Lessons from Ric Flair: my diatribe on the Saga of LeBron.

WoooOOOooo!

That what Ric Flair used to do on television when I was a kid.  It was a natural, guttural call of greatness.  He understood that he was the premier entertainer of professor wrestling.  There might have been better wrestlers with bigger names, in other promotions, but they were ALWAYS chasing down Ric in terms fo entertaining fans.

The key is that he knew that night in and night out, he was one of the greatest to ever do it, a very clear alpha male.

What the eff does pro wrestling have to do with LeBron James?  For the most part nothing at all, at least on the surface.  And I’m going to start using a bunch of pro wrestlers in my comparisons.  But you look at the NBA, and David Stern has made sure that individuals marketed well, as the superstars of the league, not that much unlike the WWE does it’s main-eventers.  NBA guys flop around like they were pile driven by Terry Funk.  The referees in both organizations clearly came from the same referee school.

But I think I want to zero in on is a saying that Ric Flair singularly made famous – “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”. As that pertains to LeBron – I has reason to believe it’s going to be hard for him to be either.

Let look at the entire lay out of this summer’s free agency run.  LeBron, specifically had 5 viable options, with some better than others.

1. Cavaliers

They could hand over the most cash in salary, he still would’ve been an icon, would be loved in the city, and highly respected if he managed to win only ONE title there.  But it’s Cleveland.  Hard to get people to come to a town with not much to get into.

2. Knicks

Plain and simple – it’s the NY/NJ metro area.  On a world platform, it would be hard to beat and completely reasonable if he wanted to get to Ali/Jordan/Ruth status.

3. Nets

Diet Knicks.  Had a talented big man in Lopez, and an All-Star point guard with Devin Harris.

4. Heat

Playing with Wade, a close friend, would be enticing.  Plus – Pat Riley.  And it’s Miami, nice and warm…flashy.

5. Bulls

Also a large platform.  Awesome city.  Jordan legacy probably wouldn’t affect him as much as, being he was already the best player in the league.  Had the best young talent to grow with.  And it’s Chicago – a world city.

LeBron obviously went with playing with friends (Wade and Bosh), and for Pat Riley, who knows a thing or two about winning titles.  As I think about it now, if playing with good friends and for Riley was a priority, then it’s a good idea, and I’m all for it.  However, if he came to win titles AND build upon his brand and legacy as one of the premier players, even athletes, of all time, this is going to hurt.  And when I say hurt, (using baller examples) I mean like an bitter ex-girlfriend drawing FUCK YOU with a Swiss Army knife, all over  the hood and doors of your new Bentley Continental GT.

LeBron is clearly the most physical gifted and uniquely skilled player to play in the league:  Karl Malone with great speed and agility, plus point guard skills.  But he may just be that – an oversized point guard.  Simmons explains LeBron as not having Jordan or Kobe or Bird or Magic mentality.  I don’t know if that is true.  LeBron wants and does take game winners.  He has taken over in crucial situations in his career.  Amazingly, people forgot the entire 2007 playoffs, which I’ve found odd.  Maybe it was because it was obvious that the Spurs were going to win the title, his dominance was lost.  Do I need to remember you of the one man physical and mental destruction of the Pistons?  As a 21 year old?

So he has it in him to dominate.  But there is a difference between dominating the way Magic did, and the way Jordan did.  Jordan was an assassin.  (First, let me clear something up.  Kobe is not Jordan’s rival in anyway, expect for shooting.  He is a better shooter than MJ was, but that’s where it ends.  Kobe is as clutch as there is in out league.  However, he’s done some questionable things that Jordan or Bird or West wouldn’t have done.  Just go to the sixth game of the series against the Thunder.  Kobe shot a corner three, fading way, which he badly airballed, only for Ron Ron to save the day by catching the ball and throwing up at the goal, and go in.  No one will remember how horrible of a shot that was to take, especially since he had options on the play.)

Magic was a creator extraordinaire, with some tendency to do the magnificent.  He could take over a game at a moment’s notice, but ultimately his mentality was making sure others were involved.  That is LeBron.  He’s not wired up like Jordan or Kobe – where as Wade sort of is.  I’m not going to compare Wade to Kobe or Jordan, but he has more of the pitbull action than LeBron does.  And maybe LeBron knows that.  Maybe he understands who he is, and we just don’t want to accept that.

I just know that if I were a player of his talent, and physical ability, my goals would be to dominate with my OWN team.  But perhaps I’m forcing what I think Jordan would do onto him.  Going to Miami is going to be a hit on LeBron in a lot of ways.  Who takes the game winner?  Who takes over in the critical parts of the game?  Who is THE guy?  It’s clear that the big prize of this off-season is LeBron, and Miami will treat him equal, or slightly above Wade.  But if that enough?  If they win 3 titles during the course of the this contract (which I believe is a reasonable max for this group, considering rising teams elsewhere in the league – more on this later) none of those will be with LeBron as the absolutely leader of the team.  People are JUST now giving Kobe his props for being the alpha on a two time championship team.  It’s almost like the first three didn’t happen for him, because it was clear Shaquille was the big man on campus.  Having Bosh is one thing, because while elite, he’s not Tim Duncan or Hakeem Olajuwon – he’s not going to win you titles alone, as the dominant big man.  But having Wade – in a city he already owns and has own a title in – that’s like Jordan giving up and joining the Pistons in the earlier 90’s – to steal for Charles Barkley.

And that is the rub.  This is about going it alone, as a man standing on his own two – and then refusing to stand up and fully face to the challenge.  LeBron is grown man.  But he’s not yet a man of character, or of the fortitude necessary to go it alone.  This was an opportunity to not just build his brand, and elevate himself to the levels of a Jordan, but to create his own pathway to those levels.  He owed nothing to the city of Cleveland or the Cavaliers organization.  There were lucky to even have gotten him to begin with, so the fact that he happens to be from Akron shouldn’t be something that nails him down.  But New York, and especially Chicago, would have been ideal in basically every way.

Chicago offered everything that a upper tier all time talent could ever want: a talented point guard, two very good big men (with Noah and then Boozer), a decent owner, a quality bench.  He would’ve stepped in as the man, and it would’ve made excellent basketball sense.  And the shelf life of the Bulls would’ve been longer than six years, with the relative youth of the team as currently constructed.  And they could’ve gotten a Mike Miller to replace Luol Deng.  And it’s effin’ Chicago.  One of the greatest cities on Earth, a true Global City.  Miami is an awesome city, and diverse, but it’s still not Chicago.

Why do you NOT go there, and build your Kingdom, as it were?

Miami was not only a slap in the face, but a kick in the balls, and a stab in the back – all at the same time.  It’s clear he left to play with his friends.  I can’t question a man’s motives, but you have to have a spatial awareness.  You have to understand what you’re doing to an area that you’re from by leaving the way you did – not notifying the person that spent a lot of cash to try and appease you, not even talking to the coaching candidates, then committing to slaughtering them on your own special.  It may not have been specifically intentional, but it was cold and callous all the same, and not done with any real sympathy and care for anyone outside of his camp.  I don’t personally believe he handled all of this as a man of high character would’ve.

But again who am I to say.  Back to the Ric Flair thing, about being the man.  LeBron probably just isn’t the man to beat the Man, aka Jordan.  Does he have the talent?  In spades, physically.  But he seems to have settled into a safety net, which also has a few holes in it.  This suggests that he really has no interest in being the man.  Can he win a lot?  Yes, and he will.  But will be be the icon that he believes he will be?  I’m no longer sure.  Jordan, Kobe, Bird, Isiah, Duncan – these guys stuck it out because they wanted to finish things they started.  I mean James isn’t even going to make more money – all to basically share the spotlight.  And not be the man – I can’t say this enough.

I think this VIDEO – and the reactions (and questions) from the people in the video, featuring Charles Barkley, are telling.  You have to be a fully formed man to even think about beating the MAN.

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