This is for sure one the best stories in the 2 decades that I have been an NBA fan.
In one of the most crazy basketball off-seasons ever and leading up to the announcement that Lebron James is returning to Cleveland, some of the most respected media members got it wrong. None surprised me more than David Thorpe’s opinions leading up and after the announcement. Thorpe can be counted on to provide some of the most interesting and astute player analysis in the media landscape, but he’s shown to be a poor judge of psychology and reasoning in this particular case.
David Thorpe had opined that the odds of the Heat breaking up was 1%. He was that sure Lebron would stay with the Heat. Now, it’s hard to get these things right, but that was a pretty unilateral opinion. Other members of the media were much less sure.
Instead of taking the 2 year deal Thorpe foresaw, Lebron is going straight to Cleveland.
After the decision was announced Thorpe was strangely pouring some cold water on the decision.
I remember just how frustrated LeBron looked when the Cavs lost to the Magic. If they fail this year to win…
In his announcement Lebron made clear that his expectations are that a title is not a guarantee. In fact everything I’ve heard from him over the years has emphasized just how hard and precious it is just to get to the finals. For a player of his stature, every year is pressure filled. Every year fans and media expect him to win the title, no matter what team he’s on. He lasted many seasons not winning a title in Cleveland, since then he’s grown in leaps and bounds, proving his mettle as a winner capable of rising above the rest of the playing field and winning titles. A title in Cleveland would be much more meaningful to him. It is dead-on the most logical choice for a competitor at the very top of his game.
Don’t the best athletes want the biggest challenge? What challenge was there left in Miami? It certainly wasn’t any bigger than the one he now has in his home state.
On a disturbing note, returning to fans who despised you and an owner who crushed you, all for doing nothing wrong, is sad.
I don’t see why this needs mentioning while Cleveland is celebrating the return of Lebron. Yes, the hate was poured on hard when he left. But this is the emotion so similar to ones you may experience in a family. They are so passionate because it is like family. And just like with families, not all emotions that are expressed are indicative of how much parties mean to each other. And reunions are not strange, but expected and welcomed, and they deepen the bonds.
David Blatt, welcome to the hottest seat in sports. Maccabi Tel Aviv is a pressure filled place, but nothing like what he is going to face.
The first year coach will have some pressure, but is it true that the team will have championship expectations? I think the fan base will be ecstatic just to have the best player in the world back in the fold, putting all his effort in. We’ve seen the Spurs at the top of their game. Nobody questioned that they were the best team this year. There was no finger pointing that the Heat underachieved. They just played a better team. And frankly, there are going to be 4-5 teams in that elite tier that all have the same pressure of feeling that burning desire to win, because they know they can do it. Cleveland won’t be unique, if anything, the pressure will be less than with the Heat during the first 2 years.
If Bron cares more about returning home than he does his legacy as a champion, it would shock me.But it would not make him any less a player
This statement totally confounds me. It makes total nonsense. His legacy as a champion has a much higher ceiling in Cleveland. Winning a title there will mean more than any of his other titles. He’s taking the path with the higher ceiling. Even if he fails to win another title, nobody can fault him from taking on the challenge. Another title in Miami would have been nice, but not as significant. To paraphrase the words of Chris Bosh, in Miami winning was like a relief rather than a truly satisfying experience.
The Heat marriage always seemed to me like one of convenience. He paired up with some very talented friends and worked with an experienced, top notch organisation. He got what he was looking for. But what he left was a passionate fan base and the home state he felt deeply about. Winning for the Heat fan base is a totally different thing. They feel lucky to have Lebron and so they should be. But the larger portion of the fan base is not as crazy about their team as some other states are. Let’s face it. He had created the perfect conditions for success. A really strong coach, team president and roster while taking advantage of an easier path to the Finals by continuing to come out in the East. Goals were accomplished. A more meaningful challenge awaits.
On paper, just looking at rosters, Miami was already slipping behind the growing quality of elite teams in the West. They weren’t going to be as good as the roster they had during Lebron’s first successful title run. That roster had run its course. Battier is done, UD is done as a thriving role player. The point guard position was a dead end. Wade is never going to be an 82 game a year player again. He couldn’t do it even during the best of conditions. He’s not going to become a 3pt shooter overnight either. They weren’t going to attract high caliber free agents as fortuitously happened in the past either. What fun was there to be had in sticking with the Heat? How rewarding was it going to be anyway? Where the Heat fan base really going to cherish his effort during all the challenges the Heat would face if they didn’t pull together a better roster? Especially if you’ve already achieved what you set out to do.
So David, I love your commentary, in fact I think I’ve seen every one of your TrueHoop appearances this past year and loved all of them, but you were so wrong about Lebron.
PS. I’ve always rooted against Lebron and his team as a fan, but this turn of events has potentially changed that around, and I’m excited to see the new narrative unfold.