The Celtics play the Cavaliers tonight, one game before Lebron James visits his old basketball home for the first time. All of which means you’ll be hearing far too much about James in the next few days.
The Cleveland media repeatedly asked the Cavs if they were overlooking Boston, only the Eastern Conference’s best team. Shaq has already been asked about Lebron’s return, and he said two things: first, he doesn’t worry about the game. He just wants to know if Lebron will throw the powder in the air beforehand. And second, if Shaq’s return to Orlando was a six on the vengeance scale of one to ten, Lebron’s return to Cleveland is a twelve.
I’m sorry you have to hear about James all the time. I really am. But I’m also going to discuss him here, in this space. In other words, I will now contribute to the problem I just apologized for. This is where I apologize for the second time in the same paragraph.
My beef is with Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest piece on Lebron. I get that Woj finds Lebron to be everything wrong with sports. I understand that. In a way, I agree with it. But there comes a time when we need to stop blaming everything on Lebron. There comes a time when the other people in the Heat organization should take a little flak, too. Not everything is Lebron’s fault. Not everything that goes wrong should be blamed on the two-time defending MVP.
Look, I love Woj’s work more than life itself. I’m currently re-reading “The Miracle of St. Anthony” for the 1,113th time (estimate only), and I consider it one of the greatest pieces of sports journalism ever penned. But Woj has a tendency to pin all of Miami’s problems on Number Six, and sometimes it just isn’t fair.
Woj’s latest column on the Heat mentioned a quote from Dwyane Wade that threw Erik Spoelstra under the bus, while not directly throwing Spoelstra under the bus. “I’m not going to say he’s ‘my guy,’ but he’s my coach,” Wade said. Wade, keep in mind, is a former NBA Finals MVP, one of the five best players in basketball, and owner of a personality strong enough to be his own man. Yet Woj felt free to blame James for Wade’s apparent sour attitude toward Spoelstra.
As much as ever, the Heat need Wade to influence James. Only now, it’s clear James is influencing Wade. With Udonis Haslem out for the regular season, the locker room misses one of its vital voices. Now, Wade is struggling on the floor and James is the devil on his shoulder, whispering that he doesn’t need to be accountable, that there’s an easy fall guy for everyone: Spoelstra.
Sure, Wade is the one who wouldn’t back his coach, but it’s Lebron’s fault. This was always going to be Lebron’s fault, if anything failed, no matter what it was. Lebron is the two-time MVP, and he’s the one who risked his legacy by teaming with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. If the Heat fail, regardless of how well Lebron plays, that failure will always rest on his shoulders. And so it was that Woj, in a piece preaching how James should be more accountable, offers Wade a way to escape accountability altogether: just blame Lebron.
One gets the feeling Woj would also blame Lebron for the BP oil spill, World War II, and Angelina from the Jersey Shore, if he could.
I’m not saying Lebron has zero fault in this whole mess. It’s very possible he leaked the ESPN story about Miami players doubting Spoelstra, as Woj claims. It’s very possible he returned his cold french fries to a renowned chef — wait, what? It’s very possible he doesn’t respond well to the word “no.”
All signs say Lebron James a spoiled, narcissistic baby who has rarely, if ever, been held accountable for his own mistakes.. But in trying to hold him accountable for his own misdeeds, let’s not also blame him for the mistakes of others. There are a lot of things to blame on Lebron James. Dwyane Wade’s opinion of Erik Spoelstra is one thing that just isn’t Lebron’s fault.
And Spoelstra? It’s nice that he is standing up to Lebron, like Mike Brown never did. It’s nice he’s telling Lebron “no” sometimes. But if Spoelstra expects to keep his job, and to keep from losing his own locker room, he should figure out a way to make his talented team work. That, not just repeatedly saying “no”, is what coaches are supposed to do.