The 2010 Biggest Story of the Year Debate… The Decision

January 2, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

It takes a lot to shock Americans these days. After all, we are a culture where pop icons have to don suits of raw meat at awards shows, and stay-at-home moms have to have eight children at once to make a name for themselves. But, the free agent contract negotiations of one NBA player did seem to capture the attention of the nation for the better part of a month.

For a short while last summer, the LeBron James free agent saga unfolded in such a way almost no one could have predicted, in the process running the cities of Cleveland, New York, Chicago, and Miami through an emotional ringer. It was THE story of the year. LeBron James, arguably the most coveted free agent of all time… for any sport… was weighing his options, and in the process potentially altering the landscape of the NBA for years to come. Would he stay in Cleveland – the city that loved him like no other could? Or would the bright lights of the Big Apple lure him away? The options were many, the tension palpable, and it went on like this for weeks.

LeBron news dominated sports coverage around the country. Many joked that the attention that ESPN was paying the spectacle warranted its own channel (perhaps ESPN12…The King’s News) and that was before they decided to give him a one hour signing special – The Decision. James coverage was so all consuming that before it was all said and done many viewers were reporting symptoms of LeBron-lash (a disease marked by anxiety, irritation, and nausea from too much hype).

The whole fiasco climaxed in a nationally televised sit down interview with Jim Gray. It had the potential to be an edgy interview as Gray had a reputation for asking tough questions, instead it turned out to be a lot of coy skirting around the matter at hand before finally getting down to the business of determining where King James would sign. After some trivial banter which prompted SNL head writer Seth Myers to Tweet “Foreplay from Jim Gray just as satisfying as I’ve always imagined it would be” … LeBron finally announced he would be South Beach bound.

Miami rejoiced. Chicago scratched its head. New York went back to the drawing board (chants for Car-mell-o, Car-mell-o already filling the streets outside of The Garden). And Cleveland went through the seven stages of grief.

But the real story wasn’t so much that King James was on the move, but rather how he announced it. He did it in the most grandiose, spectacular way in all of NBA history. The obvious self-promotion of the event rivaled on a publicity stunt of Spencer Pratt or P Diddy. Whether it was good publicity or bad publicity, it was indeed the greatest publicity I have ever seen attributed to one individual athlete or team in my lifetime. Barry Bonds’ steroid scandal never hit such a fevered frenzy. The Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak drama didn’t even come close. Even Curt Schilling’s bloody sock and the Red Sox 86 year drought-breaking World Series victory all pale in comparison in terms of media coverage and pop culture significance of The Decision.

Popular support for James and the move was split. Americans either fell into the Pro-LeBron camp, which supported the move and the super team which it created, or the Pro-Cleveland camp, which despised the abandonment of the city and team that supported him during his rise to superstardom. It was eerily reminiscent to the Team Edward and Team Jacob controversy which had divided America earlier. (Side note – it’s not really even a choice. Clearly Jacob is right for her. He loves Bella and she wouldn’t have to change for him.)

Even the fallout from The Decision was headline news. Within minutes the Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, released a passionate and critical statement about James’ choice to leave Cleveland. That reaction (which won him Bleacher Fan’s nod for Debate of the Year) prompted a response from Jesse Jackson, who compared the whole ordeal to slavery and not so subtly questioned the racial bias of Dan Gilbert and anyone who questioned LeBron’s choice. It seemed that anyone and everyone had an opinion about The Decision and it was being made as public as possible.

The Sports Debates is no different. We have tried to hash out the issue in debates both on the website and off. In fact, we are still arguing the issue to this very day. Sports Geek and I quite frequently try to hash out never really finding common ground. Perhaps I just root for the villains too much or perhaps LeBron isn’t the orphan hating kitten strangler the city believes him to be (another side note – I actually think Cleveland might prefer an orphan hating kitten strangler to LeBron at this point). But the fact remains that LeBron’s decision is still a polarizing entity in the sports world, even today.

In some respects, LeBronmania is still in full swing. But the question remains, why? Is it that he is the greatest, most important sports figure of all time? Probably not. Is it that his decision was so shocking that we simply cannot or will not accept it? Again, I think not. I believe the issue is and always was the spectacle of it all.

Americans like drama and LeBron is drama. Michael Jordan playing for a team other than the Bulls would have at one time been unthinkable, although not impossible. But even if the Jump Man had jumped ship it probably would never have been done in quite so flashy a way, and might very well have been received by the public in a very different way. The difference is in the approach. LeBron’s legacy is flash, and The Decision was the biggest flashpoint of 2010, if not of all time in the NBA.

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The Cavaliers Playoff Loss Debate… LeBron Choked

May 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

As of 2008, the state of Ohio had roughly 11.5 million residents. After hearing from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan last week, it’s fairly obvious that the vast majority of those residents were extremely frustrated, disappointed, bitter, or all of the above after yet another meltdown by a Cleveland franchise. Blame is going around, as this was supposed to be the season the Cavs won it all. A large black cloud named “LeBron Free Agency 2010” was quickly approaching, and a championship needed to be won before the storm came. Well, the storm hit Ohio a little too quickly as the Cavs were knocked out by the Celtics last week. Who is to blame for this premature “storm?” It’s none other than LeBron James himself.

As a resident of Georgia I am not immune to the endless hype machine they call LeBron. The rest of the country, Georgia included, has known for at least seven years what the state of Ohio has known for over ten years – the man is a freak of nature. No one is disputing that. Go to and you’ll find countless stories about James. He has a rock star persona that few can match. But let’s be honest. He choked in the Celtics series.

Through much of James’ career I have heard much about how he makes his teammates better ad. People say, “He’s a threat to get a triple-double every time he takes the court.” Well, that may be the case. But, it’s hard to say you make your teammates better when you aren’t holding up your end in the bargain. Sure, LeBron had a triple double in game six. But he also was one turnover short of having a quadruple-double the wrong way. But for me, the lasting image of this series was James’ lack of effort in game five.

It’s true that James had an awful game. He had a paltry 15 points on just 3-14 shooting. But what was alarming was not that he had a bad game, as that happens to even the great ones. What was quite shocking was the fact that LeBron just wasn’t into the game. He looked like he had about as much interest in that game as Milton Bradley has in behaving. He just didn’t want to be there. He was dragging! That’s likely how the entire state of Ohio felt last Wednesday! They didn’t want to be at work. That is according to Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan. And at this point, that’s totally unacceptable. It’s one thing to be disinterested in a mid-February game against the Clippers in a half-empty Staples Center. It’s quite another to be out of touch with the game in a pivotal playoff game that ultimately could change the direction of the franchise.

There are many definitions of the word “choke” (some of which will be explored in full detail later this week), but in this context choke is defined as not coming through when all the pressure is at its most intense. The pressure was most definitely on James, and he choked. All the individual accomplishments to this point can’t erase the lack of success his teams have had in the postseason. All the money he has received, and will receive in the future, can’t buy him the one thing that will cement his legacy – a championship ring. Comparisons are starting to be made to Alex Rodriguez, and the comparisons are starting to gain traction as, until last year, ARod had a horrific postseason reputation. And that rep was well earned. Time will tell if James is able to eventually win a ring.

In the meantime, let’s quit calling him King James. He has not conquered any throne in the grand scheme of things.

That is, unless we all stand and behold King James: The King of Choking!

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The Fire Mike Brown Debate – The Verdict

June 12, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s opinion.

First, I’ll continue to give credit to both Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek for starting off their arguments with real life analogies. Bleacher Fan’s gas station example and Sports Geek chronicling a typical bad day at work really set the tone for their respective arguments.

There’s no doubt that Mike Brown is feeling a little heat up in Cleveland. In fact, he’s feeling a lot of heat. In the back of the mind of many of the Cleveland Cavaliers must be that one little sentence that none of them are willing to admit is possible. What sentence is that, you ask? I’ll tell you…


This is cause for real panic. No one is arguing that in this debate. The fans necessarily have a “win now” attitude, and management, publically at least, has adopted the same attitude (see Bleacher Fan’s opinion for details).

But, firing the coach isn’t always the answer. Maybe some upgrades need to happen within the team. As Sports Geek suggested, the Cavs need an athletic big man to play alongside LeBron James. Perhaps the bench needs to be strengthened, too. Firing the coach won’t strengthen the team. Mike Brown won 66 games and was the NBA Coach of the Year. Whether or not he won it on the strength of Number 23 is not the point. He was still the head coach when his team won all of those games.

Now, if the Cavs don’t win it all next year – or at least make it to the NBA Finals – then a stronger case can be made to fire Mike Brown and question his ability to lead the Cavs to a championship. But, that case isn’t strong enough right now. Not yet.

Therefore, the winner of this debate is…


The Fire Mike Brown Debate – Should The Cavs Fire The Coach of the Year?

June 12, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s opinion.

The 2009 NBA Finals is in full swing, and that should be the focus of NBA fans right now. But, rather quietly, Mike Brown’s status as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been called into question by some.

Congratulations Coach Brown. After winning 66 regular season games this past year, you have to fight for your job?

There are conflicting reports about Brown’s status.

Reportedly, several “sources close to the situation” are saying that the front office is divided on the status of Brown’s future. Others are saying that Brown’s job is safe. If the reports about a divided front office are true, what should Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry do?

Brown’s record after four years is an impressive 211-117. That’s a .643 winning percentage. Not too bad, huh? How about a 66-16 record this past season, including 39-2 at home. And, oh yeah, he is the reigning NBA Coach of the Year!

That’s the good news. Now, the bad news.

Brown’s team (or maybe LeBron’s team?) made the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals as the odds on favorites over the talented Orlando Magic. But, they were upset by the Magic in six games. King James is due to be a free agent after next season (in case you haven’t heard… and if you haven’t, where have you been?).

The question posed by Loyal Homer, and by a good portion of America’s sports fans, is:

Does Mike Brown deserve to lose his job as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Brown hasn’t taken this team to the next level and more is expected by the coach of LeBron James’ team.

Sports Geek will argue that Mike Brown has done enough to keep his job.

Present your case to me so I can make one of you happy and one of you mad!

The LeBron James Handshake Snub Debate – LeBron’s a Bad Sport, Owed Media Nothing

June 4, 2009

(Site note: Look to the bottom of this post to find links to the other opinions and intro to this debate).

Much fuss has been made about the action, or lack of action, taken by LeBron James after game 6 of the ‘09 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. At the conclusion of the game, King James walked off the court without speaking to any of the Orlando Magic players. He then proceeded to go into the locker room, shower up, and leave without speaking to the media. My opinion differs from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s. I believe that while LeBron had no responsibility to speak to the media, I believe that he showed poor sportsmanship and a lack of class by not shaking hands with Magic players.

Personally, I always like getting up in the morning and read the morning paper or watch my favorite sports news program to see, read, and hear what the players say after the game from the previous night. It’s just fascinating to get the point of view of players and coaches after the game, win or lose.

However, I understand when a player doesn’t want to talk to the media directly after a game, especially after a hard fought series like this one was. James averaged over 38 points-per-game during the series, and he was practically a one man show throughout the entire series. I’m sure he was frustrated. Perhaps the emotion was still too raw, and he didn’t want to say something he might regret. I can respect that.

But, by not shaking the hands of the Magic players and coaches, he showed terrible sportsmanship and an extreme lack of class. He is arguably the face of the NBA. Act like it!

Remember the days of T-ball? After the game, you would line up and give each player and coach on the other team a high five. We are all taught this at a very young age. Maybe King James didn’t play T-ball, but you get my drift. It’s not like LeBron is in the middle of a feud with any of the Magic players. By all accounts, LeBron and Dwight Howard are friends. They played on the “Redeem Team” together. To his credit, LeBron texted Howard the next day to congratulate him. But, he didn’t apologize. He felt no need to. He is wrong in thinking that.

LeBron, you are always going to be under a microscope – like or not. This will happen whether or not you play after next year, whether it’s in Cleveland, New York, Europe, or Mayberry, North Carolina. You are a star. We are a witness to you, according to Nike. Give us some better sportsmanship to witness!

(Site note: You can read the intro to this debate, Bleacher Fan’s opinion, and Sports Geek’s opinion, too. Let the voting begin!!

The NBA Championship Debate – It’s Kobe’s Time

May 29, 2009

(Site note: If you missed the set up to this debate, click here. If you missed why the Magic will win, click here. If you missed how the Cavaliers will win, click here. Read Loyal Homer’s argument for the Lakers, then vote!).

As it stands today, four teams are left in what has been one of the most entertaining playoffs in recent memory. All four teams have strong credentials and a superstar – which is good for ratings. We all know what matchup the NBA and ABC are hoping for. It’s what most fans are hoping for also. But, when all is said and done, no matter what the matchup is in the Finals, I believe the Los Angeles Lakers will come out on top, and win their first championship since 2003.

Sports Geek has given you his reasons why Orlando will win with all of his numbers and statistics. But, that’s what sports geeks do! Bleacher Fan has given his reasons why Cleveland will win. Let me tell you why the Lakers will win.

Kobe knows it’s his time. It’s not quite “now or never” time but it really isn’t that far off. Lebron is only getting better and Wade, Anthony, and Howard are on teams who are only going to get better in the coming years. Perhaps Kobe just isn’t ready to hand over the throne to King James just yet.

It’s been an ongoing debate amongst NBA fans about who the best player in the NBA is right now. The pendulum has swung to Lebron James’ favor in the past year. Heck, even former Laker player (and Kobe Bryant’s former boss) Jerry West agrees. Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard have had their moment in the spotlight, also. Meanwhile, there’s a guy that plays at the Staples Center. You may have heard of him.

I will say that Andrew Bynum is going to have to consistently step up his game for the Lakers to win. Bynum had an awful two first rounds against the Jazz and Rockets, respectively, but he has picked it up slightly against the Nuggets. To beat the Cavs or Magic, he will have to continue to pick it up.

Let’s not forget the Lakers are coming off an NBA Finals loss last year to the Celtics. Couple the taste of that recent loss with the loss to the Pistons in the 2004, and the Lakers are on what you might call a mini-championship slump. It’s time to right the ship. It’s time for Kobe to get his fourth ring and continue to climb the ladder of the all time greats.

Lakers over the Nuggets in 6. Lakers over The Sharply Dressed Coach Stan Van Gundy and his Orlando Magic team in 6!!!