The Opening Pitch: I don't begrudge LeBron his decision, but there are consequences.
Let's start with the backlash he deserves: This show/spectacle was off-putting, on all fronts. It was a horrible way to treat Cleveland fans — and a condescending way to treat all fans.
Now the backlash he doesn't deserve: Choosing to play alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as if the only way he should play is on his own.
I have said this before: LeBron is about nothing if not exceptionalism. And, in this case, "starring on your own" has been done before, plenty of times.
What has never been done — never been done — is a star entering his prime choosing to play with two other stars in their prime. From that perspective, his "decision" is to be celebrated. It is a risk unlike any in NBA history.
Because of those darned consequences: Forget his pariah status in Ohio. More universally, he has created a set of expectations for himself that are more brutal than for any other player in the history of the NBA.
He not only MUST win an NBA title, but I would argue that one isn't enough. Two probably isn't enough. Three merely matches Kobe (who has done it twice). Four or five? Come on. ...
Let's get real: Season-ticket packages are sold on regular-season superstardom. Championships are won by a combination of stars and fantastic supporting casts. Just look at the Lakers the past two years. Or, more instructively, the Lakers in 2004.
"Miami Thrice" (ugh) has the star power — but even with Mike Miller (who I think is a brilliant addition), with league-minimum talent surrounding them, I find it hard to see them winning 16 games in the playoffs.
Next year? Good luck getting past the Lakers. In the two-three years after that? Who will guard Dwight Howard? After that? The reign of Kevin Durant. All of a sudden, it's 2015 and the Heat have won ... hmm: anything?
It wouldn't surprise me if LeBron, Wade and Bosh win zero titles over these next five years — I certainly see that as being more realistic than them winning, say, two or three. A fair question: Would two even be enough?
The punishment to his basketball legacy for not fulfilling the expectations — particularly if he is ringless — will make his enemy-of-the-state status in Ohio seem benign.
Good luck with that, LeBron.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's response: I think "response" is a wee bit too soft. This became an instant sensation, among fans and non-fans alike.
Start with this: It's in Comic Sans font. (Comic Sans!) It also promises a Cavs NBA title before LeBron's Heat wins one. Hm. And it calls LeBron's decision "cowardly betrayal." Yikes.
Oh, and afterward, he said LeBron "quit" on the Cavs during the series with Boston. Now, that's something we all kind of saw — it's another thing for his owner to say it. Gilbert's off-the-rails-ness is a refreshing contrast to pre-packaged "Decisions."
(Still: While respecting the frustration Gilbert must feel — certainly that Cavs fans must feel — this was wildly inappropriate for a team owner to do, particularly one so complicit in enabling LeBron's ultimate behavior.)
You mean there is more to talk about than LeBron?
World Cup Final: The last month has been a blast, hasn't it? Consider how things got so much bigger between 2006 and 2010 — then consider how bigger still things will be in Brazil in 2014. Brazil will be back with a vengeance and, assuredly, the team to beat.
But one thing is for sure: There will be a first-time champ defending its title. Netherlands vs. Spain, with one country ready to experience the greatest sporting glory of its existence; the other side, its greatest despair. How can you not find those stakes compelling?
Yankees zeroing in on Cliff Lee? It almost seems unfair — but if they can pull it off, it would lock in New York as the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series.
MLB All-Star Extra Man Vote: Well, good for Joey Votto. Meanwhile, I cannot believe fans picked Nick Swisher over Kevin Youkilis. What a joke. (Still: Credit Swisher for using his popular Twitter account to drive votes for himself.)
MLB Talking Points:
— Ubaldomania: 15 Ws before All-Star Game
— As if Lee wasn't enough: Yanks win sixth straight
— Votto "Extra": Hits 22nd HR
More NBA: Heat trade Mike Beasley to T-wolves. I know Miami needs the cap room to sign Mike Miller (among others), but wow — wasn't Beasley one of the greatest college players ever, like two years ago?
(Mike DeCourcy nailed this on Twitter last night: So the T-wolves thought DeMarcus Cousins was too much of a headcase to take a risk on, but Beasley is OK? That makes absolutely no sense. Heck: Imagine Minnesota with BOTH Cousins and Beasley. Crazytown.)
David Lee is going to the Warriors with a huge deal — but just as intriguing is Anthony Randolph coming East to play in Mike D'Antoni's wide-open system. Remember the name: He could be an All-Star in a year or two.
— CFB: USC can't be part of the 2010 Coaches' Poll? I would rather have seen the coaches go back and retroactively award Auburn their share of the national title in 2004.
— NFL: I appreciate that T.O. is desperate to keep playing, but this is kind of pathetic. Can he really produce like T.O. without the swagger?
— CBB: This is just plain sad about Dean Smith. Here's hoping his number of "good" days far outweighs the "bad."
The Last Word: You were right, Stephen A. Smith. You were right. Enjoy it.
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff.
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