To LeBron: Loyalty, more than winning, begets legacy

In opting to leave Miami, LeBron James states that he’s making a return trip home in efforts to bring a championship to the city.  He says he comes back as an older and wiser player than the one who left over five years ago.   He goes on to say that he knows it won’t be easy and that it will take some time.  But time seems to be something that he’s not giving himself or his future teammates a whole lot of.  And where legacy is concerned, time afforded, given or sacrificed, can be a very important aspect.

It seems that I’m not the only one feeling a certain way about “the Return” as Angelo Cataldi also has some harsh words for anyone praising and accepting LeBron’s going back to Cleveland on its benevolent face value.  I admit, I was all for it in the beginning but then I heard the terms of his contract and any thoughts I’d had of a happy and long-lasting reconciliation simply melted away.  Because that’s what’s ultimately needed in this case, a case of earlier heartbreak, followed by redemption and the possibility of another piece of pain in 365 days; some guaranteed longevity that his current contract doesn’t necessarily provide.

LeBron goes back to Cleveland on a two year $42.2 million contract that he can opt out of after only one year and seek free agency, again.  Even those blinded by the light in Dearborn can’t ignore the possibility of another exit, especially if the upcoming season is a disappointment.   And regardless of how strong the existing talent appears, there’s always the possibility of not reaching the playoffs, always.

In a case such as what lies in Cleveland, LeBron should seriously investigate the possibility of staying put where he is (or where he will be) if he truly is considering his future legacy.  If you look at the great players in the NBA-Jordan, Bird, Johnson or Nowitzki-most of them played for only one team.  Besides which, on the other side of the coin, LeBron doesn’t want to be lumped into the category of players who hop around from team to team in efforts to ease themselves into an NBA title.  NBA championships don’t come that easily.

A lot will ride on his tolerance for the pain of losing.  What will he do if Cleveland doesn’t contend in the upcoming season?  And if he sticks it out for the duration of his two year contract, what will he do if they fail again for the second year to go to the playoffs?  Right now, the thought held by some, myself included, is that he could walk.

Still, I hold out hope that he will bite the bullet in the case of such underachieving.  I hope he realizes that on some levels, what Pat Riley said was correct; that you have to have the courage to remain committed and never forget that you won’t always win.

There were business reasons that prompted James to accept only a two year deal.  And despite what I or anybody else says or thinks, he says that he’s committed to remain in Cleveland.  Again, I hope so.   There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s destined for NBA greatness; a trip to the Hall of Fame is more than a good bet at this point, even if he fails to win another championship ring.

I’m not going to take too strong a stand in this; it is, after all, a business.  There’s more than one athlete that brings an acute acumen to their little bit of commerce.  We sometimes forget that when we see players making what are ultimately, savvy business decisions.  There remains only a certain intangible, that of character and will; i.e. the will to remain dedicated to one team in the face of a losing season.  Winning, as attractive as it is, may not be a game changer for LeBron.  More than that, loyalty to team and fan base could be the cement that adheres him to the annals of NBA history.

You Tube video, LeBron James return worth $500M: Cleveland Official, from Bloomberg News.  See more Bloomberg News videos here.

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