What is not debatable is this: Last year, LeBron, by Barra's own reckoning the best player in basketball, decided it would be easier to join 'em than beat 'em. Wade, with whom he colluded to team up during free agency, was the closest thing LeBron had to genuine competition, at least in the Eastern Conference: same draft class, similar skills and position, and (unlike James) already an NBA champion and Finals MVP. As Bill Simmons put it, "it's a cop-out. Any super-competitive person would rather beat Dwyane Wade than play with him. Don't you want to find the Ali to your Frazier and have that rival pull the greatness out of you?" Not LeBron, evidently. For good measure, he and Wade even brought along the third-most-coveted free agent on the market, fellow All-Star Bosh.
So, are rings really what distinguish LeBron from the Michael Jordan? Of course not. Jordan banged up against the physical Detroit Pistons unsuccessfully for years before finally surmounting them in the playoffs. It would have been easier to simply engineer a trade to the Motor City (or to LA, Boston, Portland, etc.) and start hoisting banners immediately, but he stuck it out as the pieces were fit and refit around him, until they were good enough to make it to the Finals. Nor was this in any way unusual. Bird never considered teaming up with Magic. Hakeem didn't offer to play power forward next to Robinson. Sure, great players have forced trades now and then. But they haven't invented insta-champion superteams out of thin air.
That's what LeBron did with Wade and Bosh. He cut corners. He skipped the gradual team building and rebuilding. He decided that being the best wasn't enough, he wanted to play with the best, too. This might have been tolerable if he'd done it humbly, if he'd said, in essence: I'm not the alpha male; I'm not the transcendent star; I want to be a facilitator of other great players, more Magic than Michael. Instead, he gave us The Decision. He let all-stars Wade and Bosh—the former, again, more credentialed than LeBron—make their free-agency announcement jointly, and waited another day and a half to make his own alone, with all the hype and hooplah he could gin up: a me, me, me moment in which to announce he didn't want the burden to be his, his, his. As I wrote at the time, he had a choice between greatness and humility and, amazingly, chose neither.
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