NBA: LeBron’s Decision Molded His Legacy, Set Tone For Decade To Follow

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

A plummeting perception of time and the presence of a seemingly unlimited supply of intoxicating liquid refreshment worked in tandem to severe the ties that bound me to the world I previously knew before embarking on my Caribbean honeymoon midway through the Summer of 2010.

But neither my boozy circumstances, surroundings that were captivating to say the least, nor the notion of impending marital bliss could even remotely redirect my attention from the live production of “The Decision” on ESPN and the extraordinary announcement that would eventually trigger widespread hysteria and a radical change in the fashioning of NBA rosters both then and for the full decade that’s unfolded since.

Just as soon as LeBron James peeled off his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey in the bowels of TD Garden moments after yet another early dismissal from championship contention — this time at the hands of the Boston Celtics — myself and likely every other basketball fan from sea to shining sea promptly began to wonder — or, more precisely, wishfully thought — about the likelihood that our respective team’s jersey would be the next one he’d pull onto those shoulders that already carried the weight of seven years worth of unfulfilled expectations.

For James’ most intense suitors (the then-New Jersey Nets, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Clippers) the “King” represented salvation from basketball purgatory or, better yet, near-certain arrival at the promised land. And, as the most highly sought after free agent in the days of Anno Domini, he was coveted as such.

But once James infamously revealed “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” and, two days later pledged upwards of seven titles to Heat fans, James had inadvertently wedged himself into countless punchlines and essentially set in motion the thinning of the line that separated his supporters from his detractors.

Expectedly, Cleveland erupted in public displays of antipathy that manifested in the destruction of an assortment of James’ jerseys either by fire or the bare hands of enraged Cavs fans. Majority-owner Dan Gilbert even threw a temper tantrum — his in the form of an open letter, that bordered on tyrannical, to the city of Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and Cavs fans everywhere.

Elsewhere, in the minds of some people devoid of any rooting interest in the team with a flaming ball as its logo, “The Decision” was a poorly executed, drawn-out demonstration overseen by an attention-seeking prima donna. Some people have yet to completely cleanse their palate of the manner in which James brazenly articulated himself to Jim Gray and millions of television viewers. Other people, who look fondly on the days when an athlete remained with a single team for the duration of his career, still find his decision to pursue championships with Wade and Bosh at the expense of the team that drafted him utterly outrageous altogether.

All of that in the name of James exercising his collectively-bargained right to steer his career in the direction he saw fit.

It took me awhile to truly appreciate the impact that “The Decision” — both the production and execution — had on player empowerment. Honestly, I probably spent the better half of this decade just coming to grips with the fact that the Bulls were unable to secure some combination of James, Wade and Bosh. Then again, as a Chicago native and staunch supporter of Derrick Rose, I hate to imagine how much the hometown prodigy would have had to personally sacrifice in either of those scenarios.

James’ legacy isn’t so much marred by “The Decision” as it is uniquely molded by it, and no more worse for wear as a result than what is owed to his subpar Finals record, which many argue belie both his nickname and the “Chosen One” tattoo engulfing his upper back.

While things didn’t quite go as spectacularly as James envisioned, he, like I — now a divorced father of a five-year-old son — has learned life rarely does.

One response to “NBA: LeBron’s Decision Molded His Legacy, Set Tone For Decade To Follow

  1. Pingback: NBA Finals: Conflicting Feelings Surround LeBron’s Latest Coronation | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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