(NNPA)—If there were any doubts about whether LeBron James should have migrated from the cold winters of Cleveland to sunny Miami, they were removed when Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers’ majority owner, issued a scathing criticism of Cleveland’s “former hero” who demonstrated “cowardly betrayal” by deciding not to remain in Cleveland after becoming a free agent.
Gilbert’s open letter to fans was actually an open attack on James, who gave the franchise seven years to assemble an adequate support crew around him. When they failed, he opted to sign with the Miami Heat, where he will be paired with two All-Star teammates.
James was wrong to make Gilbert learn of his decision by watching James’ reality TV announcement on ESPN instead of extending him the courtesy of a telephone call prior to the announcement. Still, that didn’t justify Gilbert’s attempt to humiliate his former star attraction.
“As you know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier,” Gilbert wrote. “This was announced with a several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”
He told the fans, “You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.”
Speaking of cowards, Gilbert waited until his superstar jilted him to accuse King James of choking in four playoff games against the Boston Celtics. If James’ threw in the towel against the Celtics, as Gilbert suggests, then why is the owner so enraged that #23 is headed to Miami? Furthermore, if Gilbert harbored such thoughts about James, he is acting like a coward by waiting until LeBron James left the franchise before expressing those thoughts.
Let’s get a few things straight. The NBA has tight restrictions on the mobility of players, stacking the deck—by allowing the home team to offer more money than competitors, if it wants to—and deciding a player can choose another team only after he has been cut or his contract expires. While under contract, teams can’t even approach other players about the possibility of joining them without facing league tampering charges.
When James became eligible for free agency, he had to weigh whether his best chance of winning an NBA championship rested with staying in Cleveland or moving to Miami to join fellow NBA All-Stars Dwayne Wade and newly-acquired Chris Bosh. There is no question that by signing James and Bosh and re-signing Wade, the youthful Miami Heat instantly become a favorite to win next season’s NBA championship and many more.
Angry fans who burned James’ old Cleveland jersey in protest accused James of making a selfish decision. They forget that professional basketball is first and foremost a business. And as a shrewd businessman—and one of the games’ greatest players—James agreed to leave millions on the table in an effort to win his first NBA championship.
Cleveland fans need to get over it. I saw men on TV crying over losing James to Miami. Yes, crying. There’s something wrong with such an overemphasis on sports, especially if, as one of those interviewed said, “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life.”
In a strange way, it was one of the best things to happen to Jesse Jackson.
Jackson, who has been teetering on the fence of irrelevancy since vowing to remove certain body parts of Barack Obama, found a way to inject himself into the LeBron James saga.
In a statement posted on the RainbowPUSH Coalition website, Jackson said, “LeBron is not a child, nor is he bound to play on Gilbert’s plantation…”
Referring to the Cleveland owner, Jackson said, “He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave.”
Jayson Whitlock, an outspoken Black sports writer, challenged the notion of “NBA owners and their $100 million contracts are slave owners and King James is Kunta Kinte escaping on the Underground Railroad to Miami…”
He wrote, “Dan Gilbert’s rant was certainly immature, but it wasn’t remotely racist. He sounded like a scorned lover, a guy who gave his heart to a relationship and found out on national TV that the alleged love of his life didn’t care about him at all.”
A scorned Dan Gilbert told Cleveland fans: “I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one. You can take that to the bank.”
If you take that promissory note to the bank, be prepared to be arrested for fraud. There is no way Cleveland will win an NBA title before LeBron & Company wins one in Miami. Cleveland couldn’t win a championship with LeBron and they have a lesser chance of winning a title without him.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/ currygeorge.)