LeBron James, ESPN think they’re bigger than the game

I’m no different than LeBron James. I’m no different than the executives at ESPN. No different than any other devout lover of this beautiful game known as basketball. I fell in love with the game. It just so happens that I grew up in Southern California. Therefore, the Los Angeles Lakers have been the only basketball team I’ve ever rooted for.

If I was raised in Milwaukee, I would be a Bucks fan to this day. If I were raised in New York, I’d be a devout Knickerbocker through thick and thin.

No matter where I might have been born and bred in this great land of ours, I have no doubt I would have fallen in love with the game just the same.

You see, basketball is my first love and it just so happens that the Lakers are the team I learned to love the game through.

Nothing is bigger than the game.

If the Lakers up and moved out of Los Anges tomorrow, I’d still follow hoops. Not saying I’d become a Clipper fan – my jaw clinches at the mere thought – but I’d certainly take in a lot of Clippers basketball.

If the NBA folded overnight and professional basketball as we knew it ceased to exist, I’d still call up my friends on the weekend to get in a game on a Saturday afternoon.

If ESPN stopped broadcasting sports all together, I’d still seek out hoops on my own terms.

In other words, the game is all that matters. Nothing trumps the game of basketball. Not a single team. Not a single player and certainly not a single sports network.

By giving LeBron James the biggest stage of all to announce his free agency decision, ESPN has set a terrible precedent. The self proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” and the self proclaimed “King” have entered into an unholy matrimony that will do more harm than help for the game of basketball.

The game is all that matters. Without the game we wouldn’t even make eye contact with LeBron if we passed him on the street. Without the game ESPN would still be a simple cable network struggling to define itself.

Yet here we stand, on the precipice of what could be the absolute destruction of the very morals and ideals that Dr. James Naismith was attempting to instill in his PE students. The same ideals that the great John Wooden pioneered at UCLA. The same ideals that Phil Jackson has utilized over and over again en route to leading countless grown men to the Promised Land.

Yet here we stand, a nation of mechanical animals being led to the slaughter. We’re somehow supposed to be fascinated by one man’s decision as to where he’ll make his millions. Mind you, this is a man who – historically – is nowhere near the pinnacle of his chosen profession. Sure, LeBron is the hottest thing going right now but his actual historical significance in the game is a far cry from all the hype surrounding him.

While LeBron might be the one with the over bloated ego, it is EPSN’s role as the enabler that is equally shocking.

There is no room in the game for one player to make such a spectacle of himself. Last time I checked, basketball is a team sport. To date, no single player has ever been so great that he alone has won multiple championships. Somehow we’re supposed to believe LeBron is that one.

We’ll he’s not.

The facts speak for themselves. Somehow ESPN has ignored those facts.

Somehow we’ve all collectively ignored the truth. The truth is that the game is played on a 94-foot hardwood floor, not in a negotiating room. The truth is that champions are made in the Finals in June and not at a staged event in July.

The truth is that if LeBron is supposed to be the greatest to ever play the game he loves then he’s got his work cut out for him. At the same point in their careers, Michael Jordan had one title, Kobe Bryant three. Without a single ring to adorn his royal hand, King James is a mere pauper in the grand scheme of the game.

Nobody is bigger than the game. Sure, LeBron and ESPN could very well be bigger than the NBA but neither is bigger than basketball itself.

If this is supposed the coronation of an NBA king then why is there not a Larry O’Brien Trophy involved? If this is supposed to be must-see-TV then why is ESPN allowing LeBron – a television production neophyte – to produce it?

The answer is simple – greed. ESPN wants the ratings and LeBron wants the spotlight.

Good luck in Miami, LeBron. You’re still playing for a team that is nowhere near the championship pedigree of the two teams that tangled for the title this past season. But that hardly matters since we no longer glorify winners in this game of basketball. Fame is the new Larry O’Brien I suppose. At least that’s the message LeBron and ESPN are broadcasting to the world.

But this is just a game and with or without LeBron James and ESPN the game must go on…unless LeBron says differently.

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