Sunday, October 19, 2014

the last book I ever read (The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons, excerpt two)

from The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy by Bill Simmons:

Of course, Kobe spent the summer of 2010 like he always did: killing himself in workouts and figuring out ways to stave off Father Time. LeBron? Heading into his first Miami season, he still lacks a fallaway jumper, spin move or effective jump hook (a shame because his passing would make him a beast from the low post). It’s not that his priorities were out of whack, just that he had too many … or maybe that he wasn’t cut out for this in the first place. After his final Cleveland game, I wrote that LeBron faced one of the greatest sports decisions ever: “winning (Chicago), loyalty (Cleveland) or a chance at immortality (New York).” I never thought he would pick “Help!!!!!!” There’s a chance LeBron was miscast all along, that God intended him to be Magic 2.0—an unselfish facilitator, the ultimate teammate, a walking triple double every night, someone capable of playing four positions and filling in any blank, someone just as happy setting up the game-winning shot as making it—and those seven Cleveland seasons pushed him in a direction that he never wanted. There’s a chance The Decision was really about embracing The Secret: someone sacrificing individual glory because Miami gave him the best chance to win, and because nobody knows how to push that button better than Pat Riley. There’s a chance I will feel differently about this five years from now.

But today? August 2010? I feel like LeBron James copped out. In pickup basketball, there’s an unwritten rule to keep teams relatively equal to maximize competitiveness of the games. If two players are noticeably better than the rest and have any pride at all—especially if they play similar positions—then beating each other trumps any other scenario. They want that test. Otherwise, hat’s the point? If two alpha dogs land on the same team by coincidence—like Kareem and Magic, or Shaq and Kobe—that’s one thing. That’s sports. Shit happens. But two perimeter players willingly deciding that it would be easier to join forces than compete against each other? There’s no “secret” to that. When I handed in my hardcover manuscript, I thought LeBron might surpass Jordan and Russell for the top pyramid spot some day. He took himself out of the running within twelve months. Then again, we’re the one who wanted it for him. Maybe he never wanted it. The most telling moment was the decision itself, when LeBron said, “I’ve decided to take my talents to South Beach.” Not the Miami Heat, or even Miami itself. South Beach. A place that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have a basketball arena. A place where stars can act like stars, where life is easy, where the sun is always shining, where appearance matters more than anything else, where gorgeous women practically get churned off an assembly line. It’s beautiful there, and easy. If you’re looking for Bizarro Cleveland, look no further than South Beach.

That was the choice LeBron James made in the end: not Miami, not the Heat, but South Beach. That’s what he said. As someone who was twenty-five once, I can’t blame him. As someone who loves basketball, I can’t forgive him.

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