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Do I blame LeBron James for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers? Not particularly. In seven years, the best player they ever managed to put next to him was, who, Zydrunas Ilgauskas? Mo Williams? Larry Hughes? From the very beginning, management seemed terrified of losing LeBron—he bears more than a bit of responsibility for this—and semi-panic is rarely a strong building strategy.
Do I blame LeBron for how he left the Cavs? Of course I do. LeBron has earned every ounce of abuse he's taken for his weeklong ego-palooza, the crowning achievement of which was not even deigning to tell the Cavs himself that he wasn't coming back—at least, not until he told the world on ESPN. As Rudy from Fat Albert would have noted, that move was like school during summer: No class.
Some have also criticized LeBron for opting to join fellow-superstar Dwyane Wade and all-star Chris Bosh in Miami, rather than choosing a team—Cleveland, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, the Clippers—that would have been indisputably his. As ESPN's Bill Simmons put it:
I think it's a cop-out. Any super-competitive person would rather beat Dwyane Wade than play with him. Don't you want to find the Ali to your Frazier and have that rival pull the greatness out of you? That's why I'm holding out hope that LeBron signs with New York or Chicago (or stays in Cleveland), because he'd be saying, "Fine. Kobe, Dwight and Melo all have their teams. Wade and Bosh have their team. The Celtics are still there. Durant's team is coming. I'm gonna go out and build MY team, and I'm kicking all their asses." That's what Jordan would have done. Hell, that's what Kobe would have done.
Here, too, there's a part of me that's willing to grant a little slack. Perhaps LeBron lacks the win-at-all-costs gene of Jordan and Kobe (and, in their quieter ways, greats such as Bird and Duncan). Perhaps he doesn't want the burden of being the fourth-quarter hero of every playoff game in which his team needs one. So he cedes some of that burden to his new co-star, becoming a kind of hybrid of Pippen to Wade's Jordan and Magic to Wade's Big Game James Worthy. Is that such a bad thing? I mean, who seems more contented to you, Earvin Johnson or Michael Jordan? LeBron's decision to share the burden of greatness could be a sign of self-knowledge, even humility.