You Told Lebron That Rings Are All That Matter, So Now This Is What You Get
On Wednesday, the 18-5 Cavaliers traveled to Memphis to play the 17-9 Grizzlies; and for reasons that escape most rational basketball minds, they decided to leave their three best players at home.
Not only were LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all inactive for the game, they didn't event travel with the team. Considering the fact that their lead over the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference is tenuous - and that it was the one time they'd play in Memphis this season - the Cavaliers' decision to sit not just one but all three of their superstars had people up in arms.
Those most upset by the situation were Grizzlies fans, who had anticipated getting to see the NBA's best in action.
So of course now the (sports) nation has been thrust into a heated debate: is this supremely uncool or is it just the name of the game? While that phrasing isn't eloquent, it is representative of a larger existential crisis that has been brewing in the NBA for a while now.
Eventually every team in every league is forced to assess and implement their best strategy for winning a championship, even if it comes at the cost of the fans. Sometimes that means trading away beloved franchise players, or cutting a deal with the enemy. Sometimes it involves tanking for a few seasons to accumulate draft picks and restock.
In this case, it's initially hard to pinpoint the exact reason. It's early enough in the season that rest shouldn't be an issue quite yet. It definitely wasn't a long trip. And most perhaps more significantly, the stats from this season show that LeBron is actually worse in games that he's coming off of rest.
The only other logical explanation is that coach Tyronn Lue was bending to the will of his superstar(s). They wanted the night off, so they got the night off. Now that's bound to rub people the wrong way, but the fact that the superstars are the ones with the power in the NBA is no secret.
Neither is the fact that Lue's coaching isn't what won the Cavaliers a championship last season.
LeBron calls his shots. Just like Michael Jordan did. Just like Kobe Bryant did. Just like every great player in the NBA did. You know how you can tell when they are screwing up? When they stop winning rings.
So it's up to fans and the media to join hands and decide the answer to one crucial question: what do the NBA stars and teams actually owe us?
Is it just entertainment? Because if all they have to do is show up to every game that they are healthy enough to play in and ball out, then Russell Westbrook has been the most successful player in the NBA for years now.
Do they have to show up in every city their team is scheduled to play in because the fans there want so badly to see a superstar, or do fans have to start demanding more from their own teams? How indebted should LeBron- who has it constantly drilled into his skull that he has to be the ultimate competitor - feel to Grizzlies fans?
He knows how to win championships, and isn't that the ultimate goal for every athlete and team in the world?
LeBron James is one of very few players to ever play in six consecutive NBA Finals. So if you're Lue and the Cavaliers front office and James mandates that the Big Three sit a certain number of games for whatever reason, why on earth are you saying no? The best that any team can hope for is that they can deliver their city a championship, and the Cavs' championship hopes live and die with LeBron James.
What this boils down to is this: LeBron has been told his entire career that rings are what matter and that rings are what decide legacies. He has been reminded that Michael Jordan is the greatest because he won six rings. Despite being one of the most dominant, physically indestructible athletes we've ever had in American professional sports, LeBron's legacy has hinged completely and solely on one thing.
Just. The. Rings.
The fans and the media are directly responsible for that narrative. So if LeBron wants to sit 60 regular season games and then go win the Cavs fans another ring, then the only people they have to blame is themselves. If winning the NBA Finals shouldn't be his only goal, then there's about 10 years of shit-talking that they all need to go back and review.
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