Barbara Barker is an award-winning sports features writer and columnist who has covered sports in New York for Show More
And you thought you hated the Heat when Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning were its biggest stars?
LeBron James is going to Miami. Millions of viewers heard him say so Thursday night from Greenwich, Conn. And even though Newsday reported early Thursday morning that James was leaning toward the Heat, it still hasn’t quite sunk in.
After days of frenzied rumors as an entire league tried to figure out what was going on inside the head of a 25-year-old global icon wannabe, we finally have found out what kind of guy James really is.
LeBron James is a great basketball player, but what he did to his hometown is a little cruel. It is one thing for him to leave Cleveland — he’s certainly not the first person to leave the Midwest for a bigger stage and a better workplace — and it’s another thing for him to drive a stake through the heart of his beleaguered city on national television.
One also has to wonder just how long this has been in the works. James didn’t look all that into his team during the playoff series against the Celtics this year. You can bet they are going to be talking about his lefthanded free throw in Cleveland for the next two decades.
But all that is in the rearview mirror now as Team LeBron pulls into South Beach. By abandoning the team less than an hour’s drive from his Akron home, James has turned the Heat into a team like no other. It will inspire more passion — both negative and positive — than perhaps any other team in the history of the NBA.
With superstars Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James all in one uniform, the Heat is going to divide NBA fans. It will either become the team you love or the team you love to hate. It will become the Yankees of the NBA.
Those who love dynasties and being associated with what should be a surefire winner will line up behind the Heat. Those of us who love underdogs — or are just sort of sickened by the machinations it took to build this team — will have an instant villain to focus on.
OK, there will be some big differences between that team and this one. The bet here is that more people will dislike the Heat than disliked the Bulls. I’m not sure everyone’s going to want to be like LeBron, unlike Jordan. I’m sure the people in Cleveland won’t.
Also, this Heat team has more potential for disaster with three big-time players and big-time egos. This is not Jordan, Scottie Pippen and a revolving cast of very talented role players. These are guys who spend their spare time talking about their brand, and how to best promote it.
If there is anything that can stop this team, it’s going to be themselves.
If they don’t stop themselves, the big winner will be the NBA, which would love to return to the halcyon days of Jordan’s Bulls. For as much as people say they like a good game, what they really like most are dynasties. It’s big stars and big wins, not close games, that get players out of the sports pages and into People magazine on a regular basis.
Winning big is what it’s all about, and James apparently didn’t think he could do that in Cleveland. It will be interesting to see what happens.