July 8 marked the one-year anniversary of NBA superstar LeBron James’ primetime TV aired decision to leave his home state of Ohio to join the Miami Heat in a quest for an NBA title. According to James, “the decision” was a very difficult one to make, having to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted him first overall in 2003. He knew not only would the city of Cleveland hate him, but every other “LeBron hater” that existed before “the decision” would have more fuel to add to their fire, instantly criticizing him for wanting to play alongside one of his most formidable opponents, instead of against him. But it was a choice LeBron said he had to make for himself. He wanted to mold himself into a multiple NBA title winner, and the best way to accomplish that feat, so he believed, was to team up with more star power. Miami had not only former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, but had also just signed all-star forward Chris Bosh, two potent weapons that James just couldn’t pass up on playing with. How could he lose with teammates like that?
Well, he did lose as the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks, 4-2, in the NBA Championship series this past June, which brings us to the hot topic of discussion: Did LeBron make the right choice by heading to Miami last offseason? Should he have stuck it out in Cleveland, or perhaps signed with another team that was interested in using his services to earn a title? AFRO Sports Desk’s Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley takes turns sharing their perspective.
Green: I don’t want to sound biased on this one as a huge New York Knicks fan, but just like Spike Lee, I just can’t help myself. My opinion on this subject remains the same as it was before ‘Bron even made his decision, and it will remain long after he retires from the association: the King should have taken his talents to the “Big Apple.” I don’t care how enticing South Beach is, there is no greater basketball stage to perform on than Madison Square Garden, and LeBron would have instantly been crowned as the “King of New York.” The Knicks had already signed all-star forward Amare’ Stoudemire, so the co-star he needed in Cleveland was already in position.
Riley: LeBron definitely made the right move by joining Miami. He was only two games away from actually capturing the title he wanted, so the Heat isn’t too far removed from getting the job done next year. Plus, the way LeBron played in the Finals this June would have gotten him killed in New York with those crazy fans. Bosh and Wade were the only reason the Heat actually made the finals competitive, otherwise it wouldn’t have been as close as it was. You take those stars away and place LeBron in New York with lesser talent and I doubt he would have even come close to sniffing a finals appearance.
Green: I beg to differ; I truthfully believe LeBron would have made it just as far in the postseason with New York’s roster as he did in Miami, and maybe even further, perhaps claiming that title after all. Stoudemire was playing as perhaps the best power forward in the game last season, so adding another playmaker like LeBron would have put them over the top. The Knicks eventually got their second playmaker after trading for Carmelo Anthony mid-season, but they had to trade away some of their best contributors in Wilson Chandler, Danilio Gallineri, Raymond Felton, just to get Anthony. You need stars to win, but you also need really good role players, too. LeBron would have come during the offseason and New York would have been able to keep their solid cast intact in pursuit of a title.
Plus, taking the Knicks to the “Promised Land” would have been far more rewarding to his legacy than winning in Miami with a fellow superstar to help. In fact, it would only take one championship with the Knicks, the first NBA title in New York since 1973, for LeBron to instantly be considered “the greatest Knick of all-time.” Now, that’s how you reach your goals of being respected as a “global icon.”
Riley: It’s not about respect, it’s about performance. No one cares that he went to Miami to join with Wade, except Clevelanders, and LeBron would have received the respect he wants had he won a title this year. No one even cares how arrogant he is off the court; he’ll still be respected as long as he backs it up on the court and wins. But the only person he can blame for not winning is himself.
Miami had the ingredients they needed to win a title this postseason, but when it counted the most in the Finals, LeBron disappeared, just as he did with Cleveland in 2010. I don’t want to hear that “no supporting cast” crap. He played like he was scared down the stretch and they lost. Wade stepped up; Bosh stepped up; even Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers stepped up. Everyone stepped up but LeBron. Had he played like he did earlier in the postseason, when the Heat took out the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, again, they would have won. The reason why LeBron doesn’t own a title yet is simple: It’s him, not his teammates. The only decision LeBron needs to be focused on this summer is what it will take, personally and internally, to get him over his own self-inflicted hump.