I've always been a huge LeBron James fan. I'm starting to back up. LeBron James sees himself as a victim. —Columnist Jason Whitlock
As the Golden State Warriors wrested the NBA championship from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was difficult to miss the irony — James losing to the monster he helped create. After all, he’s the inventor of the "super team," the one who started the idea of superstars conspiring to form their own teams to win titles.
After that plan brought James a couple of championships in Miami and one in Cleveland, Kevin Durant took a page out of James’ playbook and one-upped him by signing with the Warriors — a team that had just set an NBA record for regular-season victories without him — to form his own super team. They blew through the playoffs, winning 16 of 17 games. It’s a team that could win a lot of championships — not one, not two, not three, not four
So after the Warriors clinched the championship Monday night, a reporter asked James this question: “You've been a part of two super teams, the one you have here, the one you had in Miami. Looking at what the Golden State Warriors have done, are you still a fan of the concept? Do you think it's a good thing for the NBA to build these teams how they brought in Kevin?”
This is how James responded: “No, not really. I don't believe I've played for a super team. I don't believe in that. I don't believe we're a super team here. So, no, I don't really, I don't.”
Wait, what?! James not a fan of super teams? he doesn’t think he has played for a super team?
What about The Decision? What about that big, gag-inducing TV production in Miami in which James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade stood on a stage with dancing girls in front of a fawning crowd and James promised he would win multiple championships — “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven ” What about the team he was surrounded with in Cleveland with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving?
Well, what James is really saying is: It’s because of me that my teams won championships, not super teams, and the reason we lost is because of my teammates and because the Warriors are a super team.
Don’t blame me — that seemed to be his theme throughout the Finals. After losses in games 3 and 5, James made a point of saying several times, “I gave everything I had tonight, I couldn’t do any more,” as if to say, blame my teammates.
Now he is saying he was a victim of a super team — the Warriors (actually, unlike James’ teams in Miami and Cleveland, the Warriors developed their own team, aside from the addition of Durant).
Sticking with his script, James will soon complain about a lack of a supporting cast, as he does annually, and maybe the Cavs will try to sign a big free agent. As recently as January, James was complaining again and launching a public campaign to push the Cavs to sign more players. There’s always a veiled threat — make him happy or he’ll leave, just as he did Cleveland the first time.
The Cavaliers exceeded the luxury tax last year by $54 million trying to make James happy, and they lost $40 million for the season. They reportedly have the highest payroll of any sports team in the world, but it’s not enough for You Know Who. Last January, James went public again with profane gripes about his supporting cast. “We need a $! playmaker,” he said. “We’re a top-heavy team.” The Cavs gave him more. They traded for Kyle Korver in January, and they signed Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut and Derrick Williams in February.
The constant complaining about his teammates and management is getting stale. "I've always been a huge LeBron James fan,” columnist Jason Whitlock said on "Speak for Yourself." “I'm starting to back up. LeBron James sees himself as a victim."
Already there is media speculation that James will opt out of his contract after next season and dump Cleveland for a second time to take his talents to California, either with the Lakers or Clippers in Los Angeles.
Everyone likes to talk about James’ legacy — see Fox Sports, San Francisco Chronicle, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, etc., etc., — usually in terms of championships. They miss his one true legacy: The creation of super teams.
Here’s the thing about James: He’s never built anything. To win three championships he required ready-made teams built to his specifications through owners with open wallets. He never built anything as Michael Jordan did in Chicago, as Tim Duncan did in San Antonio, as Kobe Bryant did in L.A., as Dirk Nowitzki did in Dallas, as Larry Bird did in Boston, as Isiah Thomas did in Detroit, as John Stockton and Karl Malone did in Utah — as great players have always done.
Thanks to James and his legacy, 28 teams in the NBA have been cast into a state of irrelevancy. The Warriors and Cavs have left the rest of the league so far behind that the regular season is superfluous. The Eastern Conference is so pathetic that James’ super teams have been to seven straight Finals, with the Heat and Cavs. The Cavs and Warriors have been to three straight Finals. Not that the NBA is alarmed by any of this.
"It's not a concern,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “I think that we should be celebrating excellence.”
Could this man be any more clueless? If he cared as much about having a competitive league as he does about North Carolina’s bathrooms, the league might have some semblance of parity and competitiveness. The NBA facilitates players who want to manufacture their own all-star teams because it has no hard salary cap, only a luxury tax that is an utter failure. What fun is this for the fans of the other 28 teams? Why should they keep watching?
Meanwhile, James will soon be asking: What can Cleveland do for him?