“Power! Unlimited Power!” Darth Sidious/Senator Palpatine (Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith)
I was reflecting on Lebron James “The Decision” the other day. In the midst of recalling the after math of league wide doom and despair, the sci-fi epic ‘Star Wars’ came to mind. I couldn’t help but see parrallels between the Miami’s Heat’s 2010 coup, Lebron Jame’s story and the outlook of despair for small market teams and the league in general in the arc of the Star War’s story. A story that chronicled the fall from balance of Galactic Governance due to a machiavellian villain’s machinations and the choices of that story’s ‘chosen one.’
Like Anakin Skywalker, Lebron James was considered to be the ‘chosen one’ in his respective universe (that of professional basketball). Heck James even has ‘Chosen’ inked on his back. Like Skywalker, Lebron started off from a peripheral place (Cleveland) but rose to prominence due to his incredible natural talents and physical abilities. Like Skywalker, Lebron was expected to become a redemptive savior figure (Skywalker for the Jedi and Lebron for a league and a beleaguered sports town). For Lebron, expectations were that he could transform a small market team into a champion, thereby restoring to balance a league that had become ever more top heavy with powerhouse teams in the league’s major market cities.
The Empire – A triumvirate forged in the 2010 Coup:
As in Star Wars a Machiavellian figure plotted and succeeded in a destabilizing coup (Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious in Star Wars and Pat Riley of the Miami Heat). Like Anakin Skywalker, Lebron James yielded to his fears and came to make a decision that had far reaching repercussions (Sky Walker’s fear of his wife’s death and James fear of becoming a ringless superstar). You just can’t make this stuff up! For Sky Walker, the prophecy of his role in returning a universe to balance eventually came to pass in a very very round about way. Well, in that vein, Lebron may still be professional basketball’s ‘Chosen One.’ How can Jame’s still be the ‘Chose One’ you ask? How the heck is it even relevant for the Knicks? Well let me poor some koolaid.
“There’s Winning and there’s Misery.” Pat Riley (Legendary coach, GM and Mastermind of the Miami Heat Coup that paired Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade)
Yielding to fears of his star flickering out on a small market team without Championship Rings to validate his legacy, Lebron James blazed a path to Miami’s South Beach. Lebron’s path left a trail of scorched earth across the NBA land scape and tarnished his image and brand in the eyes of many fans and observers. Yet, Despite a fall from grace (Anakin Skywalker anyone) James may still prove to be the league’s ‘chosen one.’ The decision that resulted in an unholy triumvirate in Miami, has had far reaching effects on the league, it’s smaller market clubs (often struggling to draw or retain star talent) and star players confronted with their legacies.
The Rebellion – Small Market Ownership and Marquee Player Responses:
The responses by small market ownership and a new breed of star players may set in motion events that restore some semblance of balance to the league in the aftermath of the decision. The gauntlet thrown down by Miami to the rest of the league could shape a refashioned collective bargaining agreement (more on that later). Likewise, marquee stars such as Anthony and Paul appear to be following in Jame’s footsteps. Paul and Anthony (like Jame’s while in Cleveland) are franchise players with relatively successful NBA teams that have been unable to make further strides towards an NBA championship. Both were mentioned at a toast given during Anthony’s nuptials as part of a potential super team in New York with Knicks Star Forward Amar’e Stoudemire.
On the other side of the equation, the Hornets and Nuggets (like the Cavaliers) are small market organizations in flux confronted with the challenge of retaining their franchise players (or at the very least avoiding Cleveland’s fate). But Anthony and Paul have an advantage that hinges on preserving their options to test free agency as an exit path in the event their current teams fail to make marked improvement towards playoff success. An advantage which leaves the door open for the emergence of another super team in the foreseeable future. A super team that may take stage in Gotham’s hallowed Madison Square Garden (amongst other places mentioned).