LeBron Goes Home: James' Decision Ends Holding Pattern Throughout NBA
The NBA "couldn't have had a better day" on Friday, with LeBron James' return to the Cavaliers dominating the news cycle, according to the N.Y. Daily News' Mike Lupica. A free-agency process that leaves fans "waiting to see where guys are going to make their next $100 million makes fans resentful" typically, but "not this time." Lupica: "Who would have thought with all the excitement about the World Cup that we've had over the past month, that NBA free agency would make the carousel almost stop spinning the way it has?" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 7/13). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "The NBA has to love it. It's the middle of July and everybody's talking NBA right now" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/11). In Ft. Lauderdale, Shandel Richardson wrote despite Friday being the opening day of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, "all the attention was on James returning home." The news broke "early in the day, making every other story around the league just an afterthought." James had held the "entire league hostage since the free agency period began July 1" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/12).
GAME OF THRONES: In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote, "We just saw again that LeBron James is indeed Bigger Than The Game." The NBA "essentially shut down while waiting for him to choose a team" (AJC.com, 7/11). ESPN's Tony Reali said so much was made of the "power of LeBron that he was wielding in all of this -- one player holding the league in the power of his hand." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said James "has taken the power away from the owners." Blackistone: "This is 'manifest destiny' on the part of the players" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/11). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote James "shut down the free agent market." Washburn: "Such power, whether intentional or unintentional, will become customary as long as the NBA has maximum contracts and tightened salary caps that allow little freedom for teams chasing big-name players." While observers can "blame James for his lack of regard for the rest of the basketball community by taking 10 days to announce his decision, we also have to criticize many of the league’s general managers who halted their business to wait on a player they had zero chance of signing" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/13).
THIS IS THE END: In Atlanta, Steve Hummer in an open letter to James wrote, "Thank you for freeing us of the 24-hour-a-day cycle of speculation and guesswork that had hijacked sports cable and sports radio." Hummer: "Thank you, LeBron, for breaking the great free agent logjam in the NBA. Seemed like nobody was going to make a move until you did, awaiting the King's decree before getting on with their own plebeian business" (AJC.com, 7/11). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote James' decision to leave the Heat is the "kind of seismic shift and watershed moment that doesn't come around very often in the NBA" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/13).