Thursday, June 21, 2012

4 comments Drew Sharp Says LeBron Didn't Take the Easy Path to the NBA Finals Because the 1992 Dream Team Exists

There isn't necessarily an "easy" path to an NBA Title. There are certainly paths that are easier than others. If Kevin Garnett had demanded a trade to the New York Knicks instead of agreeing to a trade to the Boston Celtics in 2007 then that certainly would not have been an easier path to an NBA Title than joining the Celtics ended up being for Garnett. So theoretically you could accuse him of taking the easy path to an NBA Title. It's all relative though. LeBron James didn't take the "easy" path to an NBA Title, but he certainly laid the groundwork to improve his chances of achieving an NBA Title by joining Wade and Bosh on the Miami Heat team. Drew Sharp says LeBron James didn't take the easy path because of the 1992 Dream Team and how it was put together by USA Basketball for the purposes of dominating national competition. It doesn't really make sense to me either.

The most ridiculous complaint among the chronic LeBron James whiners is that he took "the easy way" to serious NBA championship contention.

So was LeBron's previous NBA Finals appearance with the Cavs not serious NBA championship contention? Perhaps LeBron and the Cavs appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008-2009 doesn't count as serious NBA championship contention either.

This has been "easy"?

"Easy" isn't the best word for it necessarily. The Miami Heat have made two NBA Finals in the first two seasons LeBron has played for them. It hasn't been easy, mostly due to the difficulty with fitting LeBron/Wade/Bosh together and the public hatred towards "The Decision," but success has certainly happened for LeBron upon joining the Heat. So LeBron's path to an NBA Title over the past two years has been easier than other player's path to an NBA Title. Two NBA Finals in two years tells me LeBron's intentions to join the Heat in order to win an NBA title is probably going to work.

James doesn't merit much sympathy or compassion because he willingly placed a bulls-eye on himself, first crowning himself king before he even won a ring and then masterminding the assemblage of a proposed super team on South Beach.

I always love it when a writer acknowledges the opposing viewpoint and doesn't do anything to discredit this view. Part of a successful persuasive writing paper is discrediting or disproving the other viewpoint in order to show why your point of view is correct. Drew Sharp acknowledges the opposing viewpoint, but doesn't disprove or discredit it, then says something like, "Sure LeBron James shouldn't get any sympathy for his current situation because he put himself in that situation." He then proceeds to write the rest of the column explaining why LeBron is being overly-criticized and this should not be be happening, even though he acknowledges LeBron brought a lot of this criticism upon himself.

But the volume of animosity directed at him and the Miami Heat for their hubris reeks of hypocrisy.

I'm guessing Drew Sharp was on his couch Sunday night eating Cheez-Its and flipping between the Tony Awards and a Bravo reality television show when he suddenly remembered the 1992 Dream Team special was coming on the NBA Network this Wednesday. Suddenly a light bulb went off in his head and Drew Sharp thought, "Everyone who is criticizing LeBron for putting together a great team are hypocrites for cheering for the 1992 Dream Team." Then without even closing his box of Cheez-Its or giving this theory a further thought, Drew Sharp began writing this column as the sweet voice of Neil Patrick Harris entertaining the audience with antics and show tunes played in the background.

I suppose those same people who cry that the Heat violated some code of competitive ethics by amassing as many excellent basketball players as possible and unabashedly boasting about it will greet the 20th anniversary of the original Olympic Dream Team this summer with equal disdain.

Absolutely not. These are not comparable teams. The 1992 Dream Team was assembled for the Olympics. Any time there is an Olympic team formed by a country it (usually) features the best players from that sport. So by any measure of calculation, any hockey, baseball, basketball or soccer team will be a combination of the best players in that sport from a certain country. FIBA opened the Olympics up to professional basketball players in 1989. Every country could now use professional players and as a result the best team of all-time was formed. The members of the Dream Team had no choice to join another Olympic team. I don't believe any of the players on the Dream Team had duel citizenship, so therefore they had to play for Team USA if they wanted to play in the 1992 Olympic games. LeBron had a choice in deciding which NBA team to join.

Essentially what I am saying is the Heat and the 1992 Summer Olympics Basketball team are not comparable. Both teams had different goals and both teams were assembled for completely different reasons. By definition, an Olympic team will be the very best players in a given sport from a least this team will contain the very best players who want to play in the Olympics. This definition isn't true for an NBA team. If John Stockton wanted to play in the 1992 Olympic games, he had to play for Team USA. LeBron, Bosh and Wade had options about which team to play for when they became free agents.

After all, the concept of the "super team" and the bravado it wrought was born during the 1992 Barcelona Games.

So the idea of combining Bosh/Wade/James was born in 1992 with the Dream Team? In actuality this idea was born during the 2008 Olympics or probably well before that. Every other country could use professional players as well, so it isn't like the United States was cheating. FIBA essentially gave permission for the United States and USA Basketball to use NBA stars. There was no bravado involved, unless Drew Sharp considers national pride to be bravado.

The NBA descendants of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Karl Malone are only following their lead.

Of course, not ironically Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Karl Malone played for the same team for the vast majority of their NBA careers. Malone didn't leave Utah to chase a ring until he was past his prime and both Jordan and Johnson retired and then came back to the exact same team they played for previously. Compare that to LeBron James and him specifically signing a contract with the Heat that would allow him to be a free agent at the same time Wade and Bosh are. I just thought this was an interesting point to bring up.

Now, that was taking "the easy way" 20 years ago.

No, that was obeying the new rules FIBA had set out. Sure, USA Basketball could have not allowed professionals to play, but the 1992 Dream Team roster wanted to play. Because they wanted to play, and could play according to FIBA, they had to join Team USA.

USA Basketball opted against the long-standing conventional approach of taking the nation's best college players because it had grown outdated and less reliable against gradually improving foreign professional players.

This is a lie. USA Basketball opted against taking the nation's best college players because FIBA changed the rules and other countries would be including professional players on the the NBA players wanted to join the Olympic team. What Drew Sharp intentionally leaves out is using college players had become outdated simply because professionals could now participate. This concept wasn't outdated only because the United States didn't win the gold medal in men's basketball in 1988. The concept was outdated because the rules were changed.

USA Basketball needed an alternative for accelerating America's return to uncontested world basketball dominance.

Hmmm, that strategy sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Not really. Other than good players joining up on the same team, I fail to see a tight connection between the Heat and the 1992 Dream Team. I could see the connection if members of the Dream Team who had duel citizenship had chosen to have a press conference and the reveal which country they would play for. I would see a good connection in that case, but that didn't happen. Professionals could play in the Olympics and Bird/Jordan/Magic had no choice but to join the American team if they wanted to play in the 1992 Olympics.

It spawned higher than normal Olympic TV ratings even though the games generally lacked any compelling drama.

The same is true with LeBron and the Heat.

What? The Heat playoff games lack any compelling drama? This is so far removed from the truth it becomes obvious Drew Sharp has no interest in approaching this subject honestly.

Had they lost Game 7 on Saturday night, the NBA season would've officially concluded before the NBA Finals. Nobody would've cared about a Boston-Oklahoma City championship series because of the all-consuming level of emotional involvement with the Heat,

Yes, "nobody" would have cared about a Boston-Oklahoma City NBA Finals. ESPN hardly pays attention to teams from Boston and God knows Kevin Durant isn't one of the three best basketball players on the planet. I'm sure there wouldn't have been storylines for this series about the young Thunder taking on the old Celtics or any discussion about two of the best point guards in the NBA squaring off against each other. "Nobody" would have watched this series.

Anything that involves him immediately attracts our attention and in most cases, our ire.

I'm pretty sure this entire column is directed at Skip Bayless.

When James walked off the floor after Orlando eliminated Cleveland from the playoffs in 2009 without shaking Dwight Howard's hand, it turned into a national firestorm for several days. He became the Spoiled One. Where's the outrage today over Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo blowing off the postgame congratulations Saturday night after the two finest consecutive playoff performances James ever delivered?

This is a valid point. My answer would be that we expect Rondo and Garnett to be dicks about losing. So the expectation for good sportsmanship from one/both of these players is a little bit lower compared to the expectations for James. It is true that James means ratings, but simply because James means ratings doesn't mean a Celtics-Thunder series would not have drawn ratings.

The Thunder's Kevin Durant stands at the threshold of becoming the most popular player in the NBA.

Which is another reason why ratings for a Thunder-Celtics NBA Finals would still have been very high.

Not because he could win his first NBA title, but rather because he would step over another LeBron Finals corpse to get to it.

The media, and yes that is who I am blaming for this issue yet again, has created the narrative that Kevin Durant loves his mom, loves video games, doesn't want to be a huge star, doesn't have tattoos (which is not true), and is just an All-American boy who has no ego. The media has created the narrative that LeBron James loves his mom but still lets his teammates have sex with her, travels with an entourage everywhere he goes (which is true), craves to be the king of all things basketball and non-basketball, and is the perfect example of the modern ego-driven and spoiled star. Durant made a quiet deal about signing an extension with the Thunder and James made a big deal about signing with the Heat and leaving Cleveland. The narrative created by the media is wrapped around these perceptions and facts.

The personal hate for the guy is downright childish.

Don't blame us. Blame the 1992 Dream Team. They created this mess.

I'll couch this by adding "as far as we know," there have been no public episodes of belligerence involving LeBron. No obsessions with porn stars and diner waitresses. No nightclub soirees with a loaded, unlocked automatic pistol slipping out of his underwear. No DUIs. No drug busts. He got engaged to the mother of his children.

Again, Drew Sharp goes the "he's such a nice guy" route like Rick Reilly did. This is irrelevant to quite a few people. The issue many people seem to have with LeBron is related to "The Decision" and his performance on the court. Guys like Reilly and Sharp try to cloud the main issue people have with LeBron by pointing out what a nice guy he seems to be.

But he's evil because he's somehow taken the easy path.

No, people consider him evil because the way they think he took the easy path and what was perceived as general disregard for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise.

At least now we know where he got that from.

Yep, he got it from the 1992 Olympic Men's Basketball team. They took the easy way out by playing for Team USA in those Olympics. I would like to know what the hard way would have been for the members of the 1992 Dream Team that wanted to play in the Olympics? None of the players had duel citizenship, so they couldn't have played for any other country. So the members of the Dream Team had the choice of playing for Team USA or not playing at all. NBA players were allowed to play in the Olympics so if the members of that 1992 Dream Team wanted to play in the Olympics they had to play for Team USA. They didn't take the easy path to a gold medal, they took the only path available to them.


jacktotherack said...

This article is terrible. I don't think people are nearly as pissed at Lebron for taking the "easy" path as they were for the idiotic spectacle that surrounded the forming of this team. Add to that is dickish remarks after losing last year's final and generally petulant attitude about taking criticism and there are more than enough reasons to want to watch Lebron fall on his ass without even considering how the big 2 1/2 came together.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, I don't get what the Dream has to do with it all. There really isn't a huge comparison there. LeBron has made some PR mistakes so people hold that against him to an extent. It's the way they came together and seemed to just assume they would win titles.

It isn't about the easy path or anything involved with the Dream Team.

I like the comment a/b the big 2 1/2. Maybe it should be the big 3 with Chalmers/Bosh/Wade/James.

jacktotherack said...

Mario Chalmers was great in this series. As good as Lebron was the Heat got some major contributions out of their role players. Hell the walking corpse of Mike Miller even hit 7 threes last night.

And the whole Dream Team angle Sharp uses is just bizarre. Talk about an apples to oranges comparison. I just don't see what one has to do with the other, the Olympics and NBA Basketball are completely different animals.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, it always helps when role players step up like that. When the Miami role players step up it is incredibly hard to beat them. LeBron was great, but when Miller is drilling 3's like that the game is over.

I think Sharp just has a hard-on for the Dream Team. He wrote something about Isiah Thomas and the Dream Team a few days ago. He made a bad comparison or at least a comparison that doesn't fit.