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And Another Thing

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Where will LeBron land?

Well, that's settled. LeBron James isn't going anywhere.

Not now, anyway.

Except on vacation.

With his family.

So tune in later to see if he'll opt out of the last year of his deal and sign another team, something players do all the time in the NBA but for which LeBron will of course be roundly vilified. He is, after all, That Guy Who Did "The Decision" Thing, which means (in the minds of a certain segment of America) he should be regarded as pond scum for the rest of his days.

Let me say this about that: I don't get it.

I don't get why a player of such surpassing skill and unique unselfishness should continue to get whacked like a pinata for one stupidly self-serving act.

From what I see and hear of the man, it's pretty much the only time a superstar who seems remarkably lacking in superstar self-indulgence surrendered to a spasm of it's-all-about-me. And yet people simply will not let it go -- even though James has long since admitted it was a mistake of the first order.

Well. Too late for that, apparently. One of the least selfish great players ever (and by all accounts a solid citizen besides) is now the poster child for the greedy me-first professional athlete, and there's seemingly nothing he can do to erase that.

I find this absolutely astounding.

I find it astounding because the same people who'll call LeBron a rank opportunist never uttered a peep when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen abandoned the Timberwolves and the then-Sonics to join Paul Pierce in Boston so they could win an NBA title. Even though they had virtually as many ties to their previous teams and cities as LeBron did.

Outside of those cities, where was the outrage then? And why the outrage over LeBron "abandoning" Cleveland when he gave the city seven years of his career, and only left when it became apparent ownership was never going to provide the tools needed to clear that last hurdle?

Look, players come and go all the time in professional sports now, and if fan identity with the product has taken a hit because of that, it's demonstrably better than the days when players were denied any sort of autonomy in their professional lives at all. Now those days are gone, and player movement is the norm. You can't blame LeBron -- and, yes, likely Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who can also opt for free agency now -- for simply operating within the construct of their times.

But, of course, people will, because it's LeBron. They'll brand him as greedy for doing something people routinely do in other professions -- i.e., seek out the best situation for themselves. And they'll lament the days when teams didn't "buy" championships, even if those days never really existed.

The Kareem Abdul Jabbar Bucks of the early 1970s, after all, "bought" their lone championship when they swung a deal to get Oscar Robertson. The Larry Bird Celtics did the same thing when they brought in Dennis Johnson -- then the best point guard in the league, and a man who'd already won a title with Seattle -- to help deliver two more titles to go with their one in 1981.

Nobody regarded Oscar or D.J. as greedy opportunists because they either pushed for, or certainly didn't discourage, those deals. But LeBron?

Already people are making jokes about The Decision II. And calling him a "loser" even though he has two rings. And reviving the same old slanders about him quitting on the Cavaliers at the end -- even though, in his last game for them, he went for 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists.

If that's quitting, we should all be quitters.

And quitting the LeBron hate would be a good place to start.

Ben Smith's blog.

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