John Russell's sports column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Get over it, Cleveland. Get over it, middle-market teams. Get over it, all you LeBron James haters.
King James made his move from Cleveland to Miami in 2010. Sure he broke more hearts in Ohio than John Elway’s drive in 1987, but it has paid off big with two NBA titles and three straight trips to the NBA finals.
It’s been three years since the breakup, and in today’s world, James' decision to play in Miami is the perfect example of why a great player can’t sit around and wait for his chance at success. When free agency provides the opportunity of a lifetime, every superstar athlete has to jump at it, and jump is exactly what James did.
He proved that sports are not about loyalty or about building a fan base in a town where basketball is struggling. Sports, at least for a superstar like James, are about playing in a city that takes the game seriously and can give a player like James the exposure he needs to become a legend.
The days when guys like John Elway earned the hearts of the entire Rocky Mountain region with his arm and the days when a runner like Barry Sanders or Ernie Banks could carry the dreams of an entire city with their legs — well, those days are gone.
In today’s world, athletes are just pieces of the puzzle, and star athletes no longer belong to the city they represent but to the best contract they sign.
Cleveland offered James more than $100 million reasons to stay at home, but in the end, he decided the spotlight of southern Florida was slightly more appealing. He’s not alone. Many other superstars, including Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, have traded their place in a city's legacy for a shot at something better: a more profitable experience or the elusive championship title.
And as much as I hate to say it, LeBron James was right.
He has become a huge part of a dynasty built on the shoulders of some of the top players in the game. His legacy now belongs in the Florida sun. He traded his loyalty to his hometown for a chance at a title, a chance at success and a chance at immortality. Together with his teammates, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he is a part of a super team — something the fans in Florida are thrilled to have.
So it doesn't matter that I think James is a traitor, or that somehow I think his decision to take his talents to Miami is cheating. Truth is that he’s a great player, a great businessman and a two-time world champion. You don’t have to like him, but you have to admire the steps he took to make sure that his career would not be a footnote.
People in Cleveland, and those of us who would like to think that the world is fair, feel cheated. But in the end, sports are a business, and the best teams seek out and sign the best players. It’s just the way the world works, and the rest of us really need to get over it.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com