paid indentured servant or 21st-century slave — held in place by the invisible shackles dressed up as loyalty to a city, owing the fans, and satisfying what is clearly an ungrateful owner.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the forthcoming book "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin." Please visit his website at www.RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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