The 2010 offseason was undoubtedly one of the most controversial free agency periods in NBA history. This was largely due to LeBron James electing to take part in a television special entitled “The Decision”, where he announced that he would join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami for a shot at a championship; now, four years later his boss, Pat Riley, subtly takes a jab at the four-time MVP during a season-ending press conference. As such, he may have put the James’ dedication on notice.
It does not take a genius to see that LeBron James may very well be headed the same route as he was on four years ago. In 2010, his Cleveland Cavaliers were in a contest with the Boston Celtics, in which his squad lost. Prior to their loss and all season, there was speculation that James would be moving on from his Cleveland team if they did not win the title. As many people know, he did exactly that and gave up on helping his home state win an NBA title hoping to find an easier route elsewhere.
Fast forward four years later, James once again was on the losing side of a playoff series, this time in the finals where they were outclassed by the well-oiled machine-like San Antonio Spurs. Unlike his departure in Cleveland, this was his fourth straight trip to the finals after having won it all two years in a row. Yet, much like his complaints in Cleveland, it appears that the four-time MVP is frustrated again with the lack of help on the roster. This was accented further yesterday when it was reported that James believes owner Micky Arison did not utilize all his assets to spend money on extra help. This is despite the fact that prior to the 2013-2014 season, the Heat’s roster, minus Mike Miller, with the addition of Michael Beasley and Greg Oden were, in fact, essentially the same team.
Arison’s right hand man and, arguably, the architect of the big three in Miami, Pat Riley, is not dumb. He sees the potential of James fleeing to another team, which is why during an hour long season-ending press conference he subtly gave James and possibly the other two of the big three a message. That message he put ever so elegantly was “You’ve got to stay together, if you’ve got the guts, and you don’t find the first door and run out of it if you have an opportunity.” It does not take a braniac to realize that he is referring to James’ exit four years ago and the possibility of him moving on once again.
Riley further explained his ideology to the media but, more specifically, all players in the NBA. He exemplified past dynasties from the Lakers and Celtics of the 1980s, the Chicago Bulls of the late 1980s through the late 1990s, as well as his recent Miami Heat squad. By naming these teams, he stated how these teams were constructed to win every year, but for the duration of each team’s run they ended up winning less than 50 percent of their championship chances. He said how it is hard to win a championship. Most importantly, Riley said that his team has nothing to be ashamed of. Forget the controversy surrounding this Miami Heat team; they have made it to four straight finals and have won half of them. Riley told everyone to “get a grip” and that Miami will be retooling, not rebuilding after their loss.
In essence, despite the irony of it all, Riley has spoken out against the plethora of players who refuse to stick with their team to win a championship. Furthermore, he has questioned the dedication not only of James, Wade and Bosh but for all players who want to bolt immediately upon free agency. Say what you will about Riley and his schemes over the years, but he is right. Winning a championship is difficult. It is tempting to move on when a championship run comes up short. However, the reward of sticking to the course, even when things get difficult, is a true sign of guts. Take a look at Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. All players stayed with their teams regardless of how many failed championship attempts (Jordan’s coming out of retirement for the Washington Wizard’s does not count). As such, Riley is pleading for James to return, while also questioning his will power to stay and create a dynasty, much like the aforementioned players.
Without a shadow of doubt, this offseason very well could cement LeBron James’ legacy. Will he be that player who is known to skip town whenever he does not win, or will he prove his critics wrong by staying put? If he does not stay put, his wanting to be in the conversation of the greatest ever may very well be put into question. Like Pat Riley said in his shot at James; he will prove that he simply does not have the guts to put in the hard work if he skips town.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey