Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James’


Guest column: Rabbi Jason Miller on LeBron James

Posted on: July 12th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Rabbi Jason Miller passed along this piece on “The LeBron James decision from a Jewish perspective,” which he wrote the day after James decided to sign with the Miami Heat.

Aside from NBA star LeBron James leaving one Jewish NBA franchise owner in Cleveland (Quicken Loans and Rock Financial chairman Dan Gilbert) and going to work for another Jewish NBA franchise owner in Miami (Israeli-American CEO of Carnival Corporation Micky Arison), there are several Jewish themes and lessons in “The Decision” of which team the free agent would sign with.

Ne’emanut (Loyalty) – In the last couple of decades there has been very little loyalty among professional athletes. In a bygone era, a city’s fans could expect their star player to stick with the franchise from his rookie season until his retirement when he would be awarded a coaching or front office position. With free agency, loyalty is out the window. High profile athletes in free agency have their agents shop them around to the highest bidding teams. Last night, LeBron James decided he would leave Cleveland sans a championship ring and head down to South Beach, Florida because he wanted to win a championship and figured that the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be his best shot. I’m sure building a Shaq-like estate on Biscayne Bay or Millionaire’s Row had something to do with the decision too, not that I have anything against LeBron’s hometown and current city Akron, Ohio.

Anivut (humility) – Realistically, I don’t expect many NBA superstars to be humble — the few guys in the league who are humble are widely praised as anomalies in the sport. These are guys who grew up with very little and became millionaires with their first signed contract. They live glamorous lifestyles, their image is worth millions, and their endorsement deals add millions more to their net worth. However, the way LeBron handled his free agency decision was embarrassing. The hour-long ESPN prime-time special in which he announced he’d leave Cleveland for Miami had LeBron sitting across from Jim Gray, whom he chose as his interviewer, and in the background were rows of children from the Boys and Girls Club sitting silently. I fault his management team and agent for not using better judgment and letting their mega-star client know how badly this would look to the world.

Malachim (Kings) – We know from the Bible that kings are flawed individuals. LeBron had no problem coming out of high school, signing a mega-contract with the Cavaliers, and proclaiming himself “The King.” It was a title he had yet to earn in the NBA, but he made a personal franchise out of it. While other superstars helped their teams win rings, King James would earn no ring in Cleveland. Today, Dan Gilbert (pictured) issued a letter to Cavaliers fans and finally expressed his own long-held opinions about his franchise player. To the Cleveland fans he wrote, “You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.” He accused LeBron of giving up and tanking it in the playoffs this year (and also in last year’s post-season). Gilbert’s words lead us to believe that like the kings of the Bible, James is a flawed individual. He put himself before his teammates and the fans who supported him and paid for the tickets, souvenirs, and apparel that kept his stock high.

The people of Cleveland have every right to feel betrayed by LeBron. Superstar athletes may come and go, but the way LeBron handled this free agency decision was all wrong and hurtful to his fans (no fans, NBA; no NBA, no multi-million dollar contracts). Perhaps Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said it best and his words that transcend the NBA. I hope all pro athletes will take Gilbert’s words to heart.

He said, “It’s not about him leaving. It’s the disrespect. It’s time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I’ve been holding this all in for a long time.”

With all due respect, I have to pipe in with one comment on Miller’s statement about loyalty. “In a bygone era, a city’s fans could expect their star player to stick with the franchise from his rookie season until his retirement when he would be awarded a coaching or front office position.” Not to justify one side or the other, but the rabbi fails to mention that in those bygone days, ownership was in total control. They could trade their “employees” or release, relegate to the minors, etc., and the players had practically no avenue to refuse, save quitting. Famous case in point: Right before Old Timers’ day in 1956, Yankees general manager George Weiss called Phil Rizzuto, the team’s MVP shortstop, into his office, ostensibly to get his opinion on whom they should release to make room some new players. Rizzuto — a 13-year veteran — offered his considered opinion, but was rebuffed each time. It then became frighteningly clear that he was the one about to be shunted aside. So much for loyalty. (To be fair(?), Rizzuto was given a place in the broadcast booth, a position he held for several decades).

Well, that's that

Posted on: July 9th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

I must admit, I was a bit surprised by LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Miami Heat. I guess I was just a sucker. I really thought he would stay in his home state of Ohio. Perhaps it was the venue where he made the announcement, the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, CT. With all those kids in attendance, I imagined he would put out a message of family and loyalty. Wrong.

Naturally the media in Cleveland and Miami have different slants on things. (tt seems, at first glance, that Cleveland is much angrier than Miami is happy). In a case of what many have to consider a ton of sour grapes, Cavaliers (Jewish) owner Dan Gilbert told the Associated Press, “He has gotten a free pass. People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is.”

Gilbert had this message posted on the team’s website:

Dear Cleveland, all of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers supporters wherever you may be tonight;

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.

This was announced with a several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight: “I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one.”

You can take it to the bank.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our homegrown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, Cleveland. Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day…

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue…

Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner
Cleveland Cavaliers

(I understand the heartbreak of the breakup, but this seems very harsh. If Gilbert really felt that way about James, wouldn’t it have been hypocritical to write what one supposes would have been a fawning paean if LeBron had decided to stay? If Gilbert truly believed all this, why would he even want James to re-sign?)

From a story on ESPN.com:

Gilbert said he now wishes he had done some things differently with James, who spent seven seasons with the Cavs.

“It’s not about him leaving,” Gilbert said. “It’s the disrespect. It’s time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I’ve been holding this all in for a long time.”

I might think differently if I was a Cavaliers fan, but “Is this the way you raise your children? What’s that about?

By the way, Micky Arison, the Jewish owner of the Miami Heat has not, as of this writing, issued any statements.

The King James "version": Sports and/as religion

Posted on: July 8th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

This is getting ridiculous: Two commentary pieces from the Chicago Tribune‘s blog, “The Seeker: A Personal and Professional Quest for Truth,” this one by Rabbi Adam Chalom, North American dean for the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, and this one by James Kirk Wall, author of To Be an Agnostic: An Agnostic Approach to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Just sayin': Whither LeBron?

Posted on: July 8th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, even non-sports fans have no doubt heard about the current question plaguing mankind: Where wilkl LeBron James play this season?

Granted, “King James” is probably one of the top two players in the NBA but none of the other high-profile free agents have garnered anywhere near the attention. In fact, while Kevin Durant quietly signed a multi- year, multi-million dollar deal with his current team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, James will make his announcement on “The Decision,” a one-hour ESPN special tonight at 8 p.m. Word from Pardon the Interruption is that the fans won’t be held in suspense for the entire program; James will announce his decision early on, leaving the rest of the time for speculation and analysis. (Look out for flying televisions in Cleveland if he doesn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers. You’ve been warned.)

Sports pundits have been speculating over the entire past season as to where James might wind up: Cleveland, New York,New Jersey, Chicago, Miami… I’m sure someone out there has a pool going for big bucks. The journalists have said James is stretching out the process because since he signed with the NBA directly out of his school, he missed being “courted” by college recruiters.

Some resent this whole process of “will he, won’t he,” the agony of anticipation — sweet for some, ultimately bitter for others. Others, like me, laugh at the absurdity of the energy spent on this whole affair.

Just sayin’.

NB: For those of you who are totally out of the loop when it comes to terms such as “sign-and-trade” or “Bird exception” (me, me), check out this helpful piece by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and the more-detailed Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ site.

LeBron coming to your team? Is it good for the Jews?

Posted on: May 25th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Jeremy Fine — AKA “The Great Rabbino” — posted this analysis of why free agent-to-be LeBron James should come to teams in major Jewish markets.

In brief:

  • New York Knicks: “What is more Jewish than New York? Seriously, they sell out the Garden for Maccabi Tel Aviv, imagine if King James came to town.”
  • Chicago Bulls: “If James came to Chicago he would make [Jewish owner Jerry] Reinsdorf a happy man. James could be like Isaac to Jordan’s Abraham.
  • Dallas Mavericks: “[Jewish] owner Mark Cuban said on CNNMoney.com that ‘anybody’ would be interested in Lebron James…. [He] was later fined $100,000 for his comments because he was considered to have “tampered” with the free agency pool.”
  • Miami Heat: “I actually do not want to discuss this possibility because the idea of Dwyane Wade and James playing together scares me.”
  • Cleveland Caveliers (James’ current/former team): “Well, James has eaten at the Kosher Subway in the JCC (that is a joke). But really Judaism has a principle of Shalom Bayit (Peace in the Home). If James left Cleveland there would be a lot of tears shed and many people upset. Maybe James would want to make his extended family of Ohio happy for a long long time.”

Athletes as role models, take 157

Posted on: June 3rd, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

There’s been a lot of fuss about the fact that LeBron James walked off the court following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference finals loss to the Orlando Magic. Sports pundits decried his bad sportsmanship. The good folks at Pardon the Interruption ruminated on it at length. This is something you learn as a kid, said co-host Michael Wilbon: be a gracious loser.

Having played sports all my life on a much lower level, I can understand how, after having lost a tough game, a physical game, you might not be in the best mood, but it doesn’t much effort to pass by and bump fists or even offer a half-hearted handshake with a mumbled “good game.”

Eliyahu Fink, who serves as the rabbi at the Pacific Jewish Center in Venice, Calif., wrote about James and other athletes as role models in this piece from his blog. This part caught my eye:

That is bad sportsmanship. No question about it.

Do I care?

Absolutely not. (emphasis original)

I don’t expect better from an athlete.

People will make all sorts of excuses for ill-tempered behavior (see above), but it boils down to something more basic: before James was an athlete, he was (and hopefully still) a person. That goes for every one of us. Before we became a hot-shot lawyer, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, a truck driver, we were people. Hopefully we learned how to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Occupation and station shouldn’t matter.

The rabbi continues

…I don’t turn to LeBron for messages on Sportsmanship. Nor do I turn to any athlete or celebrity for anything other than waht makes them unique or special.

As a parent it is my job to provide good role models for my children. I may need to be that role model at times. At other times it will teachers, Rabbis, family members or other people who command respect for their area of specialty. Athletes are not role models. Allowing an athlete to be the role model for your child is a failure in  your parenting.

Ultimately, I agree, but professionals — be they athletes or journalists — come with a certain set of expectations that they have learned their craft and know how to do it correctly (typos notwithstanding). In that regard they should be role models. Learning how to be a good sport should come with the territory of being a athlete, regardless of the level of expertise.


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