One of the best things about sports is that you never know what’s going to happen next.  All of us love to flaunt our theories, but when it comes down to it, we just don’t know.  And that’s why we love it.

48 hours ago I was sure that LeBron James was staying in Cleveland.  But with his buddies Bosh and Wade signing, it’s really starting to look like he might end up in Miami. 

And you know what? 

I think it’s ok if Lebron takes this way out.  It doesn’t make me think less of him.  Different, maybe…but not less. 

Hear me out.  We all know that LeBron to the Knicks would be the biggest challenge for James.  We know that LeBron to the Bulls would probably give him the best chance for multiple titles.  And we know that LeBron staying in Cleveland is probably the most comfortable choice. 

But LeBron to Miami?  If he goes to Miami, he’s doing it for two reasons.

#1 – To be with his friends, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

#2 – So that he doesn’t have all the pressure on his shoulders.  So that when there are 2 seconds left in the game, there are 2 or maybe even 3 different players on the floor who want to take that shot.  And at the end of the game, win or lose, he’ll have Wade and Bosh to console/celebrate with. 

In a way, it’s a cop-out.  We know that his Airness, Jordan wouldn’t want to play with Dwayne Wade, he’d want to beat him.  But there are some significant differences between Jordan and James. 

Jordan took over basketball games and willed his team to win because he couldn’t imagine living in a world where he was a loser.  The will to win was so deeply embedded in his psyche that it caused him physical pain to lose.  He wanted the ball at the end of the game because he didn’t trust that last shot in anyone’s hands but his own.  He was an egomaniacal basketball genius, and he’s a legend because that drive, coupled with his unbelievable talent, led him to amazing success.  But the desire to win that drove him to such heights on the basketball court had a crippling effect on his personality.  At his hall of fame induction, he sounded far more like a bitter loser than a gracious basketball legend.  10 years removed from the game, he is still desperately trying to prove his greatness through any means possible.  There is a fine line between driven and crazy.  I don’t think Jordan realizes how close he is, and always has been.  But he can’t help it – that’s who he is.  He has to win, at the cost of people, relationships, anything that stands between him and his goal.  Almost sounds like a bio on Kobe Bryant, doesn’t it?

Jordan and Kobe don’t have real friends.  They don’t need them.  But is that a strength or a weakness?

Jordan’s teammates followed him because they were afraid of failing him, afraid of his wrath and what it meant. 

LeBron’s teammates on the basketball court follow him because they love him.  Sure, they love his talent, and the fame by association, but it’s more than that.  They genuinely like the person that LeBron James is.  They enjoy spending time with him, and he does seem like the type of guy who would be fun to spend time with. 

LeBron’s friends follow him for the same reason, and he needs that social connection in a way that Jordan never did.  Some may see his desire to be with his friends, be appreciated, and have that comraderie as a weakness.  They want to see that coldblooded animal on the basketball court, that assassin who will stop at nothing to get the win.  Jordan would have  offered up any of his teammates (and sometimes did, in a figurative sense) for sacrifice in exchange for a title.  LeBron wants the win, and he wants the title – but it’s even more important to him to have that social network, and to build up the people around him.  He doesn’t want to win at the cost of the people he cares about.

I don’t know LeBron personally, though I’d love to chill with him sometime.  But you know what?  I don’t particularly want to hang out with Michael Jordan.  And for that reason, I can say that if LeBron James chooses to be with his friends, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, over winning a title or becoming the greatest basketball legend in the the history of the NBA – good for him.  I respect him more for the decision to be loyal to his friends than I respect those who sacrifice everything on the altar of greatness.

In the end, perhaps it is Kobe Bryant who deserves to be called Jordan’s heir.  But it’s not because LeBron James lacks basketball skill, or a drive to win.  It’s because he has the heart that Kobe and Michael never had.


Treadmills are horrible things.    To prove my point, let’s walk through a typical treadmill encounter. 

You come to the gym determined and ready.  You know that you’re going to stick with it and burn those calories.  You jump on the treadmill, force your creaking bones to move, and tell yourself that no matter how bad it gets, you can do it.  You imagine yourself running on a trail through a beautiful countryside, the sun shining and the wind whipping your hair as you glide effortlessly over the landscape.  

Your legs begin to tire, and you need some motivation.  You conjure up a massive bowl of ice cream waiting for you just over the next hill.  You struggle.  It’s not getting any closer.  You start to feel some real pain.  Ice cream just isn’t cutting it.  Desperate to stay the course, you throw yourself into a small alleyway in Pamplona, Spain.  As you sprint for your life from sweating, snarling bulls who would like nothing more than to trample and gore you, you happen to glance down at the treadmill timer.  It mocks you.  3:34.  3:35.  At 3:54 you smash the stop button, gasp for air, and begin the walk of shame toward the gym door.  Treadmill?  Forget it.  You’ll run later tonight when you get home.  Maybe.

Treadmills are boring, because no amount of imagination can compensate for a lack of real world scenery or the “thud, thud, thud,” of your sneakers on the grass. 

To be interesting, you actually have to be going somewhere.

So why are we wasting so much of our time speculating on NBA free agency?  Now that Stoudemire has signed with the Knicks, there’s nothing to see here.  Move along.  Sure, Bosh and Boozer are going to sign somewhere (who wouldn’t want to get out of Toronto and Utah?), but are they going to have a significant impact on a new team?  There are only two free agents in this draft who have proven they can change the outcome of a game by themselves.  

I’m looking at you, Lebron James and Dwayne Wade.  This is a two-horse race, but it’s happening on two treadmills, a thousand miles apart.  It’s not interesting.  LeBron and Dwayne Wade gain negotiating power over their current teams by virtue of the fact that they could leave.  It’s in their best financial interest to pretend they’re going somewhere.  But they’re not.  Why would they?

Let’s look at Lebron’s treadmill.  The Cavs has undergone some serious changes already, giving Mike Brown the boot and losing GM Danny Ferry.  They’ve brought in Byron Scott, and they’ve said that assistant GM Chris Grant will take over where Ferry left off.  We know that both Scott and Grant are there to make and keep James happy.  Can Lebron get that in New York with D’Antoni and Walsh?  No way.  Can he get it in Chicago with their loudly publicized front-office discord?  Not a chance.  What about Miami?  If you play for Riley, he owns you.  Not the other way around.  The Cavs handed Lebron the keys to the kingdom years ago, but this year he’s gotten the puppet advisors, the court jester, the fairest princess in all the land, and a stash of AK-47s that he’s always wanted.  Why would he go anywhere?   Keep it up on that treadmill Lebron.  You look great.

And what about Dwayne Wade’s treadmill saga?  He’s playing for Eric Spoelstra, with GM Pat Riley ready to take the reins at a moment’s notice.  While you don’t want to be Spoelstra in that situation, being Dwayne Wade is great.  Does he want to go to Cleveland and be known as LeBron’s Sidekick?  Does he want to sign with the Knicks and play run-and-gun with Amare?  Doubtful.  He wants more titles.  He’ll make more money, have more opportunities to grab role players(can you say cap space?), and be happier staying in Miami.  But keep running in place Dwayne.  The exercise is good, and you don’t want to end up looking like your T-Mobile buddy, Barkley.

We can learn a lot from context, so let’s look at other free agent signings thus far.  Paul Pierce?  Ran in place, got bored, suffered an imaginary knee injury (oh that was two years ago, my bad), limped off the treadmill.  Dirk Nowitzki?  Ran in place, had a small insect bump his shooting hand, flopped off the treadmill.  Joe Johnson?  Hit the treadmill, got offered enough to get off 5 seconds later, cashed his check.  Rudy Gay?  Same Story.

These guys are just putting on a show.  It’s a good show, and they’re putting in a good effort.  But It’s much ado about nothing.  To be interesting, you actually have to be going somewhere.