I really wanted to have some drama on tonight's LeBron infomercial. I was holding out that Team LeBron wouldn't leak where he was going -- that was naive.
With plenty of worried caveats (ha: as if there is a penalty for being wrong when making predictions in the sports media industry), LeBron is going to the Heat.
There are a couple ways to look at this:
One -- highlighted in today's SN column -- is that it is ground-breaking in NBA history for an uber-star in his prime to willingingly team up with another uber-star.* This fits with LeBron's exceptionalist view of himself.
The other is that it is a cop-out. That it destroys competitiveness in the NBA. That it spits on the league's legacy of star rivalries. (This is not a bad argument, and Joey makes an impassioned plea.)
I don't buy the cop-out argument. For starters, I am not convinced that LeBron teaming with Wade (and Bosh) automatically means he wins an NBA title, let alone multiple titles.
Let's look at the next five years: Next year, the Lakers will still be clearly better. In the 2-3 years after that, the Heat still have no solution for Dwight Howard. In Year 5, Kevin Durant and the Thunder are destroying people. And that's if the Heat suffer no major injuries AND figure out how to use what little cap room they have left to build a championship supporting cast.
I think there is a perfectly fine chance that LeBron on the Heat with Wade doesn't win squat. Here's a twist: Even if they do win a title, the response will be a combination of "Well, they SHOULD have" and "One? Is that all?" They have lost the expectations battle before anything even starts.
And that takes us to the next implication: This whole story has been wonderful, obsessive fun. But starting tonight/tomorrow, the reality will hit that LeBron is the NBA's villain. Cleveland fans will hate him. The rest of the NBA will hate LeBron's team. They'll watch, but they'll hate.
For the sake of today's drama, it would be nice if LeBron flipped on the media and went with the Cavs or Knicks. For the long term, any of the three options -- Heat, Cavs, Knicks -- are insufferable in their own ways.
Personally, I find the Heat option to be the most intriguing -- because it is unprecedented and because of the opportunity for epic schadenfreude in the event they don't win any rings.
Otherwise, all we can root for is that things change dramatically in the next 12 hours. It could all be a set-up for the "change-of-heart" meme (Cleveland) or "bright lights, big city" meme (NYC).
Complete SN column here.
* - I don't count Shaq leaving the Magic to join the Lakers with Kobe, because this was way before Kobe hit his prime. And I don't count KG and Ray Allen going to the Celtics, because those were trades, rather than straight-up free agency.