The Best LeBron Destination Debate… I Love L.A.

May 24, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

Where should LeBron play basketball?

This is a question that has intrigued sports writers and analysts for the past several years, and has haunted Cleveland Cavaliers fans since the opening tipoff of the season six months ago.

Yes, Cleveland can offer LeBron the money that other teams cannot, but what they can no longer offer him is an opportunity to establish and define his legacy.

LeBron James is not in competition with guys like Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony. Instead, he is in competition with the legacies of guys like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. At the end of his career, the measure of LeBron’s success will not be WHAT he accomplished, but instead HOW his accomplishments match up against those of the other ‘greats’ that have played the game.

And as it stands today, his accomplishments do not hold a candle to the greats.

Simply winning a championship or two will not be enough to earn him consideration among the ranks of Jordan and Magic, either. What LeBron must do is to first establish himself as the premier player in the game today, and that can only be done by going THROUGH one person – Kobe Bryant.

Over the course of his career, Bryant has already won four rings, while LeBron has none for himself. So how can LeBron be considered one of the greatest players of all time if he is struggling even to establish himself as the greatest player TODAY?

For the last seven years, we have been left only to speculate who is better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, and with four rings, Kobe clearly holds the edge. And unfortunately for LeBron, there has been a lack of any DIRECT comparison between the two, because they have met on the hardwood as opponents only twice each season. As long as that trend continues, LeBron will NEVER catch Kobe.

In order for LeBron to start chipping away at that gap, he must get on the court and actually play AGAINST Kobe more than just twice each year. That is the only way that LeBron can begin to establish himself as a better player than Kobe.

Enter the Los Angeles Clippers.

By signing with the Clippers, LeBron James would be able to share the SPOTLIGHT with Kobe Bryant without having to share SHOTS and PLAYING TIME, and a rivalry that already exists on paper would literally EXPLODE on the court and across the city of Los Angeles.

What was once a town owned by Kobe would be transformed into a battleground that regularly pitted the games two best players today against each other on a shared home court, creating an epic rivalry that would help define the legacies of BOTH players.

Additionally, the Clippers possess enough talent (and cap room) on their team that LeBron could easily turn them into perennial playoff contenders (something he has already proven he can do in Cleveland). With guys like Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, as well as an upcoming top-ten draft pick, there is a lot of potential in Los Angeles’ OTHER team to give the LeBron a solid supporting cast for MANY years to come. When you add to that youth the established talent of players like Baron Davis and Chris Kaman (who is fresh off of his first All Star appearance), the Clippers + LeBron James could very quickly find themselves in a position to give the Lakers a real run for their money.

Living in L.A. would also help LeBron pursue his other interest, being a big-time celebrity. It sure will be easier to make movies if you don’t have to commute back and forth from Cleveland during filming!

If LeBron wants to be remembered as the greatest player of all time, he must first prove that he is the greatest player today. The only way he can accomplish that feat is by proving it on the court against Kobe Bryant. Since it seems unlikely that will ever happen as long as LeBron calls himself a Cavalier, he should follow the lead of Billy Joel’s old friend who used to be real close – Close your shop, sell your house, and buy a ticket to the west coast! Everyone wants to see your routine in L.A.!

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The Best League of 2009 Debate – What Happened to all the Drama?

December 28, 2009

Read the arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer about which sports league had the best 2009.

This year, 2009, was the year of non-surprises in sports.

Think about the most popular sports league organizations in the United States – the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA Basketball and NCAA Football. A key factor in what makes each of these organizations so entertaining to watch is the idea of competition and parity, something that has been HORRIBLY lacking in each of those organizations in 2009.

In the NFL and MLB, the vast majority of the playoff races (should they even have been called ‘races’?) were decided WEEKS before the season ended, providing almost no drama at all to the close of their respective seasons.

In college football, SIX different programs reached championship week as undefeated teams, and FIVE are entering bowl games still undefeated. Why? Because those teams did not play anybody good. The most dominant programs in the country were provided very weak competition, which completely stripped the fun out of watching late season college football. In all seriousness, I am BEGGING someone to tell me why Florida and Alabama, two of the PREMIER programs in the nation in 2009, both scheduled non-conference games against Florida International and Chattanooga, respectively, on November 21st. Ironically it was the Pac-10, which has traditionally been the LEAST interesting conference to watch because of Southern Cal’s dominance, that provided the most drama and excitement.

Nowhere was the separation of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ more evident than in college basketball. The 2009 March Madness tournament (note that even the name of the tournament implies that a spectator should EXPECT excitement and drama) provided almost none of the ‘Madness’ we have come to expect. In fact, out of all the teams reaching the Sweet 16, only ONE of them was seeded higher than fifth in the bracket (Arizona). Now compare 2009 to the 2008 tournament when four teams seeded higher than fifth reached the Sweet 16. Not that it would have mattered if any other ‘Cinderella’ teams HAD reached the Sweet 16. From the opening tip-off of the tournament it was clear that the entire 65-team event was nothing more than a prelude to North Carolina and Tyler Hansbrough cutting down the nets. During the entire duration of the tournament, no team even came CLOSE to stopping the Tar Heels, a dominant team that would go on to win each of its tournament games by AT LEAST 12 points.

Simply put, 2009 was a year lacking any real excitement or mystery in sports.

Why, then, should the NBA be considered the best league of 2009? The Los Angeles Lakers were CLEARLY destined for the Finals out of the Western Conference. In the East, the only question was whether it would be the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, or Orlando Magic playing in the league championship. With the remaining 26 teams in the league simply providing fodder for the top four teams to feast on until the Finals rolled around, it seemed as though the 2008-2009 season was merely a formality that must be endured before a champion could be crowned.

Despite that seemingly pre-determined conclusion to the season, the NBA still managed to make the expected into something UN-expected, and it happened in the Eastern Conference Finals. The unexpected came when the Orlando Magic, behind Dwight Howard’s defensive presence and can’t-miss three-point shooting by players like Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers TWICE in Cleveland (the Cavs were practically invincible at home during the regular season) en route to a six-game upset of Cleveland.

That excitement, though, was not nearly enough to make the NBA the best league of 2009. The REAL reason that the NBA was the best league of 2009, despite the lack of parity that it shared with its athletic brethren, can be summed up in two words – LeBron James.

James singlehandedly provided some of the most exciting and interesting story-lines of the entire year. First was the drama of the MVP race. “LeBron versus Kobe” was talked about at every water-cooler in corporate America. This race was such a heated topic that it actually became the basis for two MAJOR advertising campaigns (Nike and Vitamin Water), and many hoped that the media battle would ultimately play out on the court of the NBA Finals.

After the Orlando Magic stunned the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals, speculation began to swirl about whether or not LeBron, whose is due to become a free agent at the close of the 2009-2010 season, would remain in Cleveland – and the courtship of LeBron officially began.

Where LeBron ends up after the 2009-2010 season will ultimately shape the NBA for the next 5-10 years, and everyone will be watching very closely as the season plays out. For their part, the Cleveland Cavaliers made a ‘huge’ offseason move by bringing Shaquille O’Neal into the team as “Witness Protection.” Al the while, teams around the league are clearing space on the roster (and on the payroll) in the hopes of wooing James away from Cleveland.

In a year where very little excitement happened ON the court or field in sports, it was off-field drama that provided the most interesting story-lines of 2009. No league matches the intrigue and suspense that LeBron James is providing for the NBA.

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