Friday, July 09, 2010

The Decision: Did LeBron Do The Right Thing?

“I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad, buy all of the things I never had!” --Travie McCoy, musician and rapper.

Did it surprise you? I bet, No. Did it disappoint you? I bet, Yes.

Of course, Cleveland wanted him for themselves. So, did all the other teams in the running. Each team wanted a decision that would make their little world better. However, there was more at play here and we knew it, deep in our hearts.

Let's set the stage. After Watergate and Bill Clinton, we wanted someone to step up. We waited to see if George W. Bush was going to do the right thing and show the right leadership "stuff" after 9/11. He didn't take advantage of the tragedy to pull the USA or the world together. He had another chance with Hurricane Katrina and blew it. The Gulf oil spill has been a disappointing opportunity for President Barack Obama to show his mettle. He hasn't. I can keep going but I am sure you can name all the others that have had the opportunity, yet failed to inspire us or show us the way.

So, we weren't waiting for LeBron James to make his decision because he is a basketball player. We weren't really waiting for which of the new teams he was going to play for. We weren't waiting for LeBron to make a good decision. We wanted to see if he was going to make a great decision; a transcendent decision.

Transcendence requires real leadership. We wanted someone to start the process of restoring our faith in ourselves and humanity. We wanted someone to reverse our increasingly understandable cynicism. We were waiting for someone to rise above the mentality of reality TV. We wanted to see what a contemporary role model would do.

Well, LeBron did the exciting thing to do, the new thing, the glamorous thing, maybe even the most financially sound thing. He might have done his "pros" and "cons" analysis and it came up as the "best" thing to do.

Many people consider him a role model and he is, whether he likes it or not. I even heard some people defend his decision as a black man taking what was his. I respect that, too. Some defended it as a carefully thought-out business decision.

I understand that LeBron was tired of chasing the ring with his Cleveland teammates. He felt his biological basketball clock ticking.

In any case, LeBron did what is his individual American prerogative of pursuing life, liberty and happiness. He has the right to choose. You can even say he has earned it. I get that and I don't begrudge him that.

What I would have preferred that LeBron had done (and I defend his right not to) is to model loyalty, and demonstrate and reciprocate affection for a team, a city, a state, and a region that could use a little. I would have preferred him to go old school and stick with one team to the end. He didn't have to and he should do what he wants to do, but I wanted him to be compelled to stay and work for a championship for a team that has tried to surround him with the role players to win.

I wish that he had taken the opportunity to show compassion, value relationships and "connection" over all else. The city of Cleveland embraced him, even without a championship. Cleveland valued his efforts at winning they were willing to keep going.

The worst thing about this is that I hoped that he would return to Cleveland, but I wasn't surprised that he didn't. I know what kind of world we live in and I know that LeBron did not grow up with his father. I also understand that he wanted to be wanted. Everyone wanted him. But, most importantly, I knew that he did not understand, anticipate or care what the consequences of his decision would be. That is the real tragedy. He was oblivious to the aftermath around him.

That is the great disease of our time. What we needed was a decision that made us all a little better.

What did Tiger Woods say after his affairs? "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt anyone." If you haven't already, I think that you will soon hear that from LeBron. He made a good decision, he didn't make a great decision.

So, there you have it, plain to see. LeBron made a good decision, but he didn't make a transcendent decision. It wasn't in his emotional DNA. Perhaps that is why he doesn't have a ring. Perhaps he will get a ring. But, it won't mean as much. There will be emotional asterisks surrounding it.

Sports, the NBA, basketball, and we all suffer. He could have made us all a little better. I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised.