Stugotz "I feel the pain of our listeners"

Anyone who listens to our show will likely be shocked that I decided to write something, anything and most definitely will be shocked at how serious I'm going to be. LeBron leaving Miami and how it was covered stirred enough emotion and anger in me that it motivated me to write something I simply wasn't hearing or wasn't hearing enough of. I think this might work because while liking the Heat and having many friends inside the organization, I don't have nearly the passion that real Heat fans do, therefore I am not blinded by 2 rings and 4 straight appearances in the finals. What I do have, is a love and respect for South Florida, my home since 1997 and I feel the pain of many of our listeners. Real Heat fans who believe it or not were real Heat fans long before LeBron James came to town. I have no idea what I'm doing, no idea if this is going to be any good, it's just my thoughts on everything that transpired over the last week. Enjoy.

 

I arrived home at 9:30 pm Friday night, 14 hours after leaving my home thinking, "Will this be the day? The day LeBron finally makes his decision?" After taping a TV show, doing countless radio interviews, doing a 4-hour radio show and then going back to the TV station to re-tape the useless TV Show because the one we taped that morning was armed without a decision from LeBron James, I poured myself some Scotch and reflected on a week unlike any other I've experienced since I got into this business 15 years ago. I happily dove into the LeBron James free agency pool head first, delayed a vacation so I could be on the air in what used to be the deadest time in sports. Not anymore. NBA Free Agency has thankfully changed that. Had to be here, had to be around it, couldn't take my eyes off of it. Is he staying? Is he going? Is there a mystery team? Are they forcing Bosh out? Are they making room for Carmelo? Would they dare part ways with Wade? I ignored family and friends, ignored the day-to-day responsibilities of owning and running a company, ate little, slept less, hurt my finger refreshing Adrian Wojnarowski's twitter account, stared at crawls and watched SportsCenter over and over and over again. It hit rock bottom when I chose Larry Coon's twitter account over making love to my wife. I was glued to Coon's timeline, so no time for sex, he was explaining, 140 characters at a time, how the Heat could do a sign and trade with the Rockets for Chris Bosh and maybe, just maybe, the Heat were going to do that trade and hopefully make room for Carmelo Anthony. I was angry at LeBron James on Friday, really angry. Uncomfortable with how angry I was, I sipped my Scotch and decided the best thing to do was to hop out of the LeBron James free agency pool for 48 hours, dry off, resume what used to be life while examining why I felt so much anger toward him and see how I felt in 48 hours. I promised myself I would write those feelings down.

 

Forty-eight hours later, I am angrier now than I was then. My anger, of course, has nothing to do with what LeBron did on the court. He was great. My anger had nothing to do with his decision. He fulfilled a contract and was a free agent, FREE to do whatever he wanted to do and what he wanted to do, evidently, was go home to Cleveland. Good for him. What I discovered over these last 48 hours, though, was that I simply don't like the calculated way in which LeBron James and his friends conduct their business and that makes me like him less as a person.

 

Shame on you, national media, for telling Miami it can't be mad because this is the story YOU wanted to see, this is the story that makes YOU feel good. Shame on you for being so loud in your applause for LeBron for doing exactly what he did to Cleveland four years ago that you completely ignored the other side of the story. The Miami side. Shame on you, local media, for not having the guts to criticize LeBron for leaving. He hurt your city and, more importantly, the people who live in it. Two South Florida pillars, Micky Arison and Pat Riley, were hurting and what did you do? Ignored that and them because you were too busy applauding LeBron for choosing home and doing it the right way this time! Shame on you. He duped you. Shame on you for telling South Florida it shouldn't be angry at LeBron, couldn't be angry at LeBron. Gratitude? Please. You can be grateful AND angry. Aren't media members supposed to be voices for our community? In an effort to not act the way Cleveland acted four years ago, you failed to realize how badly your own city was hurting.

 

He rented us, our emotions, our love, our fandom and then, in a blink of an eye and without proper warning, the lease was over. Penned an essay that didn't thank Miami fans, told Dan Gilbert he was coming home, told Micky he was leaving his new home, hopped on a plane to Brazil and it was over. He was Miami's pride and joy one second and Cleveland's the next. It hurt.

 

When LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach four years ago, I voiced loudly that what he did to Cleveland and specifically Dan Gilbert was classless and disgusting, even while excited for Miami. Dan Gilbert found out about LeBron's decision at basically the same time you and I found out about LeBron's decision. Four years later, we're applauding him for growing up and doing it the right way? Really? During my weekend of reflection, I kept falling back on two things, Stephen A. Smith, a man who reported LeBron would come to Miami four years ago and reported he would leave Miami four years later, a credible voice in a field that is lacking credibility, told us multiple times on our radio show that his sources told him that LeBron James was counting down the days of his departure from Miami and his heroic return to Cleveland for two years. In addition to that, I remember the number of times over the last four years I heard from credible people that LeBron and his friends "love to bleep with people" and "they love the drama."

 

With those two things in mind, let's examine the "right way" and how much maturity LeBron demonstrated throughout this process. If you believe Stephen A. Smith, and I do, LeBron and his entourage have been planning this for at least two years, although my guess is they've been planning this a lot longer than that. Think back to where we were two years ago. LeBron had just won his first title, the Heat added Ray Allen that off-season and it looked like the Heat were going to go on a run of championships that LeBron himself promised Miami on his very first day. The Heat delivered on every promise, helped him win his first championship, added players to help the team improve and, if you believe Stephen A. Smith, LeBron repaid them by secretly planning his return to Cleveland with his buddies. Do you honestly think he came up with this plan last week? The decision, the letter, the execution and the departure? Planned his exit while playing for another team. Yeah, he did it the right way.

 

He had his highly anticipated lunch with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and, according to Bosh, barely talked about the Big 3 coming back to Miami even though Bosh thought that's what the lunch was supposed to be about. It was then, Bosh says, he first realized this might go away, that the Big 3 had maybe played their final game together. LeBron didn't tell the two players who sacrificed the most for him. Yeah, he did it the right way. He informed Chis Bosh via text. Yeah, he did it the right way. He met Dan Gilbert before he met with Pat Riley and never met with Micky Arison. Yeah, he did it the right way. He dragged Pat Riley to Las Vegas presumably at about the same time he penned his essay and infused Riley with more hope while already knowing he was going back to Cleveland. Yeah, he did it the right way. He blindsided Micky, Pat and the entire Heat organization in much the same way he did to Dan Gilbert and the Cavalier organization four years ago. Yeah, he did it the right way. Like Dan Gilbert, Micky Arison found about it at roughly the same time you and I did. Yeah, he did it the right way. He didn't thank Miami's fans in his essay for having his back through four years of hatred. Yeah, he did it the right way.

 

It was that, his treatment of the Miami Heat organization and its fan base, that fueled my anger. They deserved better and what they got was basically the same treatment the Cavaliers and their fans received for years earlier. For as large as he is on the court, he is equally as small and petty off the court. The fan treatment bothers me the most. I always hated the "Miami didn't deserve him" narrative and Miami was lucky to get him. Some city was going to be lucky, and no city deserved him more than another. Not you, New York. Not you, Chicago. Not you, LA. He wasn't ours, he wasn't yours, he was and will always be Cleveland's. The guy you are all applauding now, denied them that right, denied the people he claims he cares about so much the right to see him win his first NBA title. That will forever belong to Miami. Tired of hearing about how lucky we were to have him. He gave us four incredible years, no doubt, but let me be clear on one thing. HE CHOSE Miami, Miami didn't choose him. Let that sink in for a second. He chose to come to Miami. Not New York, not LA, not Chicago and not Cleveland. Yes, we were lucky to get him but he was luckier to get Miami. He was lucky to live in such a cool and vibrant city in his mid 20's with his best friends and work for a rock solid, professional organization who knew how to get him what he needed, what he craved, a championship. Not once, but twice. He was lucky to have a friend in Dwayne Wade who, unlike LeBron, has such little ego that he was willing to hand his team and his city over to the new guy. To have another friend who was willing to go from a 22 and 10 guy in Toronto to a punchline in Miami. To have an owner and president who would pay for and put the right talent around him. To have Udonis Haslem as his bodyguard. To have Mario Chalmers to yell at. To have Ray Allen literally win him a championship. And to have fans who welcomed him with open arms, who adored him, fell in love with him and idolized him. Fans who had his back when the rest of the world hated him, who felt and shared his pain and tried to sooth him after he lost to the Mavericks in the Finals his first season with the Heat. To have fans who cried tears of joy for him when he finally won his first title. To have fans who, unlike NY, LA and Chicago fans, wouldn't turn on him after he left. To have fans that turned their backs on the almighty NFL for four years and focused mainly on him. How did he repay them at the very end? By focusing so little on them when saying goodbye. Yeah, he did it the right way.

 

LeBron plays basketball the right way. He helps kids and charities the right way. He does many things the right way. But he handles his business and treats his fans the wrong way. I feel like what we are all witnessing is some sort of scripted, pre-planned career that feels disingenuous and forced. Makes me wonder if he and friends planned their exit from Cleveland, their four years in Miami and their triumphant return to Cleveland well before he sat in that gymnasium with Jim Gray for "The Decision". He chose drama and self promotion over his fans emotions not once but twice. He chose blindsiding owners, GM's and coaches over handling his business the correct way and seemed to get some sort of enjoyment out of it. Miami was the perfect city. No one would care when he left us, he knew the national applause he would receive for going home, would drown out the scattering of local boos. He purposely and knowingly hurt two NBA teams and two fans bases who cared about him deeply for his own personal gain, for his ego to be stroked, for some Instagram followers and so he and his friends could have a few laughs at everyone's expense.

 

I'll finish by asking you one yes or no question. Would you honestly be surprised if Lebron left Cleveland again? If you answered correctly it should tell you all you need to know about the man.

 

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