The big news is coming today. Travis Outlaw has signed a five-year, $35 million deal with the New Jersey Nets. Okay, maybe it's not the biggest news (but Outlaw is a pretty good player and although that's a big deal for a player of Outlaw's abilities, we live in a world where Phoenix gave Channing Frye $500 million and the rights to the Grand Canyon. Or something like that).
Tonight, LeBron tells us where he's going, and unless something changes, he's going to Miami to join the stacked Heat, along with franchise player Dwayne Wade and All-Star Chris Bosh. In a recent piece, I wrote that all you needed was a brain to know that LeBron would not sign with Miami, and I purposely insulted Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Apparently, I am the one without the brain. They were right and I was wrong. I will now eat a Cuban sandwich stuffed with pickles, ham, pork, cheese, and my words.
You see, I thought LeBron would want to beat the competition, not join the competition and trounce all others including his former team.
The fun of sports, to me at least, is in watching very good teams compete and in seeing who has that extra something to make it past the finish line. There's not a lot of fun in watching a Dream Team of great players trounce, say, last year's Nets. It was hard to get excited when the actual Dream Team trounced Angola by 68 points. That's what they were built to do: destroy the competition. A big victory? Big whoop, or in the words of the great philosopher Derrick Coleman, "Whoop de damn do."
LeBron could have stayed with Cleveland (and for the next few hours still could), where he won many games but never a ring. He could have signed with Chicago, a Midwestern team that already has a very solid roster. He could have gone to New York, turned the Knicks into contenders, and he would have been worshiped like a God or Derek Jeter (same thing).
Instead, LeBron appears to have chosen safety. And of all the advice LeBron received, the most salient appears to have come from Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, who was recently asked about LeBron's choice, and he said, regarding his years with Minnesota, "Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can't get youth back. I can honestly say that if I had to go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I'd have done it a little sooner."
So LeBron will go to Miami to join Bosh and Wade, and they will fill out the roster and they will stomp through the East like a giant monster stomped through Tokyo.
Pat Riley comes out the big winner. I mean, wow. Credit where it's due. I'm still mad that he left the Knicks, but I have a feeling he's not looking back.
Chris Bosh comes out a big winner; he hitched his star to Wade, and he ends up on a championship-caliber team.
Miami and South Florida are big winners. Although the people of South Florida are just as likely to root for Northeastern teams as they are the local franchise.
The Lakers are also winners here, too, in a way, because many will see them as the team that can stand between Miami and a title, and many will believe the Lakers are the good guys and the Heat wear black hats. Kobe Bryant's reputation, by disassociation, just went up a notch.
But the big losers here are everyone else.
The NBA is a huge loser. Many sports fans loved the speculation of a couple of weeks ago. But at this point, given the overkill and now the TV special, is any fan of sports not gagging?
And no one outside of South Florida wants to see this trio of players together in Miami. There are about five franchise players in the NBA, and two of them are going to be in South Beach.
There are many who have said that the league will lock out its players next summer. Well, the fans are so angry with how all this went down that they may lock out the players before next summer. And when the players are locked out, they better think long and hard about what they want to do, because they turned free-agency into a fiasco, and the fans will support the owners next year, not the players.
The city of Cleveland will obviously feel terrible pain. For a few years, their native son has made the Cavs a glamorous franchise. Now, people will rip Cleveland mercilessly. I should say that I have only positive feelings for the city; although I've never been, my grandfather often worked out of there (and frequented a bar called "The Theatrical") so I have often rooted for this Ohio city. I don't have any issue with LeBron leaving Cleveland if he feels he can do better elsewhere; people leave their hometowns all the time for different pastures. But the public way in which LeBron went through this process and in which he will ditch Ohio is going to be hard to overcome.
I don't want to end this column on a negative, and I'm not going to, because the Free-Agent Fiasco of 2010 does have one huge winner.
The league's leading scorer, Durant is not yet 22. Not yet 22! He is a franchise player. And he just quietly signed a five-year extension with Oklahoma City because he likes his team, he likes his city and he appreciates the team's very capable management. No big deal, not TV special, just his name on the dotted line, and back to work. I think I love Kevin Durant.
So next season, if I ever watch sports again after all this, I will watch my Knicks, who should be vastly improved, and I will watch the Thunder. I will root for Kevin Durant and what basketball was and is supposed to be, and not what it has become.