To end his show, he said:
As a 16 year-old falling in love with this profession and a kid who’s a product of the 21st century, I was told to believe Mr. Gumbel on the basis that LeBron James decision to leave Cleveland was wrong according to the world of Facbeook, Twitter, and the raging court of public opinion. I was easily swayed by my Ohio roots and educated people above me who also felt that Lebron James had been deceitful and wrongful to us all. I believed Mr. Gumbel because at the time I genuinely agreed with him and the rest of America. Regardless of whether or not LeBron James would win a championship, he wouldn’t hold a place in history as a “true champion.”
So than let’s ask the question, what does it mean to be a true champion? Because frankly, with today’s standards, it seems like no one’s a true champion.
The best players seem to want to play where they have the best opportunity to win. It only makes sense that those places have the best teams, and the best teams usually have some of the best players.
When LeBron chose to take “his talents to South Beach,” he made a grave mistake, one that he is still paying his debt for. The manner in which he left Cleveland was wrong; I’m sure LeBron won’t dispute that. But to a guy like a LeBron, who wasn’t the self-anointed “chosen one,” but actually labeled that title by the very same people who dethroned him when he decided to move to Miami, what separates the kings from the gods is not how many points you average per game, or how many MVP’s you win during your career; it’s how many titles you claim while you still can that makes you divine.
Opponents and haters of LeBron try to slam him for leading a “Big Three” in Miami, but if the 2013 Playoffs tell you anything about his time with the Heat, it’s that there’s really only one big man on that team, and it certainly isn’t Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. There may be three players on that team with max player contracts, but it seemed like throughout the playoffs, and especially the Finals, it was LeBron’s other teammates that played instrumental roles in helping LeBron win his second NBA title.
It seemed like whenever the Heat needed a big lift to take the pressure off LeBron, it came from the sidekicks who were only supposed to be there to enjoy the ride and watch the Big Three take the league by storm. Chris Anderson, Shane Battier, and Jesus Shuttleworth (aka Ray Allen), all three of whom are players either past their prime or took less money to play alongside “The King,” played key roles in the playoffs, especially during the Finals.
Chris Anderson seemingly didn’t miss a shot during the playoffs. Shane Battier played great defense and hit critical three pointers in Game 7 after struggling for most of the Finals. And heck, there wouldn’t have been a Game 7 had it not been for Ray Allen’s incredible shot to tie the game in the 4th Quarter of Game 6.
Just like it’s impossible to compare Ted Williams to Miguel Cabrera or Joe Montana to Tom Brady, it’s not completely fair to compare Michael Jordan to LeBron James. Jordan played in a different era. The game has changed dramatically since the Jordan days. I would be hard pressed to believe that Jordan wouldn’t have shied away from the opportunity to play alongside Patrick Ewing or Charles Barkley had free agency been as important to sports then as it is now.
Muhammad Ali once said, “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”
I know it’s only been three years, but I see the world differently now than when LeBron first bolted for Miami. Maybe it’s because I feel pity for LeBron, and in my own mind, I think he’s done enough to prove that he is worthy of legendary status; but maybe I’m still wrong.
The 16 year-old Isaac Chipps might argue that regardless of where LeBron will stand in history when his playing days are over, he didn’t win the right way. My question for Isaac would than be, “So than how do you win the right way? Because it’s been proven that winning with one superstar just doesn’t cut it anymore.”
I have the utmost respect and admiration for Bryant Gumbel, and I hope to one day fill his seat on the show he most beautifully hosts. But I can’t help but think that the title of “true champion” has been lost in translation through a world that is filled with an American opinion that holds our athletes to a standard that is long outdated.
Mr. Gumbel is right when he says that putting on a tux can’t make a guy a gentleman, and winning a ring can’t make one truly a champion. But even amidst the scrutiny, tirade, and never ending vendettas that LeBron has had against him, he has somehow proven that he can put the team on his back and lead them to a championship when all hope seems lost. It doesn’t matter how many superstars may be on that team: that sounds like a true champion to me.