Friday, July 09, 2010

07/09 Quickie: LeBron, LeBron, LeBron

In case you missed it last night, see the post below for my own bit of Stephen A. Smith triumphalism of "I told you so" from July 6...

Oh, sorry: That would be July 6, 2006.

Otherwise, today's SN column is dominated by what might have eclipsed the Saints winning the Super Bowl as the sports story of the year: LeBron to the Heat.

Let me sum up a lot of the strands of thought I've been pulling together over the last few weeks:

*I don't begrudge LeBron his choice at all -- except to the extent he mismanaged its execution with respect to Cleveland fans, who deserved better.

*I see this as the apex of LeBron's sense of exceptionalism: That "solo star winning title" has been done -- virtually every time. "Star in prime opts to join with other stars in prime" has NEVER been done. It feeds LeBron's sense of history.

*However, that history can only be fulfilled with titles. Plural. Probably more than two.

That's the burden of the expectations that LeBron has set up -- what I would argue are the highest expectations for a player in NBA history:

Not just winning a championship, but enough titles to be notable. That ain't two. That ain't even three. Any less than 4 (in 5 years, mind you!) is, in my opinion, falling short of expectations.

*I am not convinced -- at all -- that even one championship for the Heat is a gimme over the next five years:

Year 1: They won't beat the Lakers. No chance.
Years 2-4: Good luck getting past Dwight Howard.

(Sidebar: Consider for a moment that if the Heat can't beat the Magic in the playoffs, LeBron-Wade-Bosh might not even be the best team in the state, let alone the East, let alone the NBA.)

Year 5: Kevin Durant will be destroying the league by then.

Window closed.

*I have serious qualms about 3 stars (or 2 stars and a wannabe star) being enough to win 16 playoff games while playing with 9 scrubs -- even if quality vets decide they'd play for the league minimum to be a part of the "Sorta-Dream Team."

That said: I think the Mike Miller signing is outstanding. He is the perfect fit for that team: A tall 3-point ace who can pass like a point guard. Miller could average 20 ppg, just on 3s.

(For Miller, let me coin a phrase: "Stretch-3.")

*Even if this is "mold-breaking," LeBron really is Pippen in this scenario.

And I don't know whether he's fine with that characterization (I'm sure he's not), but that's what he left himself with.

*Dan Gilbert's letter was as entertaining as it was insane.

*We've turned a corner on this storyline. I think the NBA just got as interesting as it has ever been, precisely because of this move.

*Don't buy the stuff about how this makes the league uncompetitive. For starters, there were 1.5 teams last season with a real chance to win the title. (And probably no more than a half-dozen who were even remotely in the conversation.)

The Heat joins that list. In fact, beating the Heat becomes the No. 1 story of the NBA. Either they live up to the expectations and win a championship or they are an utter failure (just like the Cavs were with LeBron last year).

What could be more dramatic than that?

Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

1 comment:

Steve Sprague said...

Several flaws with your post. First, big deal about your column from 4 years ago. You predicted that he'd be gone by 2008. In my book being off by two years, and predicting he'd play for a different team than the one he signed with, is a bad prediction.

Second, you want to coin the term "Stretch 3"? That's dumb. A 3's job is to play on the wing. Stretch 4 works because they don't typically play out by the three point line.

Third, let's ease off on Kevin Durant a little bit. His team was an 8 seed last year and a lot of the teams above them aren't going anywhere. Guaranteeing that he will dominate in 5 years could work out as well as guaranteeing multiple titles for LeBron by age 25.

Kobe did it with veteran help. Durant is the man on a young team. They may grow into a title team by year 5 but a lot can happen.