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LeBron James and the American way

Why is everybody hating on LeBron James? I mean, is this a free country? Or did a couple of important amendments to the Constitution get repealed while nobody was looking?

I understand, of course, why the good people of Cleveland would be disappointed, distraught, even irate. King James is, at the very least, the second-best basketball player in the world. For a city that has seen so many ups and downs -- and let's be honest, the general trend for the past half-century has been down -- the departure of a hometown superstar must be a cruel blow. But let's try to keep things in perspective.

James spent seven seasons with the Cavaliers, transforming the team into one of the best in the league, a perennial playoff contender. What the Cavs didn't do was win a championship, and it doesn't matter who's to blame -- management, coaching, the players, King James himself. Fact is that it just didn't work out. Maybe it would have next year, or the year after. Maybe not.

This was James's year to become a free agent, which meant he was free to sign with any team he wanted. It is perfectly common for a mid-career veteran, who hears the ticking of the clock, to feel a great sense of urgency about winning championships, because that is the benchmark by which a star player's legacy is measured. That's why Kevin Garnett left Minnesota to become a Boston Celtic. That's why Shaquille O'Neal changes uniforms every couple of years. Players move around in hopes on winning a ring, and nobody has a cow.

LeBron James's situation is no different. He's being punished, in essence, for being one of the best players in the league. (I rate him just behind Kobe Bryant, mainly because Bryant has won five championships -- which supports my point about James's motivation.) It's as if a player who's as talented and as dominant as James shouldn't be allowed to switch teams. If he were just another journeyman, would anybody even notice?

Yes, his televised announcement was over the top. A simple written statement would have sufficed. But the bottom line is that we don't have involuntary servitude in this country. King James saw a better opportunity to fulfill his ambition in Miami than in Cleveland, and he took it. That's supposed to be the American way, right?

Whether the gambit will work or not remains to be seen. But the thing that people seem to be forgetting is that while Cleveland might have worshiped LeBron James, the city didn't own him. Fans there do, however, have a perfect right to boo him when the Miami Heat comes to town. And I'm guessing that they will.

By Eugene Robinson  | July 9, 2010; 5:53 PM ET
Categories:  Robinson  | Tags:  Eugene Robinson  
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Comments

Sorry Eugene, you fail to truly understand what took place. Yes, he left. And most people do not begrudge his wanting to win championships. It is HOW he did it that is causing the most uproar. And please, child, get off your slave high horse ("indentured servants"?!?!). You are better than that (or are you?).

Posted by: caruff7 | July 9, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for your piece, Eugene (Pulitzer Prize winner - as they always say on MSNBC). My comment regarding Gilbert's disgraceful screed: sounds like he's talking about a runaway slave, or at the very least an indentured servant. Do you think he will be fined? They fine players for less. I'd like to see him banned from the NBA, but that hardly seems possible. I agree with your thinking on the LeBron choice and I think it will really spice up the NBA - to have a worthy adversary for the Lakers. I'm sorry for Cleveland's pain, but, as LeBron said - his real fans can continue to support him.

Posted by: arkosu | July 9, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I root against all things Florida. Any college, pro team, you name it. I celebrate their failures and turn in disgust when they succeed (particularly those 3 big name Div I schools). But in this case, Mr. James got it right. He has little support in Cleveland and was NEVER, repeat NEVER going to win a championship there. When big name athletes who are the on the top of their game sign-on to stay or move to mediocre organizations, it is always a sign that they don't care about winning (they care about money). Mr James wants to win a championship and he now knows Cleveland isn't going to get it done. Miami gives him a much better shot. If you are "the king" you must strive to win championships over all else. That is what you should live for. That is why you are paid to be in the NBA and why people want to see you. I praise the man for doing whatever it takes to win a championship. Good for him.

Posted by: Fleder | July 9, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Bravo Eugene. Well said, every word.

You are absolutely right, this is America, people have to move around to seek the best opportunity.

First and foremost, this is his JOB, it's not as if he left A MARRIAGE. Lebron was loyal for 7 years, now he needs to move on, just like in any other job. Why is Cleveland so up in arms??? Get over it. The Man did his time there and now he wants to move on, IT’S BUSINESS, NOT PERSONAL!

Posted by: realitychek | July 9, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Yes the whole 18 month spectacle was self indulgent, but the real problem is that there are now only 2 teams contending for next year's championship. NBA viewership and interest will be down, and I cannot figure out how that helps Lebron James.

Posted by: manitocat | July 9, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm not mad at all at Labron James, I absolutely congratulate him and anybody who makes a move to better their lives.

It's that clown of an owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who I think is disgusing, not to mention classless.

The owner must have made the other players feel real good, as if there weren't any team without Lebron.

I don't think owner is anticipating receiving any dinner invitation from any of the other NBA team owners either, kind of like a Rush Limbaugh was as popular with the NBA.

I think what the Cavaliers' owner didn't was in the poorest of taste, and was petty.

I predict the L.A. Lakers will continue to put away the Cleveland Cavaliers, and will enjoy the new challenge of beating the new Miami Heat!


Posted by: lindalovejones | July 9, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm not mad at all at Labron James, I absolutely congratulate him and anybody who makes a move to better their lives.

It's that clown of an owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who I think is disgusing, not to mention classless.

The owner must have made the other players feel real good, as if there weren't any team without Lebron.

I don't think owner is anticipating receiving any dinner invitation from any of the other NBA team owners either, kind of like a Rush Limbaugh was as popular with the NFL.

I think what the Cavaliers' owner didn't was in the poorest of taste, and was petty.

I predict the L.A. Lakers will continue to put away the Cleveland Cavaliers, and will enjoy the new challenge of beating the new Miami Heat!


Posted by: lindalovejones | July 9, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Nope, nope, nope, Eugene. Sorry, but you got it all wrong. No one (except maybe Clevelanders) begrudge James's leaving Cleveland. What people object to is the narcissistic, egotistical way he went about it. Are you aware that he didn't even have the courtesy to call the other teams and let them know he was turning down their offers? No, they had to find out on TV, like everyone else.

You can claim how this is just sports or entertainment or whatever and that this is just how you're supposed to be in the "business" world, but you'd be WRONG. Even in sports, you are expected to behave like an adult and treat everyone else with respect. James didn't do that. When you're going to leave your hometown team, have the courtesy to do it in a less self-loving way. Don't refer to yourself in the 3rd person. And, for God's sake, at the very least, acknowledge how much playing for your home team has meant to you, how much you've appreciated their support, and how much you'll miss them. Don't make it all about you.

THAT's what James did wrong, Eugene. Get it?

Posted by: rlalumiere | July 9, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Leave Lebron James alone. Let him enjoy his decision. He wants to win a championship. His manager was the person that arranged the event. I am sure he feels bad...Akron/Cleveland, Ohio will always be his home, he is just chasing that championship dream and in Miami he is going to shine. He tried for many years to win a championship for Cleveland that did not happen. This opportunity came along to create the dream team with Wade and Bosh. Go Miami Heat!!!

Posted by: fsurdaz | July 9, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Now, doesn't it just show how desperate the people in Ohio are that they seem to think their own economic survival depends on a basketball player?
A basketball player is going to bring tons of money to Ohio and save the population?
This IS pathetic and points to the utter despair these people must experience on a daily basis.
They cannot count on their political or business leaders to provide jobs, hope for the future, or anything else.
Really, this whole story is enlightening as to just how bad it really is in Ohio. No wonder he wanted out of there.
Why should he, one man, be expected to save millions of people by playing a game?

Posted by: cms1 | July 9, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for your sensible and truthful column unlike your colleague, Mike Wise, who threw together some not truthful statements to justify his screed against Lebron.

I saw/heard the hate from Joe, etc. on Morning Joe and could not believe that people would stoop to such levels. Joe even made statements that were not true. Thanks goodness you were there to call them on their hate and untruths (actually I’m being kind they were lies).

Lebron, along with ESPN and everyone else –including Governors; Mayors, etc., went a little overboard, big deal. He’s an “employee” and many “employers” wanted his services. We should all be that in demand when we look for a job.

Posted by: rlj1 | July 9, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

You all just don't get it. Let's not make this about race, keeping someone from participating in their career, etc. It is about showing some class and not giving your middle finger to your hometown and embarrassing them on national television. "The decision" was nothing more than an exercise in stroking an otherwise inflated ego. He truly showed no class in the spectacle we witnessed last night. How would you like hearing that your significant other dumped you on national TV instead of letting you down gently in private. He picked the easy way out. He is trying to buy his championship rings by having to hitch his wagon to a loaded team in order to have success. He considers himself the second coming of Michael Jordan? If he wins any championships, he might become the next Scottie Pippen!

Posted by: DaleWyvillePA | July 9, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

My gosh. Why does the Washington Post only hire writers who have no clue about the subject which they write about. First I read an Eminem review written by some old clueless and senile hack who didn't even listen to the entire album and now this guy who misses the entire source of angst among basketball fans.

EUGENE: PEOPLE DON'T CARE AS MUCH THAT HE LEFT MIAMI, THEY ARE BOTHERED THAT "THE CHOSEN ONE" TOOK THE EASY WAY OUT AND BECAME SCOTTIE PIPPEN TO DWAYNE WADE'S MJ.
That is the source of condemnation. Most people could get over the fact that he tried but failed to bring a title to Cleveland and moved on. It's the fact that rather than be a Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan and build a team based around his incredible ball skills, he took the easy sure-shot.

OF COURSE HE WILL WIN HIS RING WITH MIAMI. If he doesn't, he looks like the biggest laughing stock the NBA ever saw. But for someone who constantly reminds us of how competitive he is, he proved that he is the exact opposite of what he claims to be. He'd rather simply show up, pass a ball, drain a few buckets rather than have to "score 30 points a game" (his own words). He's the Barry Bonds of basketball- wants what he thinks is coming to him as easy as possible. He's forever tarnished in every basketball fans' eyes with the exception of the small Miami Heat fan community.

Had he gone to Chicago or NYC, Cleveland fans would have been pissed for sure...but his legacy would have remained in tact. The bulls or Knicks would have still been "his team". But now- he's on Wade's team and couldn't do it by himself.

So I say go lebron go, win as many championships with the "dream team" as we all anticipate you winning, but you will never be Michael Jordan. You'll never be Kobe Bryant. You'll never be Magic Johnson. You'll never be Larry Bird. You'll never be Bill Russell. You'll be really good but you destroyed your chances of being great by being the uncompetitive, self-proclaimed king you made yourself out to be.

Posted by: coolwaterz | July 9, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

*left Cleveland.

Posted by: coolwaterz | July 9, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

CMS1, you are totally clueless. Do you realize that when people go to these NBA games, they spend money? They have dinner downtown, go to the bars, etc. When less people show up for these games, it means less revenue for everyone involved. You obviously have no idea of which you attempt to speak.

Posted by: DaleWyvillePA | July 9, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for your article. I support Lebron's decision to change teams. Its clear that basketball is his passion, he deserves the right to pursue it to its highest potential. He did his time in Cleveland. Why do people expect it to be a life sentence? I watched his announcement last night, and I saw an athlete depart with class and grace. I salute you Lebron, you brought more great memories than Cleveland could ever dream of. Now its time to follow your dreams..

Posted by: boston6409 | July 9, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree with E.Robinson 100%. LeBron has the right to go to any team that he feels gives him the best chance at a championship. A championship is what it is all about in the long run. When Kobe was up for a contract renewal, why do you think he remained with the Lakers? Because he seen that the lakers had all the pieces in place to make another championship run. I do agree also that LeBron could have used a different way to break the news however. I am sure he knew what economic and fan base impact his decision would have on an entire city. It did seem a bit self serving.

Posted by: ramfan | July 9, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

First of all for this hack-ass hate-a to write under a "post partisan" banner is a total joke. Him and Herbert are as post-partisan as they are developed writers. You don't even need to open the link to know where it's gonna go. It's simplistic hate-speech without much intelligence behind it. Just black hate theology (small t)!!!!!
Almost like they spent 20 years in reverend wright's congregation and never heard a bad word?!? Whatever... their god (small g) is a total dufus ass-clown but they're will NEVER write a bad word about the "disaster".. (how many days and counting, guess Obamination "jus done care bout" white people... thx Kaynye)!

Posted by: kdd27 | July 9, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Lebron - You my friend have shown America Capitalisum at it's Best!!! God Bless You! You are a Great Rebublican.

Question: If you are not a Great Rebublican, then as a Great Democrate, Do you plan on turning the money you have honestly negotiated & earned over to the Government?

Posted by: gblase27 | July 9, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

I thought Eugene was a political commentator.

Posted by: adamsmorgan | July 9, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

He can do as he pleases. The only thing I find foolish are the three little boys joining together to try to win again and again. If James wants to win all the time and never have to face superior competition, he should sign on with the Globetrotters. As should the other two.

It reminds me of the little boys who hunger to be Yankees--and the Yankees remind us all that you can't be all that sure about winning. I'll be rooting for ABM, just as I root for ABY in baseball.

Posted by: rusty3 | July 9, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

As Dan Gilbert said; some people (nihilistic, immature, high (some) grads, gen. whatever) think they can get to Heaven without dying.
He THREW the series cause his momma was doin who knows what?!?
I've never seen a bigger baby when he loses, go sit on the bus by yourself and pout ass-clown!
Ya REALLY think Kobe woulda left Lakers without beatin' Shaq by one ring or Michael, Larry, Isiah or Jordan/Pippen would have left their teams?!? This is a clown that will soon fade away thank the real GOD!!!!

Posted by: kdd27 | July 9, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Manitocat , you are not seriously suggesting that nba ratings will fall just because a team became a contender? Did ratings fall when Jordan was around? And how many people wouldnt want to watch a team that had Wade, James and Bosh in the starting line up?

Posted by: Mart87 | July 9, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Involuntary servitude?? That's classic.

Eugene, I shouldn't be surprised at your take on this situation but let me break it down for you.

Regardless of your racial undertones and why you think it is so unfair that people are "hating" on LeBron, the plain and simple fact is that due to his unprecendented showcase of himself, the one who has the words "Chosen One" tattooed on his back, people are turned off by this man.

Many of those people, and not Clevelanders only, had a small piece of hope that he was not as self-serving as he had always come off... that there were reasons that would make him WANT to stay outside of his own personal glory... that he would show the rest of the world that he is a great player that could bring a championship to a city and group of people so starved for one.

The LeBron James brand marketing team failed miserably with this scene. Not only has his image taken a serious blow, he has diminished his superiority by now playing second fiddle on his own team. Those who thought he may rival Jordan as the best ever now know the comparison is out of the question. It's a substantial let down to many.

It is not the fact that he left. Most Clevelanders were probably expecting it after the playoff collapse. It was his obvious disregard for what many thought he considered his hometown team. What they found out was that he probably never really felt as strongly for them as they did for him and they are hurt more than anything.

Of course he has the right to go anywhere and play but this country is well on its way to becoming a ME, ME, ME society and it was never more on display than the way LeBron went about free agency.

In regard to Gilbert, is it possible and even understandable that he did everything in his power to cater to LeBron in spite of his distaste for LeBron's egomaniacal ways and when he cemented his true nature and utter disrespect for the owner, he boiled over with a pent up outburst of emotion?

It's simple for me. As a father, would I be proud of my son if he handled this situation in the same manner? Absolutely NOT!

That is why people are "Hating" on The King.

Posted by: ThePC | July 9, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

LEAVE LEBRON ALONE!! He has the right to decide to leave Cleveland. Cleveland did not make Lebron. I believe Lebron made Cleveland Cavaliers. I agree that he did not have to be so public, not having won a championship, but his popularity is not just his choice but a function of the NBA's attempt to popularize the individual athletes over the team concept to increase ratings and money. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The real blame is on the GM for the cavs who could not get Lebron enough help. People are actually treating him like he's a criminal. COME ON PEOPLE!!! YOU DON'T OWN HIM!!! GET A LIFE!!!!! (You're probably just jealous). Oh yeah!!... and all you people that are telling Lebron to be like Kobe and that he'll never be a Kobe, YOU WERE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO WERE HATERS OF KOBE. So stop the hypocrisy and start keeping it real!!!

Posted by: Yo_Mo | July 9, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

LeBron is like every other American - Wants to be king, but doesn't want to pay the price. Maybe he should be retitled Queenie to Duane Wade's King? This is a bad move on his part. Also, this is probably bad for the NBA

Posted by: marknelso | July 9, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm usually with you, not this time.

It isn't THAT LeBron left, it is HOW he left. A nationwide, live broadcast to say "I never wanted to leave Cleveland" as he was voluntarily leaving Cleveland who was willing to pay him $130 million to stay? I don't believe a word he says.

Let's get a few things straight. This isn't about winning. This isn't about being a leader. This isn't about greatness.

This is only about LeBron wanting to have fun.

And I am totally OK with LeBron wanting to have fun. But I am not OK with LeBron having fun at the expense of the fans in Cleveland and New York and New Jersey and Chicago and anywhere else he was rumored to be heading.

This scenario was hashed out 2 years ago when LeBron played on the USA Olympic team with DWade and CBosh. The past week was those three guys duping everyone else. It was inconsiderate and mean.

LeBron didn't lose his integrity last night, he proved that he never had any.

Posted by: matt_ahrens | July 9, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Yes, his televised announcement was over the top.
Duh. Not exactly a class sct. My guess he blew several million dollars in endorsements given the nature of his announcement.

Posted by: jerry6421 | July 9, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand how some commenters here can claim that LBJ is being ME, ME, ME -- he's doing this to win a championship as part of a team, a caliber of team that Cleveland never surrounded him with.

And to those of you saying that he'll never measure up to Bird, Magic, Russell, etc., please go to Springfield and look up the names Parrish, McHale, Johnson (not there yet but should be), Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar, Cousy, etc. Wade might make the HOF but Bosh is nowhere close to the level of those guys, so get off your high horse. Kobe had Shaq for 3 of his titles, for god's sake.

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | July 9, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

We sure love to live vicariously through our heroes, don't we. Anyway, the pressure is on James to get that championship, or two, or three, or whatever. Assuming one of the big 3 in Miami doesn't get a serious injury (happens all the time) it will likely be a foregone conclusion. Talk about stacking the deck. Why don't we just assemble a team in some city that has all of the best players in the NBA on the roster? The home fans would love it and the remaining would just boo to no avail. How boring!

Posted by: markster2 | July 9, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Lebron owes Cleveland NOTHING! They had their chance, they didn't do it. And another point, there is no such thing as loyalty in pro sports. Before free agency, owners could do what they will with a player. And as far as I know, Lebron is not demanding to get out of a contract, his time was up and free to move on as he pleases. I remember seeing the redeem team play last year and I thought "man is it going to be hard for these players to leave this awesome team and go back to their sorry teams". And what did Lebron do really? he didn't kill anyone will drunk driving. he didn't invite some young girl to his hotel room and get accused of rape. He hasn't had not ONE off the court or not ONE on the court issue. All he did was change teams.. thats all.
The Cavs owner is the real butthead, he loses out and instead of being a gracious person, he accuse Lebron of tanking the playoffs.. what a total douce for even HINTING at that. If I am any player in the league, I wouldn't want to play for an owner like that unless he exoberlently pay me.

Posted by: xolodnyj | July 9, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

King...Ring...Bling...Fling...Ding-a-Ling.

Posted by: queenofromania | July 9, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

The whole world is in an economic downturn. Ten percent of the U.S. population is looking for work. There is a huge hole in the Gulf that is bleeding thousands of gallons of oil...and the peacock--also known as Lebron James--stages fake TV news and shows us all--in no uncertain terms--just how out of touch he is.

Eugene, you are way off of this one. LB is a shining example of narcissism run amok. He makes a mockery of every hard working American (and those who wish they had work). It is easy to imagine how the rest of the world views this man. He has no idea what the hell is going beyond his own bank account. What a prima donna.

Posted by: 3rdGenRFan | July 9, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse


No, James owes Cleveland nothing. Except maybe a little class.

Besides, if Reggie Jackson was "Mr. October," the "King" proved himself over the last two years as "Mr. January."

Take the money and run, "King," We won as many rings with you as without you. But Mr. Robinson, why should fans--including we here in Cleveland--show the class he didn't?

Posted by: squibs | July 9, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

@DaleWyvillePA, I suspect most of the people spending money at or near the arena are from the Cleveland region, and the money they spend at basketball is simply shifted from another place in the same metro area. If they come from afar, then you have an export industry (industry where the money comes from outside the region).

Posted by: Jim19 | July 9, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Before all the talk of money-grubbing LeBron, please note that the man took a pay cut to play for a contender. Anyone who doesn't think he can make more money in NY or LA or even Chicago doesn't know much about the NBA.

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | July 9, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Eugene, we get it: anything black people do is okay, and anything white people do is worthy of scrutiny.

You're like a low-level, uninteresting Al Sharpton.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | July 9, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Who is Lebon James, what does he do and why should I care?

Posted by: fenoy | July 9, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gambit

Learn words before you use them, Eugene, you moron.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | July 9, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Who is Lebon James, what does he do and why should I care?

Posted by: fenoy | July 9, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Since when is "hate on" a verb?

Posted by: retabroad | July 9, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Yes, The Decision has been made, but this is a hilarious article mocking the process

LeBron James announces that he will buy the Miami Heat, endorse the New York Knicks, marry two of the LA Clippers’ Spirit Dancers in a Utah ceremony in August, become Executive Vice President of Mining and Distribution for Polyus Gold (NJ Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s gold empire) and play basketball part-time for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Read the FUNNY article here:

http://www.dailygoat.com/2010/07/lebron-james-gives-thanks-god-signing-10-year-100m-endorsement-deal-heaven/

Posted by: eye95 | July 9, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

I truly wish that all the hoopla concerning a simple sport event turn into a national soap opera,how sad, I wish that the same people would take interest into their actual lives, like politicians apologizing to a corporation for quite nasty damage to thousands of people and the environment, against politician preventing you from having universal health care, from raising the age of retiring to 70 and probably increasing it even more in years to come, those are just a few examples of politicians impacting our every day lives, yet we pay more attention where are millionaire player is moving to win a championship, How truly tragic, we care more about sport that our real lives.

Posted by: corintonic | July 9, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Jim19. spoken like a true Republican. That old rhetoric is what has driven this country into the ground in the first place (thanks W). Have you ever been to a sporting event? Money changes hands. People do things (dinner, bars, merchandise, etc) that they normally don't make a point to do. To assume that all that money will just be spent somewhere else is ridiculous and not realistic. People in Ohio are genuine FANS! Unlike Miami people there is not a lot of discretionary money. The Cavs are our team and what little there is for extra spending goes there. Without the draw of Lebron, the downtown area, and hence the people who count on it suffer. Get it?

Posted by: DaleWyvillePA | July 9, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey Justin Timberwolf....quick question, how come he never offered to take a pay cut to help out the Cavs get some more talent? Lebron told Cleveland he wanted to win now (last year). Are you naive enough to believe that the deals they made (Shaq, Jamison, etc) weren't run by him first for his approval? What has it gotten Cleveland now? No salary room because of these contracts! If you can't see this, then you need a lesson in basketball.

Posted by: DaleWyvillePA | July 9, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Hey Justin Timberwolf....quick question, how come he never offered to take a pay cut to help out the Cavs get some more talent? Lebron told Cleveland he wanted to win now (last year). Are you naive enough to believe that the deals they made (Shaq, Jamison, etc) weren't run by him first for his approval? What has it gotten Cleveland now? No salary room because of these contracts! If you can't see this, then you need a lesson in basketball.

Posted by: DaleWyvillePA | July 9, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I think he used the whole announcement program as a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club. I don't have a problem with him taking advantage of the opportunity to do a lot of good. And Curt Flood is one of my heroes, for pushing free agency into baseball. Athletes are citizens, not commodities.

Posted by: mwitssen | July 9, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

The way he did this to Cleveland, with it being his actual hometown!

Real TACKY!!

Posted by: theaz | July 10, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

No need to "hate on him" but this will eliminate a lot of the silly adulation of him. BTW, Miami won't win any rings at all with those three stars sucking down all their cap room. Last I checked, basketball was a five-man game and NBA teams can't win without an 8-man rotation of players who can play. Miami has three and no room to get even a mediocre fourth. The three stars will be playing with dog meat teammates working for NBA minimum wage. Look for about 45-50 wins from them and a first-round playoff exit next year -- about what Miami did THIS year.

Posted by: dolph924 | July 10, 2010 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Ahh... the only peril of freedom - it's a two-way street.

LeBron has every right to go to Miami. And everyone outside of Miami has a right to hate him for it.

The Heat will be hated more than the Yankees. It'll suck when he goes to Cleveland, but he'll shake it off as an irate phone call from an ex-girlfriend. Halfway through the season when every away game is a Cleveland game, he will realize what exactly he did.

Posted by: ryan_mn | July 10, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Never thought I'd say this about a Eugene Robinson take, but this one is moronic.

The whole LeBron 'decision' saga was selfish, cruel and obscene, not just "over the top".

Gene, have you lost your mind?

Posted by: secretaryofspite | July 10, 2010 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Dale, having lived here for 30+ yrs, Cleveland fans are NOT "genuine" fans. With the exception of the Browns, who sell tickets no matter what garbage they put on the field, Cleveland fans are genuine front-runners. The Indians sold out 400 straight games when they were winning; now they're lucky to get 20,000 on a weekend.

Gund Area was a ghost town until James arrived, and it will be again. Why pay $75 a pop to see a court of jesters, minus the king?

James built himself into a brand that was super-marketable, while not yielding success.
I'm losing sleep, but not over this.

Posted by: squibs | July 10, 2010 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Robinson,
First off, I am a fan of your work here & on MSNBC. We are most often in agreement, but here we disagree spectacularly. Although I agree that it was well within LeBron James' rights to exercise free agency and leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for another team, his approach over the last two years, and especially the last two weeks, have been reprehensible. The Cavaliers had done everything that was asked of them, including putting the long term health of the franchise in jeopardy, to allow a James led team to win now. And win they did including having the best regular season record in the NBA the last two years. Everything LeBron asked for he got and would have received remuneration well beyond what he will be able to get from Miami, even with the sign and trade agreement that Dan Gilbert and the Cavs graciously agreed to despite what Mr. James did to them.

I believe that when all is said and done LeBron James went overnight from one of the best liked athletes in the United States to being a pariah in Cleveland and disliked in much of the rest of the U.S. He did it all to himself: his narcissistic, ego driven, arrogant approach to the Cavaliers, the Cleveland fans and to the game itself burnt up all the good will he had cultured since joining the league. Witness the staged "Decision" event; when Jim Gray finally asked him the question, he answered in a halting, sheepish voice that he was going to play in South Beach. He reminded me of a naughty child who when called to answer for his actions. For just a moment, he knew he had acted badly.

You wonder why the backlash against "King James"? You stated in your column that we Clevelanders will be upset, but I do not think you grasp the full extent of the outrage. The backlash not only reflects the bitterness that comes from being dumped on by a player whom the community has treated extraordinarily well, but also by being dumped on by people throughout our country. I am personally sick of the attitude that James had every right to leave Cleveland not just because of free agency, but because Cleveland is a bad place to be. Yes, Cleveland has seen better days; economically, socially, politically. And yes, we Ohioans probably do invest too much of our hope and loyalty in mercenary athletes; an affliction not limited to us but to pretty much the whole world. But Cleveland and northern Ohio are great places with wonderful people. And after the Fumble, the Drive, the Shot, and the Move we all deserved better than the Decision and by extension LeBron James' callous treatment. Yes Mr. Robinson, we deserve better from you as well. Like with any bad breakup, King James and the media could have at least told us to our face "it's not you, it's me and I'm sorry for how I treated you". Instead it's get over it & goodbye. LeBron James had every right to leave, but no right to disrespect his home and its people. For shame on him and anyone else who believes otherwise.

Posted by: fitche | July 10, 2010 4:20 AM | Report abuse

LeBron is like every other American - Wants to be king, but doesn't want to pay the price. Maybe he should be retitled Queenie to Duane Wade's King? This is a bad move on his part. Also, this is probably bad for the NBA

Posted by: marknelso | July 10, 2010 5:00 AM | Report abuse

The guy moved to a different team and he's still going to bounce a ball, run up and down the court and throw the ball. And he'll get paid a ton of money to do that.

The one hour press conference to announce it was ridiculous; the reaction from the Cav's coach was even more ridiculous and I'm not sure where I'd put the fans reactions on the scale of ridiculous.

Team [locality] loyalty in professional sports went through the exit around 40 years ago. The number of players of Cal Ripkin's class you can count on one hand.

Posted by: James10 | July 10, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

President Obama made a speech recently where he questioned whether or not some people make too much money. Does that include basketball players.? The American was is to work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Lebron James has the right in America to use his talent to make as much money as he can and play where he wants. I hope that is okay with the President.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 10, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

You gotta a problem, Eugene. Your tin god Oboobma said in a recent speech that "some people make too much money." Apparently, he wasn't talking about black basketball players? Now you gotta decide whose rear you're going to kiss. It's been Oboobma up till now - are you looking to upgrade?

It occurs to me that the fact you won a "pulitzer" says more about the prize than it does about you.

Posted by: hill_marty | July 10, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

It's not the who or the why, but the how.

James has made a mockery of what ails professional sports and society.

The outrageous spending to obtain his services and the lack of honor, character, and loyalty leaving his home town team is what annoys most of us.

Maybe it reminds most of us who see a comparison to current American leadership and it disgusts us?

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | July 10, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I am familiar with Ohio---more specifically, northern Ohio. The worst year of my life was spent in Ohio. LeBron James was born in Akron and spent his entire childhood in Ohio.
For the Good Lord's sake, take pity on this poor man.

Maybe some of those Cavalier fans have never been anywhere else and therefore don't realize what a wretched climate they live in(except July). Maybe they don't have the bus fare to get out. They truly have my sympathy. As for LeBron James,
you go, guy! I grew up in nearby Michigan and fled as soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions. Life is short. Live it your way.


Posted by: martymar123 | July 10, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Its really sad..people are so mad at Lebron making his own decision to leave that they are becoming desperate and mean spirited.

So mad that they are resorting to race. What does race have to do with Lebrons decision? Lebron is just a man. A man that plays basketball that wants to win. You are upset that a young man calls him self the "Chosen One", yet you behave as though he really is. Cleveland Fans act as though God himself left Cleveland.

So mad, that you insult the author of this article, because he gave his opinion.

There was never going to be a "Right" time to leave Cleveland. I liken it to a caged pet canaries.. We know they should be free. However, we enjoy their song and gaiety so much that we can never bring ourselves to open the cage, and set them free..

Posted by: boston6409 | July 10, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Robbie, I hope you will be there for us when the government starts telling doctors where they can practice (Oh! Too many practitioners with your specialty in that area!). We'll be counting on you!

Posted by: MikeMcLamara | July 10, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't hate LaBron James. I just don't understand why anyone in his right mind pays any attention to the NBA. It is noting more than a bunch of rich thugs.

Posted by: jdonner2 | July 10, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I look at all of the vile comments about Mr. Robinson being like Rev Wright(where does that come from?), LeBron being a traitor to his hometown(he was born in Akron, not Cleveland), his mother being on Section 8(totally ignorant), and other various and sundry items and cannot help but think that this is a racist issue.

When White CEO's leave companies to pursue better opportunities, we hear nothing. However, Black athletes are vilified continuously by people who are either jealous of their abilities and/or, probably both, their skin color.

There is nothing sinister for any person to leave an organization(team) to pursue a better station in life. One thing that everyone has wrong is that ESPN approached the James camp with the TV announcement idea, not the other way around, but, of course, no one has bothered to even research that angle. Kareem Abdul-Jabar left Milwaukee to go to Los Angeles for a better chance to succeed and did. Boston bought in a ton of great talent to assist Larry Bird in his success, as did Los Angeles with Magic Johnson. However, this is Corporate America, and teams make decisions not to keep players everyday. No one makes this type of insulting display of human indignity, as they shouldn't; it's business. And no, it's not as if he's leaving a marriage, and I wish he had never went to Cleveland now, because other cities and fans would never have behaved so immature and idiotic. Players have the right to make business decisions these days in a capitalistic society; that's what they hear everyday-let the market run itself, so why doesn't that apply to them. Or, as Mr. Robinson says, are they supposed to be caught up in an involuntary servitude relationship with their employer?
Let one of these self-righteous, egotistical, embarrassment of human beings spouting this hate get told that they cannot own a gun or cannot move freely between jobs or the country and see how quickly they start talking about "armed" revolution against the government. This is hypocrisy at its worse coming from the people who are denigrating this young man and his family and friends for exercising his rights as an American citizen in a democratically run society, or does that just apply to certain people?

Posted by: thhalejr01 | July 10, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Who cares about NBA basketball? The players certainly don't care enough to even try to play the game. Only fools support pro sports.

Posted by: Jerzy | July 10, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I believe that Eugene is 100% correct in this story.....

Posted by: corebanks1940 | July 10, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone in their right mind think that Kobe would have stayed with the then,Charlotte Hornets...He would have left as soon as he had the chance... if they had not traded him..I was a Charlotte Hornet fan and I wouldn't have blamed him one bit...He has five rings now and would have had none if he had stayed...

Posted by: corebanks1940 | July 10, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Mr Robinson, " Hate on " ?
This is the Washington Post. Please write in English not Ebonics.

Posted by: devluddite | July 10, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: thhalejr01
-------------------------------------------

I don't think anyone had a problem with Lebron exploring free agency that was his right, I think most people had a problem with him taking a crap on his hometown, Akron is close enough to Cleveland that this is a factor whether you want to believe it or not, on National T.V. I'm a Houston Rockets fan so I could care less where he went, you don't do that to the people who have supported you for 7 years, not like that, it showed no class. I don't think you understand the difference between an CEO and a athlete. Without fans athletes would be nobodies, CEO's on the other hand don't have fans so of course no one cares when they change jobs. You do understand what the word "fan" is derived from I hope, I don't see any people tricking around in a Wal-Mart ceo jersey. Oh, and by the way Eugene is a race baiter as I'm sure you are too judging by your attempt to turn this into a black-white thing.

Posted by: kitzdakat | July 10, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Boy, am I glad I don't give two sheets about this. People, enjoy the entertainment, or if not , our government is more entertainment, but affects us.

Posted by: wind-head | July 10, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Kevin Garnett was fiercely loyal to Minnesota. He was traded to the Celtics - he did not originally sign with them as a free agent in pursuit of championships. Bad example Mr. Robinson.

Posted by: mdpaske | July 10, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Are you being deliberately obtuse? As several people pointed out, most rational fans do not begrudge him availing himself of his free agency rights. To make the ESPN show a minor character is ludicrous. That was the point. Hard to imagine it being handled more poorly from just about any angle. Just one was the charitable aspect. Quite the opposite of anonymous donation. The children props in the background made me think of Oliver Twist. Maybe one of them could have come down, tugged on his pant leg and asked for more porridge.

Posted by: rfeldleit | July 10, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse


It's clearly NOT a black-white thing, and if Mr. Robinson doesn't get that, he needs to TALK to some Clevelanders.

We had the same reaction when Jim Thome (white baseball player) did the same thing, without the
"King Games" stage management.

And you REALLY wouldn't have wanted to be Art Modell (white football owner) in 1996. You really don't want to be him today, for that matter.

Bottom line here is that sports, as least for the sane among is a harmless way to blow off steam, good and bad. We can't give our CEO the finger, refuse to buy health insurance, or bring jobs back.

But we can thumb our noses at some rich, spoiled kid whose been told all his life that his you-know-what didn't stink.

Gotta mow the yard now, or I get beaten with a rolling pin. Now, THAT'S important.

Posted by: squibs | July 10, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

LeBron epitomizes the reasons why the NBA is unwatchable: selfish players with false sense of entitlement and no class led by owners who do not care about the fans. Underachieving tattooed gangsters with poor values pretending like their $5000 suits make them intelligent.

Posted by: jackson641 | July 10, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse


Robinson, You know that saying "It's not what you say, but HOW you say it."

Well, it's not "what James did, but HOW he did it."

It was over the top, indeed. But the worst part is he kept the Cleveland fans in suspense and groveling for him. "Will he leave or won't he?"

I've always been a James fan and appreciated, even in the early years, how he carried the team on his back.

But this was over-coverage.

When I came to this website the other day every picture was of James.

While every news organization should and does cover sports, this was excess.

We have so many events going on in our country and around the world right now, that too much coverage was spent on James.

Posted by: janet8 | July 10, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Lebron and the NBA are more exciting and interesting now than ever. I want to see every Miami game. I'm more interested in the Wizards because of dynamic changes to teams. The Wizards need to get a banger who can score: Lous Scola from Houston.

If no one cared about Lebron, Wade and Bosh in Miami aka Hot Body City there wouldn't be so much comment. Get real, the NBA is Bigger and Better now than when Lebron was Hunkered down in Cleveland. The league and even the Wizards are better off for the move.

Posted by: Airborne82 | July 10, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Squibs, so what you are telling me is that you are only a "genuine fan" if you attend the games? Am I reading your quote correctly?I too spent over 35 years in Cleveland before having to move for work. The other cities I have lived in will never get my attention or loyalty. I am a Brown, Tribe and Cav fan no matter where I am or how bad they are. I can remember plenty of nights in cold, cavernous Municipal Stadium watching the Indians...me and 5000 other fans. Loyalty is not measured by attendance or cash...if you were a true Cleveland fan you would know...it is in your heart!

Posted by: DaleWyvillePA | July 10, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

SCOOP JACKSON


So the question is this: What's the difference with LeBron? Where is the profound difference between what A-Rod did in 2004 and what LeBron did Thursday night?

Here's the answer: Other than LeBron's personal connection to the city he left, nothing.

Again, this has been done before.

In 1982, Moses Malone was considered by many to be the best player in basketball, certainly one of the best of his generation, and he was still in his prime. But just after he collected the second of his three MVP awards and only one year removed from playing in the NBA Finals with the Houston Rockets, he became a restricted free agent. With his team apparently regressing (the Rockets went from their Finals appearance in '81 to out in the first round the next season), Moses decided to leave Houston and go play for the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that already had one of the other best players in the game and of his generation. A guy named Julius Erving.

In his first year with Dr. J in Philly, Moses Malone found himself in the promised land of an NBA championship.
See where this is going?

Dwyane Wade is Dr. J, LeBron is Moses and Chris Bosh is Andrew Toney in this analogy. The Sixers went on to win the 'ship the season Moses joined them, going down in history as one of the greatest teams of all time. And no one said anything about damage to Malone's legacy.

Again, we've seen this happen before.

Posted by: corebanks1940 | July 10, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Eugene for the perspective, the media created this hoppla and now wants castigate him for using the platform....Thanks for the sane voice in the wind!

Posted by: guerridolee | July 10, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Eugene we just dislike him because of the playoffs history and moving into the Wizards division.

Posted by: dcinmd1 | July 10, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

OK, I agree, the comments about "section 8, a bunch of high-schoolers running the posse, crack hoes" is totally out of bounds. But the Akron cops just saved a TON of their 2010-11 budget for all the windows she done kicked out (google it)! Whatever... root for injuries!
And EVERYTHING this "cat" writes is black and white! And he's on MSNBC... oh hellya there's fair and balanced?!? Whhhhaaaaattt??!

Posted by: kdd27 | July 10, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

So many folks give a shi* about Mr. James. Unreal.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | July 10, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

James brought an entrepreneur's approach to the NBA. He formed partnerships with other players and put himself in a position to be successful. Businesses do that all the time. James is not only a great player but he is also business-smart. And the NBA is a business, after all.
It's sad for Cleveland. And the TV announcement was excessive. But it should make for interesting basketball.
And the clock is ticking. Professional sports is a cruel profession. One day you're a tough, seasoned veteran and the next day you're just old.

Posted by: DanWright1 | July 11, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

There's no indentured servitude in America. (Well, except for housemaids of ambassadors, and employees of massage parlors.)

There's certainly no indentured servitude that pays to the tune of $67M over the course of the contract.

And there's also no royalty. Therein is the problem -- Mr. "King" James with his regal "We" and his very own ESPN special. I ain't hatin' on him. It's just that anyone who refers to himself in the third person is triflin'.

Posted by: laboo | July 11, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

People get a grip on yourselves. Lebron just changed jobs. People do every day. Sure he was narcissistic, but look at all the attention the media and the fans have devoted to him. He's just a basketball player who went straight from high school to the pros. Basketball is his entire life. He isn't responsible for saving Cleveland.

Posted by: lynch1 | July 12, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I'll echo the many comments concerning LeBron. People aren't criticizing the move to another city, it's the narcissistic way that The King went about it. Of course the people of Cleveland or Cavalier management don't own him. It's that he didn't give his current employer the courtesy of a phone call prior to the announcement , the ridiculous 1 hour special 'The Decision', complete w/ Boy/Girl Scouts as shameless props and the fact that he was in Greenwich, Connectitut of all places to make the announcement.

Posted by: randysbailin | July 12, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

At a time when we continue to be disappointed by the hypocrisies of "role models", Mr. James had a unique opportunity to rise above self-aggrandizement and make a strong statement to the country and our youth. It would live far beyond anything that would be remembered on a basketball court, like Lou Gehrig's speech.

But, Mr James blew it in an hour long celebration of the unfortunate core value of modern America: the distortion of "the pursuit of happiness" into "the pursuit of selfishness".

Glenn Beck couldn't have sent a stronger message to the youth of America.

Posted by: Bodoc | July 12, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I don't usually comment but I had to say something. While I understand the anger at the over the top "Decision" special, I think it is unfair to expect one thing from the players and another thing from the owners. There are numerous accounts of players learning that they've been traded from the internet or from someone else calling them and telling them. If it's acceptable for the owners not to have the courtesy to inform the players, who worked hard to earn money for themselves and their family as well as the owner, then we shouldn't expect more from the players. There's no denying that LeBron could have handled "The Decision" better, but to act as if he owed anything to the other teams competing for his services, or to anyone other than his family and fans, is absurd.

Posted by: dalastletter | July 12, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I don't care if he switches teams. I'm just amazed that the guy is so oblivious to how obnoxious and self serving that program was. It's perfectly fine for people to feel the urge to projectile vomit when they have this kind of tacky, self centered nonsense shoved in their face. Make the announcement through your agent, hold a press conference a little while later and move on; the every other athlete in the world moves on. It's amazing that someone so carefully in control of his image and brand would do so much to trash that image and brand in only a few minutes. And the columnist is completely wrong that this is about a veteran wanting to win a championship. It's about the public reacting to a cheesey promotion of contrived hype that has nothing to do with basketball at all. Want to change teams? Fine. Just save the "where will he walk on water next?" nonsense and stop promoting your own sense of self importance. Shaq was the most dominant, high impact signing ever, no doubt about it. He could have played on a pickup team from the Y and gotten them to the finals. And Shaq didn't do anything this annoying. I like a lot of Robinson's columns, but he's just wrong about this.

Posted by: Candressuhmoose | July 12, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

In the "Age of obama" lebron must "spread the wealth around" and give any profits to his slave master (obama) Didn't obama say, "There will be a time for profits - now is not that time"
So while Eugene Robinson wants to say we live in a "free country" with obama taking over control of our lives, we really not that free. obama would like us all to be slaves - those NBA players be some rich slaves !

Posted by: kalisdan | July 12, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse


TO: caruff7 who wrote:
“Sorry Eugene, you fail to truly understand what took place. Yes, he left. And most people do not begrudge his wanting to win championships. It is HOW he did it that is causing the most uproar…”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

“How” exactly did he leave that was so annoying?

It’s my understanding that they never wanted Lebron to leave and they said that Lebron had promised to never leave Cleveland.

As Americans we all have the absolute right to prosper.

I blame Cleveland for their “sour grapes” approach to Lebron’s move, and it has to tell me something about the way he was treated too.

If they were this “nice” to Lebron on notice of his leaving, it makes me wonder how they treated him on a day-to-day basis.

Congratulations Lebron, you did the right thing!


Posted by: lindalovejones | July 12, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Eugene, you totally underestimate the impact of LeBron leaving Cleveland. For a comparison liberals would understand, this would be akin to Bill Clinton getting a talk show on Fox News Channel.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 12, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

TO: kalisdan who wrote:
“…So while Eugene Robinson wants to say we live in a "free country" with Obama taking over control of our lives, we really not that free…”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

We are much more free now than we were under Bush.

If you’re not one of those racist people, could you please explain how Obama has actually affected your, mine, and our freedom?

You folks get on WaPo everyday and just call the President one name after another, but you never actually put your finger on anything substantive.

Could you try and explain what the President has actually done, not allegedly done, to impair your or any American’s freedom please?


Posted by: lindalovejones | July 12, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like Lebron James was the only player Cleveland had.

If there are other players on Cleveland's team, they must be feeling real small right about now.

The owner could have at least played up the players who did decide to stay.

But noooooo. Dan Gilbert, or whatever his name is, acted as though Lebron was all he had.

The Cavaliers owner showed a complete lack of class, sportmanship, and he cried like a little baby girl.


Posted by: lindalovejones | July 12, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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