As Giannis Antetokounmpo won the NBA championship as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, a part of me couldn’t think of how that’s how it should have been for the Cavs and LeBron James.
Instead of leaving for Miami, let’s say LeBron signs a max with Cleveland and decides to put in the work. More free agents follow. The Cavs find a way to get past the Celtics and Cleveland finally finds glory in 2011 or 2012 or 2013. The chase for Michael’s rings is truly on. (I’ll always wonder what the Cavs might’ve been able to do with their roster if LeBron had signed a max at any point in his time with the Cavs)
We know the story went very differently, but not for Giannis and Milwaukee. The early losing, and then the early playoff exits–they had to take their toll. Everyone, including me, thought the Greek Freek would be out the minute his contract was up.
But then he did something crazy–by NBA standards. Giannis signed a max extension with his small market team and didn’t try and go title chasing, forming a super team.
Maybe its’ because Giannis’ path to the NBA was very different from James, having come from Greece. He didn’t play AAU like James and his peers. Giannis was playing professionally as a teenager. He ended up going to the Bucks and lived in relative anonymity for a little while, anyway. It took about two games to figure out the Bucks discovered a star.
Milwaukee is a lot like Cleveland. A city entrenched in blue collar roots that loves its sports team and hadn’t seen an NBA title since 1971, the Cavs second season in the NBA.
Free agents don’t go there, much like Cleveland, and “tanking” has long been a part of the lexicon, much like in Cleveland–until they unearthed Giannis.
It took Giannis eight years to win one in Milwaukee, but he hung in there, and did it. The place where nobody wins, where nobody wants to play. Basketball Siberia (Sound like a place you know Cavs fans?) It’s got to be sweet, especially since he didn’t, bail like LeBron.
Sour grapes with LeBron? I don’t know. After reading this to myself, it sounds like it.
Of course I’m grateful for James returning and making good on his promise to win the Cavs a title. He took the team to five Finals and four in four years when he returned. It’s a run this city will probably never know again. Plus, he never seems to get in trouble and the school he’s built in Akron is a one of kind. Lots of athletes have money, but few have given back to the extent James has.
But the diehard Cleveland sports fan in me still cringes when thinking about the history of basketball over the past decade, because it included the fans of the town having their hearts torn out by LBJ’s decision.
Instead of re-upping like Giannis did with Milwaukee, James bolted for South Beach after year seven, looking for the easy path to a title that so many of peers have looked to replicate.
Only after the Cavs re-tooled, found a superstar in Kyrie Irving and acquired the asset to trade for someone like Kevin Love, did LeBron think it was a good time to come home. Would he have come back if Derrick Williams had been the Cavs pick in 2011?
Maybe it’s just because everything LeBron does is so overly calculated. You can bet “Coming Home” was a big bet for LeBron. He knew what winning a title in Cleveland would do for his “brand.”
Maybe his over calculation of matters triggered this diatribe. Remember when LeBron was sitting courtside for a Finals game? Could you imagine Michael sitting courtside, watching the Pistons after Detroit bounced him from the postseason?
The answer is no because he was probably shooting 10,000 shots as the game was going on.
But LeBron had a movie out, and a big deal was made of the tequila bottle he had “snuck in.” Of course it was a company he had stock in. LeBron just can’t be a regular dude and pound a stale Bud out of one of those flimsy plastic cups like the rest of us. Everything he does has a motive, and it’s obvious.
The over calculation of “The Decision” was a bad idea, and I think he came to realize it.
LeBron’s been forgiven, but there’s more like me who haven’t forgotten. We watched a lot of stinkers after he left ,the first time, and the second time! Fortunately for Milwaukee, the fan base has found someone who just wants to win games and championships for their team and not chase titles.