An easy decision: More comedy than drama
Starring LeBron James, ESPN, Jim Gray, and the Miami Heat.
It’s been more than 36 hours since “The Decision’’ and I’m still nauseous.
Truly, has there ever been a more hideous sports-related hour than what we saw Thursday night?
It’s hard to know where to start. We had MeBron speaking of himself in the third person and saying, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.’’ We had ESPN lying to us about at what point MeBron would announce his move, then morphing into game-show mode. We had Gray forever forfeiting all semblance of integrity, taunting America (particularly Clevelanders) by intentionally delaying the only question we wanted him to ask. And now we have the Miami Heat — a veritable team of A-Rods, the team we will root against in every game as long as LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are together.
Despicable. All of them.
I don’t know about you, but I’m suddenly a big fan of dangerous Dan Gilbert, the unhinged owner of the Cavaliers. In a rant worthy of vintage Boss Steinbrenner, Gilbert blasted James as if he was Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner. Gilbert labeled James a narcissistic deserter and a “self-titled’’ former king. Then he called James a quitter, specifying all the playoff games in which MeBron quit against the Celtics this year. Ouch.
Certainly James is free to pursue all opportunities — he earned that — but maybe he could have spoken with Gilbert, man to man, and told him he was going to play elsewhere. After all, the Cavs did fire their coach and general manager and offer to play their games in Akron to please MeBron.
Reaction was all over the map. We saw folks burning James jerseys in Cleveland. The front cover of the New York Post screamed “LeBUM!’’, with “SON OF A BEACH!’’ on the back. The Daily News went with “WHO CARES!’’ Meanwhile, ESPN commentator Mark Jackson lauded MeBron’s comportment and said he used “The Decision’’ as a teaching moment for his children.
Fans in jilted cities and happy fans in South Florida reacted along partisan lines and we expected nothing less. But it’s impossible to heap enough abuse on Gray and the Worldwide Leader.
ESPN executive Norby Williamson had promised that LeBron’s decision would be revealed in the first 15 minutes of the program. Fat chance. We sat through 22 minutes of fluff before Stu art Scott finally tossed to Gray, who was sitting in a high chair, opposite James. Gray looked like the ridiculous host in “Slumdog Millionaire.’’ For a ridiculous six minutes, Gray toyed with a rapt audience, asking 18 mind-numbing, vapid questions about biting fingernails and the difficulty of arriving at a decision. Imagine the anguish for the oft-pummeled people of Cleveland, waiting for the verdict while a smug Gray sat there like he was reading from the script of “Our Town.’’
The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick said Gray was chosen for the role because of his “special relationship with the online college, the University of Phoenix.’’ Apparently the University of Phoenix is a sponsor of Gray’s Monday Night Football radio show.
What a field day for the Heat. The franchise is everybody’s favorite to make it to the Finals against the Lakers next year. Call me a homer, but LeBron to Miami with reality-show-twins Wade and Bosh only makes me root harder for the Celtics, the Magic, the Bulls, or anyone but Miami in the upcoming years.
Too bad the Celtics have so many guys playing on the back nine. Think about it, folks; the 2010-11 Celtics will be the oldest team you have ever seen. In the last week they inked Paul Pierce to a four-year extension, which means he’ll play 17 seasons in a Boston uniform. Ray Allen was signed to a two-year deal that will take him through 16 NBA seasons. Kevin Garnett, who has been playing in the NBA since 1995 (didn’t KG block a shot by John Havlicek?), will have played in 17 NBA seasons when his deal is up. And now the Celtics have Jermaine O’Neal, who came into the league in 1996.
Where are these guys going to train — On Golden Pond?
Doc Rivers is going to be Old Man Rivers. The Celtics of 2010-11 are the men from “Cocoon.’’
It’s fashionable to note that the Celtics are the model for the new Heat. Danny Ainge assembled three Hall of Famers and won a championship in the first year. But that was different. Ainge gave up draft picks and players to get Allen and Garnett. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen were much older than James, Wade, and Bosh. But Boston has players who could submerge their egos and play defense. The Heat have three megastars in their prime, but there’s no guarantee this will work. LeBron and friends have put enormous pressure on themselves. They have to win or they are LeFrauds.
Pray for a bust. Here’s hoping there’s no reward for any of the Despicable Me characters who participated in “The Decision.’’
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.