LeBron James Goes Back to Cleveland: 4 Winners, 4 Losers
Cleveland won big, the Rockets not so much.
A simple letter posted to the internet.
That's all it was this time. No made for television special, no Jim Gray, no "taking my talents to," no dry ice unveiling where were told "not three, not four, not five..." championships.
In every way imaginable, LeBron James' announcement Friday that he would be returning to Cleveland to play for his hometown Cavaliers was the polar opposite of the manner in which he left four years ago. Gone was the immature, oblivious manchild, and in its place returned a self aware grownup, ready to go to work.
Undeniably, there were winners and losers in this whole thing. Let's take a look.
4. Dan Gilbert Beginning with the maniacal, "jilted lover," Comic Sans-fonted scud that Gilbert launched at LeBron on the night of "The Decision" in 2010, the Cavalier franchise the last four years has been one big clown show. If I were to list all of the missteps in this space, it would take at least a week to write, just rest assured the issues were many (Also, to be clear, I'd write that week long missive in Comic Sans.). Just know that the Cavaliers wound up in the draft lottery all four years LeBron was gone, fell ass backwards into the first pick three times, and secured the world's best player because he wants his kids to grow up in Ohio. They are now favored to win the NBA title. Life isn't fair sometimes.
3. Lee Jenkins and Sports Illustrated As we all waited around on Thursday and then Friday for the news on LeBron, I know I continually checked and refreshed the Twitter timelines of Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and USA Today's Sam Amick. Those guys are the gold standard for NBA news breakers. (I continually checked ESPN's Chris Broussard's timeline to see if sources had LeBron joining a band of traveling acrobats.) I'll admit, I had never really heard of Lee Jenkins (or if I had, I wasn't paying attention), but in doing some follow up research, this was a story he sought out and earned. I liked how LeBron executed this annoucement, and Jenkins was the architect. This whole thing was a huge win for Jenkins, and a monster victory in perception for SI, which has taken a bit of a veiled obsolence beating in recent years.
2. Skylar Grey The coincidental timing of the popularity of her hit song with the "return home" of the world's most famous athlete are the perfect musical storm, launching Grey from "the chick that sings that 'coming home' song" to "we know her actual name" status. Now, for every athlete that ever returns to a place they previously played, we will hear this song (replacing "Home" by Daughtry and "I'm Going Home" by Phil Phillips). Hell, Grey even went and made a LeBron-specific version:
Skylar, can Houston get one of these for Trevor Ariza, please?
1. The Cleveland tourism video guys Super happy for THESE guys! Remember those awesome Cleveland tourism videos?
Seriously, the town whose most famous citizen ONE YEAR AGO was the "dead giveaway" guy with the Buckwheat haircut who rescued those kidnapped girls now has Johnny Manziel AND LeBron James. I'd like to be happy for them but...
4. Houston Rockets ...how can I be happy for Cleveland when the world is ending here? Conventional wisdom was that LeBron James was essentially making a decision Friday for three franchises -- Miami, Cleveland, and Houston -- as his decision would directly effect Chris Bosh, who was reportedly all but delivered to the Rockets in the event James went to the Cavs. Or so we thought. LeBron's decision did effect Bosh. It opened up enough money for the Heat to make him a 5 year, $119 million offer, which Bosh gobbled up, reportedly after he (or his agent) gave the Rockets a reported verbal that Bosh was going to join the Rockets, to the extent that the Rockets traded Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, a move they reportedly would only make if they got an agreement from Bosh. Once Bosh heel turned the Rockets, the whole weekend spun wildly out of control, bottoming out with the team letting Chandler Parsons go to the Mavericks Sunday night. The only good thing to come out of the Bosh situation was the hilarious "Chris Bosh: I'm Staying Home" letter.
3. Shabazz Napier So it started innocently enough, as some Twitter chatter on the weekend of the Final Four, LeBron digging on UConn guard Shabazz Napier's game...
No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
Well, apparently, as they were putting their list of "Things LeBron likes" together to try and keep him, the Heat entered that tweet as one exhibit. They traded up on draft night to take Napier.
And LeBron likey...
My favorite player in the draft! #Napier— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 27, 2014
Now, Napier goes from being the "little point guard LeBron ALWAYS WANTED" (sorry, Rio) to a rotation player on a team whose best player is Chris Bosh. Not a horrible place to be, but compared to what expectations were. Damn, sorry Bazz.
2. Dwyane Wade In the end, no one will have been a bigger individual financial loser in the LeBron fallout than Wade, who opted out of two guaranteed years of $42 million worth of income so that he could help open up cap space to surround James with more pieces. Bosh did the same thing, but wound up getting paid $119 million for the next five years. Now Wade sits out on the open market with a few nibbles, but he won't get anywhere near the $42 million from any team outside Miami over four years, much less two. If the Heat want to take care of the only true face of their franchise, they'll give him an above market deal over three or four years. And if Wade didn't have something like this agreed to on a wink-wink basis in the event of LeBron's leaving, then that's just not smart business. (To his credit, Wade has handled LeBron's departure with class.)
1. David Griffin Griffin took over in February for ousted GM Chris Grant, and his resume thus far consists of 1) trading for half a season of Spencer Hawes, 2) lucking into a draft lottery win, and 3) reading LeBron's SI.com letter along with the rest of us. LeBron's deal is for two years with an opt out after the first year, an arrangement I'd expect in every one of LeBron's future contracts until he turns into the LeBron version of 1996 Magic Johnson (fat power forward edition). What I'm saying is Griffin doesn't choose where to go to lunch (much less make trades and important decisions) without checking with LeBron. He is GM in name only. The real GM is the King.
And his kingdom awaits. LeBron is coming home.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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