Archive for the ‘2010 Free Agency’ Category

The boys of summer are back! Skeets and Tas break down the best and worst of the biggest free agency period in history. Agree with their picks? Disagree? Care to add some of your own? Go almonds, my friend.

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Amar’e Stoudemire: Dave, what’s up man?

David Lee: Hey, Amar’e.

AS: You’re making me look bad in New York, Dave. Attending people’s funerals and stuff.

DL: Well, Scott was a good guy.

AS: Yeah, I was there too. Signing autographs.

DL: Really?

AS: No! You can’t charge for autographs at a funeral, man! [Laughs]

DL: Right.

AS: Just wanted to say congrats on signing with Golden State. That’s huge!

DL: Thanks, man.

AS: You know, the Warriors almost traded for me last year – were gonna give up Curry and Biedrins. That’s a lot.

DL: Oh, right. I heard about that.

AS: What did they give up for you?

DL: Azubuike, Turiaf, Randolph.

[Awkward silence]

AS: Well, Golden State got a really good deal. Gotta run, Dave. Good luck this week!

DL: Yeah, see ya.

Let’s get this out there ’cause it’s free agency season and everything needs to be repeated at least 1000 times: LeBron James and his people made a mistake by broadcasting his ego stroke in a one-hour, nationally televised, flop. Now, I don’t agree with the statement that any publicity is good publicity, but during that pitiful joke of a television program, I received more texts and calls from casual fans than I have during any actual game. You don’t think David Stern was smirking when he found out “The Decision” was the third-most watched program on cable this year? I know Stern basically owns a perma-smirk, but he knows there will undoubtedly be more people watching basketball next season because of that prime-time mess.

“The Decision” does not have to be done as douchey, it does not have to feature a hated figure in LBJ, and it doesn’t have to contain an hour full of garble-garble-garble. Let’s say Kevin Garnett was a free agent back in 2007 when everyone liked KG and was rallying for him to find a new basketball home. From July 1st – July 7th, championship caliber teams sell him their pitch, then on July 8th, a half-hour program stars with a four-minute vignette of Garnett’s career. Followed by a couple interviews with his high school / professional coaches who tell us about that time he carried an elderly person on his back for eight blocks to the pharmacy, and we’re all in love. A commercial break takes us to the 11-minute mark. Next, the much-hated predictions from broadcasters or current / former ball players take us to the 14-minute mark. Then, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting 15 minutes for – Mr. Garnett’s decision. He lets us know, one more break, he comes back for interviews, another montage or two, couple reactions, annnnnnnd, scene.

See? That was easy. Of course, a scenario like Garnett’s doesn’t occur every year, but that’s the point: marketing teams need to be selective in their choice. I don’t see how a less obtrusive production and more likable character wouldn’t go over well with the public. To the folks that say only a LeBron-type would attempt something like this, players can look at it as a press conference which they go through every day. This will happen again, and we’ll all watch it, again.

LeBron James speaks at the LeBron James announcement of his future NBA plans at the Boys & Girls Club of America on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. James announced during a live broadcast on ESPN that he will play for the Miami Heat next season. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)

LeBron James’ hour-long narcissistic wankfest infomerical called “The Decision” may have happened five days ago, but reactions from esteemed sports writers and culture critics are still coming out. Tas and Skeets shot a 20-minute show with their reactions and I provided my take on Friday, and here are some of the more compelling responses I’ve read since then.

NBA Commissioner David Stern: “Had he asked my advice in advance, I might have suggested that he advise Cleveland at an earlier time than apparently he did that he was leaving, even without announcing where he was going, so we could have eliminated that. I would have advised him not to embark on what has become known as ‘The Decision.’ I think that the advice that he received on this was poor. His performance was fine. His honesty and his integrity shine through. But this decision was ill conceived, badly produced and poorly executed. Those who were interested in it were given our opinion prior to its airing.”

Buzz Bissinger, author of the book LeBron’s Dream Team, in Vanity Fair: “What was revealing about LeBron’s decision was the degree in which it appeared to be motivated by going to a team where he will no longer have the pressure of the last shot. He obviously began to resent that role in Cleveland. But in Miami he now has the perfect out in Dwyane Wade. The Miami all-star has no fear of shooting the game-winning basket, and LeBron will have no problem in letting him do it. It means that LeBron will play a different role than league-leading scorer, and it also means that it is now absurd to speak of him in the same breath as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.”

Bill Simmons, ESPN.com columnist and author of The Book of Basketball: “For LeBron not to understand what he was doing — or even worse, not to care — made me quickly turn off the television, find my kids, give them their nightly bath and try to forget the sports atrocity that I had just witnessed. He just couldn’t have handled it worse. Never in my life can I remember someone swinging from likable to unlikable that quickly. I will forgive him some day because I like watching him play basketball, and whether you’re rooting for or against him, his alliance with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami created one the greatest ‘Holy s—, how is this going to play out?????’ scenarios in recent sports history. Sports are supposed to be fun, and eventually, this will become fun — for everyone but people in Cleveland — because we finally have a Yankees of basketball. But I will never, ever, not in a million years, understand why it had to play out that way. If LeBron James is the future of sports, then I shudder for the future.”

Will Leitch for New York Magazine: “LeBron James, thanks to this debacle, will never be the same. (That he appears unable to understand why is the precise reason why.) ESPN, it feels, will never quite be the same: There were surely thousands of employees there who rubbed their eyes, aghast at what they were watching, guilty to be a part of it. The NBA, the hunger laid bare and the wound gaping for all to see, may never be the same. And the fear is that we won’t be the same. The fear is that we’ve truly seen the ugly, dark heart of sports, and we won’t be able to come back. It feels extremely stupid to be a sports fan. It feels pointless. None of this felt harmless tonight. And we allowed this to happen. Perhaps this is what we deserve. Perhaps this will be good for us, all of us.”

Tommy Craggs for Deadspin: “LeBron’s failure last night was not in the decision itself, but in screwing up the theatrics of it. The show, as we all know, turned out to be a tone-deaf festival of self-mythologizing that couldn’t have been tackier if Jim Gray had banged a gong at irregular intervals. But it didn’t have to be like that. Imagine what today’s response would’ve been if, for instance, LeBron had arrived on set with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, arms linked, all of them extolling the glories of friendship and teamwork and otherwise capering about like the sailors from On the Town. The show would’ve been plenty obnoxious still, particularly to Cleveland fans, but LeBron wouldn’t have looked so much like a smirking kid throwing the world’s most lavish birthday party for himself. The problem wasn’t that he was selling himself on television. It was that he sold himself so poorly.”

Joe Posnanski, columnist for SI.com: “If this thing was about public relations, well, it’s pretty clearly a disaster. LeBron James entered the free agency time as the most popular player in the NBA. He leaves having alienated New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and everyone who associates with the pain of Cleveland. He will get booed pretty much everywhere he goes. I really don’t get the benefits.”

Adrian Wojnarowski, columnist for Yahoo! Sports: “As the worst idea in the history of marketing unfolded, James looked trapped somewhere between despondence and defiance. His bumbling buddy Maverick Carter had walked him into the public execution of his legacy, his image, and there was a part of James that clearly wished he could turn back through the doors and hide. Only, it was too late. No going back now. James goes to the Miami Heat, Cleveland goes into a basketball Hades and LeBron’s legacy becomes that of a callous carpetbagger. ‘His brand is [bleep] now, one high-level NBA official said late Thursday. ‘He’s destroyed everything.’”

Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone: “The weird thing about this LeBron story is that seven or eight years ago, he seemed like a nice kid. All he did was step into a media machinery designed to create, reward, nurture, and worship self-obsessed assholes. He was raw clay when he went in, and now he’s everything we ever wanted him to be — a lost, attention-craving narcissistic monster who simultaneously despises and needs the slithering insect-mortals who by the millions are bent over licking his toes (represented in The Decision by the ball-less, drooling sycophant Jim Gray).”

Why is no one talking about this? /sarcasm

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Police stand guard near a larger than life photograph of LeBron James after the announcement that James will play next season for the Miami Heat July 8, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. The two-time Most Valuable Player made the choice to play for Miami next season. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

There were a number of ways LeBron James’ decision could have gone that would have made a great story. If he re-signed with Cleveland, the state of Ohio would embrace him as their greatest citizen. If he signed with the Knicks, most NBA fans would have to admire his desire to resurrect the basketball mecca. If he signed with the Bulls, he would be trying to follow in Jordan’s footsteps.  Any of these outcomes would have been great because of the compelling storylines they would create.

Unfortunately for people like me, LeBron isn’t interested in narratives as much he’s interested in winning titles, building his brand and making as much money as possible. He chose to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat next season, and now we’re faced with the possibility that a city that was 15th in the league in attendance last season could be the host to the next great NBA dynasty.

I’ve been to Miami and there’s no denying it’s a great city — fantastic weather, beautiful women, exciting nightlife. What’s not to like if you’re a rich and famous athlete? It’s not hard to figure what would draw LeBron and Bosh to join D-Wade in South Beach.

But when it comes to the “legend of LeBron”, millions of NBA fans wanted him to be more than a great basketball player and lucrative corporate pitchman. Everybody following this story had their own reasons for rooting for LeBron to end up somewhere — even if you knew your favorite team wasn’t in the running. You could have admired his loyalty if he stayed in Cleveland or his ambition if he signed with the Knicks or his respect for NBA history if he signed with the Bulls. When he announced that he was joining Wade and Bosh with the Heat, it wasn’t just anti-climactic, it was a colossal bummer.

Unless you’re already a Heat fan, what kind of person is going to root for LeBron and the Heat now? A frontrunner, a bandwagoner, somebody who only cares about being on the winning side and doesn’t care about what it takes to get there. With his announcement Thursday night, LeBron James succeeded in galvanizing the fans of the other 29 teams against the Miami Heat. Every championship they win will be nauseating to the majority. As I tweeted last night: “The Miami Heat LeBron jersey is about to surpass Ed Hardy t-shirts as the de rigueur clothing item for douchebags.”

I was talking to a colleague, Aaron King, about LeBron’s imminent decision yesterday and he pointed out that if LeBron joined the Heat, he would be like the “A-Rod” to D-Wade’s “Jeter”. Like Alex Rodriguez, LeBron comes off as a soulless mercenary — someone who has become very difficult to admire and very easy for most fans to hate. Yes, I know that “great attracts hate”, but you can hate somone like Kobe Bryant and still respect his accomplishments. No matter how many titles LeBron wins in Miami, most people will see him as somebody who tried to take a shortcut to the top rather than trying to create his own legacy.

With his decision to join Wade and Bosh with the Heat, LeBron accomplished the seemingly impossible by making Kobe Bryant an underdog that many NBA fans will be rooting for next season. It’s certainly possible that the 2011 NBA Finals are not an already predetermined Lakers-Heat matchup, but how much money would you be willing to bet on any other scenario? And wouldn’t any other result be kind of a letdown?

I’d like to think that Kobe watched LeBron’s announcement with his hands bridged under his chin in anticipation, and that his cold eyes narrowed and his lips curled into a thin smile when the decision was revealed. Say what you will about Kobe, but I guarantee you that he’s not afraid. On the contrary, he fully realizes how his legend will grow if he can conquer this three-headed beast.

Just when I thought he was about to begin a gradual fade into retirement over the remaining four seasons on his contract, Kobe now becomes a more compelling figure than ever. He has a new challenge to inspire him in case he needed a reason to keep working hard for that sixth ring. Now that he’s beaten the Celtics, LeBron could be his final great conquest — and that’s all the motivation he’ll need to wring every last ounce of greatness out of himself.

In an exclusive interview, J.E. Skeets talks to Multiple Sources, the man behind every NBA free agency rumor. Who is this mysterious informant and where does he get his information? His answers may surprise you.

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