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LeBron James Has Both Fans and Detractors These Days

In case you haven’t been around lately, LeBron James is making headlines. James, formerly the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Mr. Everything, became a free agent July 1. This occurred because he only signed a short-term deal with the Cavaliers a few years ago.

Many would say this was a smart business decision. I would agree. James is one of only a handful of players to win consecutive league MVP awards. He twice led Cleveland to the NBA’s best regular-season record. His former coach, Mike Brown, also benefitted from his prowess by earning Coach of the Year honors in 2009. My, how quickly fame can turn to shame!

James carved out a place for himself in Cleveland folklore during his seven-year tenure with the Cavaliers. His popular Nike ad campaign slogan, “We are all witnesses,” was prophetic last week. We all “witnessed’ on national television James say he would sign a contract with the Miami Heat. When a friend told me that he would be making the announcement on ESPN, I thought is was a shrewd move. He tops that off by saying all of proceeds from the commercials would go to the Boys and Girls Club of America. 

Give him credit for capturing the magic in a bottle and then selling it. Just think, ESPN went along with the idea for the hourlong broadcast. Maybe that is why ESPN calls itself the “worldwide leader in sports”. Don’t you just wonder whose idea it was to put him on television making this announcement? Well, wherever the idea came from it became a huge success, at least from his perspective.

We shouldn’t be surprised at James’ business acumen. If you recall, he signed a $90 million Nike shoe contract before he ever stepped onto an NBA court. When he signed that contract, I don’t remember huge numbers of Cleveland fans getting upset with him. Quite honestly, James brought an energy to the Cavaliers that I had not seen since the likes of Brad Daugherty and Mark Price

While James was in Cleveland, the Quicken Loans Arena sold out for every game and just this past season the Cavaliers ranked second overall in attendance in 2009-10. The nightspots around the arena were always crowded and parking lots were overflowing. Everybody made money, all because of James.

On Thursday night all of that changed. I am just amazed at all of the people that weighed in with an opinion. Folks from all walks of life opined about where he would go. Of course, James would have made more money if he had stayed in Cleveland. It would have been a wonderful story because grew up in Akron, Ohio, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Why did James choose Miami?  Here are a few reasons: Heat President Pat Riley, fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, no Florida state income tax and South Beach. If you follow James, you know he loves to win. It is my opinion, having been a student-athlete in college, that winning championships trumps winning individual honors. 

James wants championships. He knows he has to win some to cement his legacy in the NBA. When James said, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach,” he became the person the Cleveland fans love to hate.  Shortly after James’ decision, Cavalivers owner Dan Gilbert made unflattering comments about him in a letter addressed to Cavaliers fans published on the team’s website. The fans who once adorned LeBron now vilify him. What a shame!

Unfortunately, we place our heroes on pedestals and when they fall or move as James did, we hurt. James made a decision that was best for him and his family. Will the Cavaliers have a competitive team next year? Are the expectations of a championship for James, Bosh and Wade premature?  Sit tight! The NBA season will be here before you know it.

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. is vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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