LeBron James handled his decision much, much better this time around.
Kept his head down, and while the storm swirled around him he didn’t talk. A lot of other people did, he didn’t. Then when it came time to make his decision, there was no television show, just an essay in Sports Illustrated co-authored with the brilliant Lee Jenkins on why this was a good idea. No Jim Gray, no questions. Just LeBron getting to say what he wanted how he wanted.
[ MORE: Who else do Cavs sign to surround LeBron? ]
You should read the entire thing. But to do it some justice, here are some excerpts of what LeBron said and why he made his decision.
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today….
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy…
But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
[ MORE: LeBron implies Dan Gilbert’s letter was a mistake, but absolves owner ]
From LeBron’s Instagram page.
Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.
He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.
He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.
He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.
His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.
Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:
So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.
Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.
He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24
The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.
The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:
“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.
“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:
“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.
“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”
Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.
But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.
Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.
After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.
In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.
I bet this made George Hill happier.
The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.
For one last night, Staples Center will belong to Kobe Bryant on Monday.
Sure, the Warriors are in town to take on the Lakers, but Monday night the Lakers are retiring Kobe Bryant’s numbers — both 8 and 24 — in a halftime ceremony. It’s been the hottest ticket in Los Angeles, with celebrities, luminaries, and regular Lakers fans shelling out a lot of cash to see the Laker legend be honored.
Except, Phil Jackson will not be there, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.
No reason was given (nor does one need to be made public, that’s between Kobe and Jackson).
Jackson coached Kobe to all five of his NBA titles, and while their relationship had its ups and downs — remember Jackson called out Kobe as almost uncoachable in one of his books — they remain close.