A little like college baseball players who go away to play in summer...
Should We Really Feel Sorry for Them?
Can we really feel sorry for these guys?
On ESPN and other networks, I’ve heard more than one analyst (in fact not one, not two, not four, not five, etc…) say that they “feel bad” for the LeBron James in this year’s finals.
So it’s a question I ask myself when Miami struggles in this year’s version of the NBA Playoffs. Can we feel sorry for these guys? Can we feel bad for a team so closely contrived by its major pieces? A team that was supposed to be a team of destiny. A team that was supposed to be, In the words of Jack Burns, “an unstoppable rebel force.”
When Miami got together, it was not inconceivable that they would win multiple titles with their version of the “Big 3.” James and Bosh were still on the upside of their career and Wade was championship-tested. But something happened a year ago. The Heatles faltered when it mattered most and the public perception swung wildly away from the South Florida juggernaut.
Fast forward to this strike shortened aberration of a season. What has really changed but perception? Before the series this year, nearly every media outlet I listen to picked Oklahoma City over Miami. And, while I haven’t agreed with that pick, I’m not arguing with it. I am arguing with pity.
Analyze the game. Talk about why the Heat aren’t winning. Go ahead and dissect Chris Bosh’s injury or Dwayne Wade’s lack of explosiveness. Just don’t tell me to feel sorry for LeBron.
Because when you feel sorry for him, you are giving pity based on a personnel situation that was orchestrated by the three best players on the team, especially LeBron. James, Wade, and Bosh took ownership, leadership, and put a bulls-eye on their backs when they joined forces two summers ago. The Decision, the ensuing rally, the smoke machine, and LeBron’s deteriorating image as an entourage-wielding, self-absorbed loser have not helped the perception of the Heat’s chances of winning a title. If James had planned to make himself more and more unlikable, I would argue, he couldn’t have done a much better job.
And now the Heatles are feeling the unanticipated burning eyes as they are on the brink of losing another finals series. Down 1-0 after Game 1, everyone was ready to throw dirt on their grave.
One year ago, public perception of the Heat shifted to mostly negative. They ripped the title of most-hated team from the Lakers. And at the center of the negative pushback was the most talented player that the NBA has possibly ever seen. Only an NBA Championship will turn the tide again.
Which brings me back to Wade, James, and Bosh. James is the best player in the league and he cares too much about public perception to let this go on. He has seemingly tried every other way to improve public perception and, I would argue, come to this conclusion. The only way to really do it is to win. Just ask Kobe.
As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said recently, “Nobody likes getting dirt thrown on your face before you’re not even dead.”
LeBron isn’t dead yet and neither are the Heat. And what will there be to feel sorry other than the pundits who will say they knew Miami was going to win all along.