The NBA Free Agent Double Standard Debate… We Are All Witnesses… to a Crime

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Thank goodness it all ends today!

My office sits right in the heart of Cavalier Country (or perhaps LeBron Land is the more appropriate term), right next door to Quicken Loans Arena on East 9th Street in Downtown Cleveland. Outside of my office window sits one of the hundreds of banners hung all over town to tell LeBron James how much the city of Cleveland loves him. Outside and below my office window for weeks stood groups of people who were literally REQUIRED by their employer to stand, waving similar banners, blowing air horns, and inciting traffic to honk back at them.

Why? As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes, “So that these hard-working people can “beg a diva who doesn’t care about them to accept a $100 million contract.”

Sounds ridiculous, right?! Well, it is.

LeBron James has made a joke of himself (a WEALTHY joke, perhaps, but a joke nonetheless), and a joke of the good people of Cleveland. Whatever his decision, his actions leading up to tonight’s pathetic excuse for a serious announcement will have forever altered the relationship he has with the city he once claimed as his home.

If he leaves, he will join the ranks of Art Modell as one of the most vile, despicable people to have ever associated their name with Cleveland sports. If he stays, the pain and anguish that he put the city through will nevertheless hang like a shadow over the collective hearts of Cavs fans everywhere.

They will forgive him, but they will never forget.

And although this abhorrent display of pompous selfdom has reached a fever pitch since Free Agent season began on July 1, it is actually the culmination of a process that began several years ago.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that this circus developed organically, either. The NBA, and the greater sporting world at large, has actually been little more than pawns in a game that LeBron James and his cohorts around the league began playing more than two years ago. They have manipulated the league and its fans like puppets in a show, all designed to build up towards the climax that will be “The Decision.”

For the past two years LeBron has strutted all over the NBA like a tease on prom night, feigning interest in anyone who would bat an eye in his direction just long enough to get them worked up to a near frenzied state – only to a cold shoulder just at the point where it would make them crazier, rather than turn them off.

He has been very blatant in his intentions, and spoken openly about how excited he was to play the field when the 2010 period of free agency opened. He made it known that he would openly solicit all suitors, getting team officials and fans alike salivating at the possibility of having “The King” grace their own court.

For two years LeBron has dangled his free agency like a carrot on a stick, all for one reason – to inflate his already overinflated value. Unfortunately for everyone who is NOT LeBron James, his strategy worked.

So what did Dwayne Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, and Joe Johnson do? Like a shark smelling blood in the water, they joined in on the fun.

And of course the scavenging media quickly followed. Every tweet from one player to another, every piece of clothing that one of the players wore, and every game played in the city of a prospective future employer became a headline story. And when James, Wade, and Bosh allegedly met for a “summit” (the fact that it was even dubbed a summit is ridiculous) to seriously discuss all options and strategize what would be the best thing for each of them to do, the process which started out as little more than a self-marketing campaign took the plunge into full-fledged collusion!

If this three-ringed extravaganza had been put on by team officials trying actively to recruit LeBron and company, they would have immediately been punished. The NBA prohibits collusion among team officials because they don’t want teams to have the ability of manipulating league conditions to manufacture an unfair advantage over the players or fans.

That rule does not apply to players, though, and so LeBron and his buddies were permitted to run unchecked, and the result was the manipulation of EVERYONE, all for their own selfish gain. It was a vicious cycle that continued to feed itself, ultimately snowballing into one of the most absurd and ridiculous sports spectacles ever.

A pack of free agents, led by LeBron James, was able to completely monopolize the free agency process.

What would have surely been an intense period of contract negotiation instead transformed into a sports version of “The Bachelor.” with the free agents each holding open court to see which teams would jump highest and bend farthest to give all they had.

Teams cut their own throats for two full seasons, all on the promise that they would be “allowed” to talk to James, Wade, and the other free agents. Fans across the country had to endure frustration, grief, and anguish, all on the hope that it would be worth it after July 2010.

The problem is that only one team can sign LeBron James and/or Dwayne Wade, so what about those other teams? The New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks, for example, had dumped every possible contract they could to make as much cap room available as possible. If they should fail to land any of the marquis free agents (Amar’e Stoudemire will be playing in the Big Apple, but by himself that is small consolation) the teams will both be hamstrung for the NEXT three to five years, after having willingly committed suicide over past seasons.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are another organization completely crippled by this power heist the players have committed. LeBron James had worked the system so much in his favor that the Cavaliers literally NEED him to sign with them. They had invested so much time and money into supporting him that if he leaves, the team will be crippled. They will have no means to begin the rebuilding process, and would simply be cast aside like a used up husk, all because LeBron James no longer found value in their organization.

What will happen to the Cavs?

When the curtain falls on this Shakespearean tragedy, many teams will be left in utter ruin, all so that four or five free agents could get maximum contract offers (AND maximum exposure). They have hijacked the entire NBA, and forever altered the course of professional basketball.

If the NBA wishes to regain ANY control over the situation to prevent this from ever happening again, the league needs to impose the same restrictions on free agents as it does on team executives. The “business” of basketball should play out in a business-like fashion, with the same rules applying to both sides of the bargaining table. Without that EQUAL responsibility, you end up with what we are “Witnessing” today, which is a one-sided free-for-all, where the whims and egos of a few can assume far too much control over the many.

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One Response to The NBA Free Agent Double Standard Debate… We Are All Witnesses… to a Crime

  1. The NBA Free Agent Double Standard Debate? We Are All Witnesses? to a Crime…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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