LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Miami Heat made NBA commissioner David Stern go “Hmmm…”
James’ decision to turn his decision into a made-for-TV spectacle called the “Decision”?
That made Stern cringe.
Stern said Monday he has no problem with James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami – and he has no reason to think the Heat engaged in tampering to get him. But he does wish James had chosen a better platform to announce his decision, particularly because he didn’t give the Cavaliers more notice he was leaving.
“Had he asked my advice in advance, I might have suggested that he advise Cleveland at an earlier time than apparently he did that he was leaving, even without announcing where he was going, so we could have eliminated that,” Stern after a meeting with the NBA’s board of governors. “I would have advised him not to embark on what has become known as ‘The Decision.’
“I think that the advice that he received on this was poor. His performance was fine. His honesty and his integrity shine through. But this decision was ill conceived, badly produced and poorly executed. Those who were interested in it were given our opinion prior to its airing.”
James’ decision prompted Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to send a scathing letter criticizing his former star to the team’s fans. In it, he called James “narcissistic” and said he displayed “cowardly behavior.” He also vowed that Cavaliers would win a championship before James did with the Heat.
Stern said he had fined Gilbert $100,000 for the comments.
One league source said the Cavaliers’ media relations staff begged Gilbert to not send the email, but he ignored the pleas and wanted it out immediately. Gilbert also told The Associated Press that he felt James quit on the Cavs during the playoffs the past two seasons.
“Remarks by Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers, catalyzed as they may have been by hurt with respect to the manner and the fact for himself, his team, and particularly for the people of Cleveland, though understandable, were ill advised and imprudent,” Stern said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson had previously criticized Gilbert’s comments, saying they”personify a slave master mentality” and sounded like they were directed at a “runaway slave.”
“Equally imprudent, I believe, are the remarks by my good friend Jesse Jackson, which purport to make this into a racial matter,” Stern said. “I find that to be, however well meaning Jesse may be in the premises on this one, he is, as he rarely is, mistaken. I would have told him so had he called me before he issued his statement this morning.
“But he is a good friend of the NBA and our players, and has worked arduously in many good causes, and we work together in many matters. I have a great deal of respect for him. We would just call this a disagreement amongst friends.”
Stern had no problems with James and Bosh joining Wade with the Heat to form a team that Las Vegas odds makers are already calling the favorites to win the 2011 championship. Stern compared the new Heat to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s and the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990s. Those teams, he said, “didn’t have three Hall of Famers, but sometimes had four and a half.”
When asked about his immediate response when he learned of James’ decision, Stern said: “I wasn’t like, ‘Whoa.’ You know, it was more like, ‘Hmm, that’s pretty good.’ ”
James left fans in Cleveland angry, crying and shocked after the decision. Some even burned his Cavaliers jerseys and T-shirts. His famous mammoth Nike billboard in downtown Cleveland was also brought down.
“We touch an emotional cord in our sport,” Stern said. “That’s what happens. Fans feel disappointment. You might feel jilted. We’ve seen that in other circles. Maybe not quite as dramatically.”
With a representative from every franchise on hand at the board of governor’s meeting, Stern also said no team expressed any desire to file tampering charges against the Heat for allegedly talking to James prior to the beginning of the free agency period on July 1. When asked if there were any exchanges between the Cavaliers and Heat ownership, Stern said it was “all very cordial.”
“There’s nothing here at this time that is causing us to launch an investigation,” Stern said.