LeBron might be joining the Miami Heat. He might not. He’s announcing it tonight in an incessantly vainglorious hourlong special, which is the cherry of self-promotion atop the hubristic sundae that has been LBJ’s march towards free agency.
I’ve been torn on this — on whether or not I wanted him to join my favorite basketball team. On the one hand, how do you say no to an immeasurable talent, a freight train of a player with the vision and deft hands of a point guard and the powerful body of a wideout? On the other hand, this is Wade’s team. This is Wade’s city. And with Wade, you know what you get — a Jordanesque two guard who can take over a game the way only he and Kobe can really do nowadays. With Wade, you have the core of a solid franchise. Wade and LeBron, okay, that could work. Wade, Bosh and LeBron, well, suddenly the imagined possibilities become close enough to actually ponder and fret about.
Israel Gutierrez just about sums up my feelings:
What’s better for a league, singular dominance or legitimate rivalries with unpredictable results?
What’s better for an organization, nightly chaos or a precise focus?
What’s better for a city, a foreign king commandeering the hearts and minds of its people or continuing a healthy relationship with a familiar leader who has put in time and work to win over those people?
I was uncertain, but reading that helped make up my mind. The negatives ultimately outweigh the positives. The negatives: A team with an alpha male leader (Wade), a sterling No. 2 (Bosh) and the requisite role players (Chalmers, Haslem, whomever else they pick up) has a pecking order. It fits a mold. With LeBron and Wade, who takes the last shot? Who carries the team? Who is the undisputed leader? (This isn’t like Boston with KG and Pierce. KG doesn’t want the final shot, Pierce does.) That stuff can be sorted out, of course. More importantly — most importantly — how do they fill up the rest of the roster? You’re spending almost everything on three players. You don’t need three All World talents; you need two leaders and a bunch of guys who can help you play the rest of the game. Three men alone cannot win a ring.
And there is, of course, the image problem. If the Heat build a team around Wade and Bosh and they win it all, yeah, some people will grumble. People always grumble. But they are just two players, and the rest of the roster and the season have to fall into place. But there’s that element of having a championship handed to you that makes some teams seem cheaper. When the Yankees won the World Series last year, even though it was the first time in nearly a decade, it was expected. It’s what happens when you spend the most money to get the best players. And you know what? I hate Yankee fans. Everybody who isn’t a Yankees fan hates them. I hate Yankee fans who are legitimate fans (just because they root for a New York sports team, due to basic human morality), and even more than that I hate Yankee fans who just root for them because they’re the Yanks (the vilest creature in sports fandom, this person roots for the Yanks, Cowboys, Bulls or Lakers and Duke). I don’t care about fans of the Astros or St. Louis Rams.
I really don’t care so much about the image problem. I don’t care if other people hate the Heat. But I don’t want my favorite team to turn into the Yankees, and I don’t want my fan experience to turn into that of a Yankees fan. Where’s the fun in rooting for them? Where does the joy come from? The title in 2006 meant something because of how close the Heat came to losing it, because of how close they came in 2005, because of how close they seemed in 1997 and 1999. A Miami title behind Wade-LBJ-Bosh will be cheap. And a pre-Finals Miami loss, which will likely happen in the face of better-balanced teams? It will be a busted experiment. There will be no joy in achievement, simply sorrow at not getting as far as they could have. How many times will that work? One season? Two? How soon before LBJ is bitching about his supporting cast and Bosh’s knees hurt and Wade is tired because they are logging too many minutes and oh, by the way, there’s a lockout coming so enjoy it while you can!
In any event. I waffled on this one. But I hope LeBron doesn’t come. (Personally, I hope he stays in Cleveland, where he will continue to star on just-good-enough teams that pose no threat. Also, that poor city deserves it, after the way he’s treated their hopes over the last few years. I wouldn’t object to him going to New Jersey or New York, where he similarly can’t cause any damage. Chicago, on the other hand, would terrify me. If he joins Rose, Boozer, Noah and Deng on a defensive-minded team…[fans self]. If championships are what matter to him, that’s his best bet, but that’s all besides the point.)