While most of America went to bed eagerly anticipating/nauseating over ESPN's LeBronathon (also known as "The Decision"), numerous reputable sources are reporting that Lebron James is leaning towards signing with the Miami Heat. With the two-time MVP's new Twitter account and marketing website and much-maligned announcement show, maybe the result of this cat-out-of-the-bag should've been expected. ESPN is reportedly spoiling their own show, although nothing will be certain until "The Decision" (perhaps because everyone at a network has to make sure its hottest television finale is as drama-packed as possible).
The big news yesterday morning--other than that one-hour announcement show being announced--was that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were committed to the Heat. "The Decision" may have been ruined by, among others, ESPN's own Chris Broussard, but it's definitely set up an intriguing set of NBA seasons. There were grumblings that LeBron's camp leaked that info to the press ahead of schedule to make Thursday all about him, but that's apparently forgiven (and this was always about LeBron anyway). This morning's news means that Miami has landed the top three free agents in the most heralded free agent class in the history of sports.
It has set up expectations for a dynasty. No less than 70 wins will be required for the next few seasons. No less than the greatest team ever assembled, outside of the Dream Team. No less than zero championships for Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson until they retire. Other than the Twilight actors, no trio of mid-20-somethings has ever faced the pressures that James, Wade, and Bosh will now face. And that first three only had to deliver a mediocre movie, and even if that's questionable, the results were still enough. The Miami Heat's results will be measured not by box office, but by championships...at least as history is concerned.
Regardless, the questions will pour out over the summer and the next few years and now it's up to James to answer them. Wade won his championship without LeBron and Bosh accepts his second (or third) fiddle role, so all those questions will be directed James' massive 6'8", 260-pound frame. Assuming that he doesn't change his mind at the last minute--or that the overnight leaked information was falsely put out gauge public reaction--here are three questions with the most basic answers.
1) Can two alpha-dogs exist on the same team?
In the modern era, the NBA has never seen two dominant figures on the same team the way Wade and James are now likely to be. There will be further questions about who gets the ball in the last six seconds, about who runs the huddle, about who is the true team leader, etc, etc. It'll be a nightly Sportscenter theme and many of you might already be sick of it. If this triumvirate does officially sign with Miami, LeBron's announcement separate (and a day later with its own one-hour TV special) certainly says something about a perceived pecking order. What is for sure, however, is that both Wade and James are unique playmakers who genuinely enjoy setting up their teammates for easy baskets. These guys routinely put up double-digit assists. And outside of the Olympics, they've never played with teammates quite like each other...or Chris Bosh for that matter.
2) Does this make LeBron the most hated person in sports?
That's certainly how this Deadspin post is spinning his decision. Cleveland is America's most maligned sports town and the butt of numerous jokes that have nothing to do with sports. It's hard-hit by unemployment and poverty and terrible weather and it hasn't seen a championship since 1964. Nike's "We Are Witness" campaign, as well as James' super-human performances on the court, had convinced the city that such a drought was to be no more. The Cavaliers had back-to-back 60+ win seasons that only ended in disappointment, and now this off-season has resulted in even more. Not since Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore has a man been so hated in Cleveland, and unlike another football franchise, that city will never again get another LeBron James. Maybe this is why the news of his reportedly-imminent signing with Miami was leaked ahead of schedule (over night, no less)...this way Cleveland doesn't have to tune into ESPN tonight at 8 PM local time to get their hearts crushed again.
3) Will Kobe win a sixth championship to match Michael Jordan?
And even more incredibly, could he win a seventh to surpass His Airness? Bryant has proved his "killer instinct"--a trait that many experts doubted James had after his no-show in last year's postseason failure against the Celtics--and now it seems like the all-time leading Lakers points leader will be tested again. One thing is certain, however, and that's the fact that Los Angeles' length will still be a problem for the rest of the NBA...Miami included. Bosh may be able to match up with Lakers forward Pau Gasol, but there isn't much money left in Miami's tank to sign another worthy big man to match up with Andrew Bynum. It could be possible that Shaquille O'Neal might want to sniff out another ring and sign for the veteran's minimum, but he'd create more problems than he'd solve (mostly by clogging up the lane on offense). Most likely, the Miami Heat will have to fill up their roster--both in the front and backcourt-- with also-rans, NBAD-leaguers and undrafted rookies just to meet the NBA's minimum player requirement. But could there be a bigger story than the NBA's new threesome meeting in the Finals to stop a three-peat?
And with just three of the plethora of inevitable questions asked, things are set up for a WWF-like circus of stories in the next few years. And no, not the WWE-- this could be much closer to Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan than John Ceda vs. HHH. Hopefully, ESPN won't spoil the outcome of that too.