Tag: LeBron Announcement

Cleveland Cavaliers' Zydrunas Ilgauskas rests his head on the shoulder of LeBron James in Cleveland

Cavs broadcaster talks LeBron, Ilgauskas’ move to Miami


Joe Tait was the Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster for four decades, starting with when the NBA first dropped an expansion team in Cleveland to try and slow the growth of the ABA.

Tait has a new book out about his recollections as a broadcaster, and of course there’s plenty of talk about LeBron James, something highlighted in a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via I am a GM).

But what jumped out at me is the story of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was a part of Cleveland and loved the city but moved on last year, only to be disappointed.

“He went to Miami to try and get a championship ring before he retired,” said Joe. “He wasn’t even in uniform for some of those games in The Finals. He wanted to be a contributor, playing 15, 20 minutes a game and helping a team win a title. He loved, absolutely loved Cleveland. But when LeBron left, he knew they couldn’t win here — and the team wanted to rebuild and get younger. So he went to Miami. I’m telling you, the culture shock was hard on him.”

Joe said one of Ilgauskas’ friends visited the veteran center and his wife in Miami.

“I was told they were never happy, and the longer they were there, it got progressively worse,” he said. “Mrs. Z is from Cleveland. That was a zoo down there. I feel bad for him, because I’m sure it’s not anything close to what he expected.”

If you want LeBron James dirt, this is not the place. Tait liked him and was friends with Gloria (LeBron’s mom). He sees James as a product of his environment as much as anything — from the time he entered high school he could do no wrong, then he played in Cleveland where there was unconditional love and support from the fans while he was there. Owner Dan Gilbert coddled him and let him do what he want. So when James did “The Decision” it was the first time people really turned on him.

Tait’s basic thoughts get summed up this way in the story:

“In Cleveland, if he had a bad game or made a mistake — people would just say that was OK, he’ll play better next time,” said Joe. “He could do no wrong. No wrong at all. Everyone loved LeBron. That’s why he was so surprised by the negative reaction to the ESPN show. . . . He thought everyone would like it because everyone always seemed to like about everything he did.”

When Gilbert wrote an email ripping James and calling him a quitter, Joe said the first thing that crossed his mind was, “Dan, you created the monster, now you have to live with it.”

LeBron: “I can understand why a lot of people were upset”

Not shown: hair on LeBron's forehead.

LeBron James understands where you are coming from, you haters.

He’s backtracked from how he handled “The Decision” for some time now, said he wouldn’t want to change the choice but does wish he had gone about it differently. He and those around the announcement thought the show was all for a good cause, not seeing the wider reaction to an hour show talking about where he would play basketball (and ripping the heart out of Cleveland on national television).

He said basically the same thing to the Guardian in London, adding he understands the anger people had now.

Was James taken aback by the ferocious criticism of his screening of “The Decision”? “Um, yeah. I was surprised by it because I was making a decision for myself. I was doing something that I believed was going to make me happy and freshen me up. But looking back I can understand why a lot of people were upset. That definitely wasn’t my intention: to upset people.”

Does he wish he could change what he did in the summer of 2010? “I can’t say I would change anything – because it would change so much that is leading to the future. But, yeah, there is definitely a better way I could have handled it, as far as the whole TV thing is concerned, and the same goes for the build-up to the announcement. A lot of people were hurt by it – and I definitely apologize to them. At the same time, you should never be afraid to do what you believe in.”

This is really a good interview and you should go read the whole thing. Especially if you are a Liverpool fan.

LeBron is becoming much more polished with his interviews. He talked about the lockout but steers clear of stepping in that land mine by being pretty dull. He also talks about losing in the 2011 NBA finals and how that will help him going forward whenever there is a season.

When did he get over the loss? “A couple of days ago,” he says, laughing wryly. “It stayed with me a couple of months. It was definitely heartbreaking. [But] I really believe it’s made me a better player. And I’m a better person as well for it – just in terms of focusing harder, zeroing in even more. It’s made me critique my game and work out who I am as a person. We faced a great team in Dallas and I don’t think enough people gave them the credit they deserve.”

We’ll see how much that loss helped LeBron and the Heat. Actually, I just hope we get to test that hypothesis this season.

LeBron biographer goes way down the hater rabbit hole


You knew Scott Raab’s book on LeBron James was not going to be a love letter when the working title was “The Whore of Akron.”

Now that is the official title and the book is close to being ready for your Kindle (it’s released Nov. 15). To pimp it, Esquire has an excerpt (which shouldn’t be a shock, Raab writes for Esquire).(Hat tip to Eye on Basketball.)

While he has the right to write a book for Cleveland LeBron haters, to mock LeBron’s hairline and arrogance and the entire city of Miami, I think there are lines of decency not to be crossed. And Raab dances over one of them.

Lord. This is where LeBron James wants to play basketball, in front of sun-dried cretins who must be bribed to act as if they care about the game and the team. Where another superstar already is the Man in the locker room and on the court; where nobody in the media will ever mention his collapse against Boston, his phantom elbow pain, and his steadfast refusal to hold himself accountable for his team’s big-game failures.

For as long as I’ve been a fan, I’ve rooted hard against certain teams and players, but never have I hoped to see a career-ending injury — until tonight.

For me, that’s a step too far.

I think I fall in with most people — LeBron had the right to leave Cleveland for Miami, he just handled it about as poorly as one could. I don’t have a problem with him teaming up with other stars because loaded teams have been what wins in the NBA since before the Celtics owned the 60s with their loaded team. But the television announcement — for charity or not — was a major miscalculation. As was the pep rally for ticket holders (remember, there no longer is a “local media”). The move is one thing, the arrogance with which it appeared to be done is another. I think we’ve all been down that road, and most of us have now moved on.

(As an aside, the powerlessness smaller market owners felt watching LeBron choose to leave for less money is part of the reason we still have a lockout stuck on “system issues.” The owners mask it as “competitive balance” but in part what they really want is ways to keep their stars while moving their role players around more easily to build winners around those stars. What LeBron did flat out scared some owners because he had all the power.)

For me, it’s an entire other thing to wish injury on a person who makes his living with his body.

But if you still have venom left for LeBron (as opposed to some for the NBA owners and players union), then you will love Raab’s excerpt and book. Check it out.

Jim Gray talks “Decision,” says LeBron did not pay him

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On the one-year anniversary of The Decision, LeBron’s interviewer Jim Gray sounded like others close to the production of the event — they don’t understand all the backlash.

Gray went on the Dan Patrick Show (see the video below) and, as reported by CSN Chicago, and first he wanted to clear up the rumor he was paid by LeBron James to be part of the event.

Gray said that he’s upset people lie about him. Especially when they say that LeBron paid Gray to do the interview. Gray said that he didn’t get paid at all … it was for charity. “I wasn’t going to be the only going to be paid,” Gray said.

Gray also said he was surprised by the backlash, especially because this wasn’t easy for LeBron.

Dan asked Gray what LeBron’s mood was like before. ”You could tell this wasn’t something was easy for him,” Gray said. “It wasn’t jovial. There wasn’t any champagne or any corks going off. … I think it was a tough deal for him.”

Gray thinks it was harder than people realized for LeBron to leave Cleveland. “I think he tried his best to stay a Cavalier,” Gray said. “I think it was hard for him to recruit anyone….”

Dan asked if he could have a mulligan, what would he do differently. Gray said he wished that he explained why they were at the Boys’ and Girls’ club.

I still think it’s amazing — and speaks to how in touch everyone around LeBron was with the reality on the ground — that they were surprised by the backlash to the show. As if they think it’s all about not going to New York or Chicago or wherever. As if they explained the charity part better it would have changed the perception.

One year ago today, LeBron made “The Decision”

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It someday may go down with the most legendary player moves in NBA history — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki to the Mavs (on draft night for Tractor Traylor), and the Celtics turning Joe Barry Carroll into Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.

One year ago today, LeBron James told Jim Gray and the world he was taking his talents to South Beach.

No doubt, it created a backlash. But the energy it created helped propel the league to television ratings and popularity levels the NBA had not seen in a decade.

It changed the landscape of the NBA. It changed the popularity of the NBA. It changed the “We are all Witnesses” billboard in Cleveland. It changed the way we all think about Comic Sans font.

It will someday be looked back on as a move that made or broke LeBron James’ career.

It was a decision that some said on a basketball level was LeBron trying to take the easy way out. As if Bill Russell, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were not been surrounded by great talent. The difference was LeBron decided to move to the talent – rather than having things built around him — and that changed the equation. Rather than be the “alpha male” LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to team up. Some saw that as a sign of weakness, some saw that as smart.

The fear that choice struck in the hearts of small-market owners is part of the reason we have a lockout today. The fall that the Cavaliers took — both on the court and in the overall value of the franchise — made some smaller market owners dig in their heels for this lockout, demanding a system where they could compete and had a better chance to keep their stars.

It was a decision that was widely slammed for how it was handled. LeBron’s people thought they were improving his brand — based on television ratings you could argue they were right — but it left him as one of the most polarizing figures in all of sport. It was a decision that — along with the pep rally in Miami — became a public relations nightmare. The Heat are hated or loved.

What we will think of “The Decision” in a decade is impossible to say. Some will always say it was a decision of ego and an easy way to a title. But winning can change the story’s ending. And we don’t know how it ends.

But one year ago today, everything changed.