The Decision is one of the crucial moments in NBA history, and it will always be one of the biggest mistakes in LeBron‘s career. To make it clear, the way LeBron let everyone know he was leaving was the mistake, not the decision to join Miami.
After the fiasco of breaking Cleveland’s heart on TV and then pouring salt on the wound with “not one, not two, not three” during his first appearance in a Heat jersey, many people gave their two cents on how did LeBron make such a colossal mistake. He was young but under the spotlight since 16 years old – this seemed out of character. In his analysis, Bill Simmons said something that made Rich Paul really mad.
“I blame the people around him. I blame the lack of a father figure in his life. I blame us for feeding his narcissism to the point that he referred to himself in the third person five times in forty-five minutes. I blame local and national writers (including myself) for apparently not doing a good enough job explaining to athletes like LeBron what sports mean to us, and how it IS a marriage, for better and worse, and that we’re much more attached to these players and teams than they realize.”Bill Simmons, ESPN
Did you catch it? What made Paul mad was the “I blame the lack of a father figure in his life.” As we know, LeBron grew up in a single-parent household – his dad wasn’t around. This is, unfortunately, a story we hear too often when learning about athlete’s careers. For Rich Paul, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and why he says he doesn’t speak to Simmons to this day.
“That’s why I don’t speak to Bill Simmons. A lot of that has to do with race, too. He wouldn’t have said that about Larry Bird. He wouldn’t have said that about J. J. Redick. You get what I am saying? ‘The Decision’ ten years ago is the norm today. It’s what everyone wants to do. Kids won’t even decide where they go to college without it being a big production, and Bill Simmons says some shit like that.”Rich Paul, The New Yorker
The same way we can’t say we know what went into “The Decision,” and to refer directly to Simmons’ comment, did Lebron have a father figure in his life at the time, and would someone like that make an impact and convinced James not to announce his decision in the way he did, I don’t think Paul can say with certainty that comment had “a lot to do with race.” If you can’t read LeBron and his team’s mind and motivation, you can’t Simmons’ as well.
Would Bill Simmons phrase his opinion differently in 2021, maybe having a better understanding of how emotional and sensitive the issue of single-parent minority households is? Possibly. But his explanation doesn’t seem to lean on race – this wasn’t a Phil Jackson “posse” comment.
As I see it, the point Simmons was trying to make was that LeBron surrounded himself with peers, people of similar age, and they all overestimated their ability to control the media image and predict the way The Decision would be received. There was no one in LeBron’s inner circle with decades of experience he’d listen to. The Decision was Maverick Carter’s idea, one that LeBron embraced. It’s a known fact David Stern did everything he could to prevent it and told LeBron it would blow up in his face.
So I think Simmons’ made a fair point, one that can be argued for, and reducing it to a racial issue is a mistake. If you overuse an issue, such as race or gender, people become desensitized to it, and then they don’t respond to it when they really should.
P.S. Not sure the fact “The Decision” is the norm these days is a good thing.