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Looking for a Hero

For as long as groups of people have lived together, they've shared stories of great heroes.  Back when people lived in constant fear of war bands marching into their town, abusing their women, and selling their children into slavery, the heroes were mighty warriors.  People who could protect them.  We read how Hercules killed the Nemean Lion, Samson slayed 1000 Philistines with only the jawbone of an ass, and King Arthur united Britain into the Utopian Camelot.  While we're no longer one bad crop away from starvation, we do still like to share stories of heroes.  And for many people, the modern day athlete is the new hero.

We love to be amazed with physical feats that boarder on super human.  But to make a story great the hero has to struggle first.  No one wants to read a book where the main character is born with everything, gets the girl, and beats his enemies with ease.  Without Apollo Creed, we wouldn't have had Rocky.  If the Karate Kid didn't have a gimpy leg, and the members of the Cobra Kia dojo hadn't been such tools to him throughout the movie, we wouldn't have cared that much when he performed the perfect crane kick to Johnny's face.  It's the low points of the hero that makes their triumphs so much more exciting.

That's also how it is with sports.  Joe Montana will forever be remembered as the greatest 49er QB, but there was something extra special about Steve Young's one Super Bowl victory.  Even those who weren't 49er fans could feel good for Young.  Michael Jordan won 6 NBA championships but sometimes people forget it took him 6 years to win that first one because he had to get past the Pistons first.  Peyton Manning fought for 9 yeas and John Elway battled for 13 years before finally winning their first Super Bowls.

But what happens when the hero says that the challenge is too great?  What happens when they say they've tried but they'll never win it all while playing in your city?  How do the fans in that city react when their greatest hero walks out on them?  That's what happened on Thursday when LeBron James told Cleveland he was leaving. 

More after the jump.

If LeBron would rather play in Miami with his friends Wade an Bosh, that's fine.  Like everyone else he needs to do what he feels is best for him.  But I think he's seriously underestimating the impact his leaving will have on how he's remembered.  Also, announcing he's going to "South Beach" instead of "Miami" or "The Heat" should also give you some insight into what's motivating him.

Instead of seeing a hero who almost single handedly rescued a town with a championship, they'll see someone who ran from the fight.  Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith said he thought LeBron was "more of a competitor".  How would fans remember Jordan now if he had decided to leave the Bulls before winning it all?  How would Manning with the Colts or Elway with the Broncos be remembered today if they had done the same? 

LeBron compared his situation to Kevin Garnett who left the Timberwolves for the Celtics and won a championship right away.  But unlike LeBron, Garnett played for 12 years before leaving.  Plus the Timberwolves were able to get 2 first round picks and 7 players, including Al Jefferson, in return.  And let's be honest.  What would have helped Garnett's legacy more, winning a championship in Minnesota or winning like he did in Boston alongside Allen and Pierce? 

Now he finds himself in a no win situation.  Miami is Wade's team.  If he wins he'll be remembered more as Alex Rodrigez than Derek Jeter.  Even if he wins 6 NBA titles he'll always be remembered for not being able to win by himself in Cleveland.  Wade already won a championship.  He's proven he can be the hero.  As for LeBron, he's just lowered himself from potential hero to sidekick. 

One more thing LeBron.  If you ever chose to leave Miami, try to remember these words of Nada Surf next time:

Three important rules for breaking up

Don't put off breaking up when you know you want to

Prolonging the situation only makes it worse

Tell him honestly simply kindly but firmly

Don't make a big production

Don't make up an elaborate story

This will help you avoid a big tear-jerking scene

If you want to date other people, say so

Be prepared for the boy to feel hurt and rejected

Even if you've gone together for only a short time

And haven't been too serious

There's still a feeling of rejection when somebody says

She prefers the company of others to your exclusive company

But if you're honest and direct

And avoid making a flowery emotional speech

When you break the news

The boy will respect you for your frankness

And honestly, he'll appreciate the kind straight-forward manner

In which you told him your decision

Unless he's a real jerk or a cry-baby you'll remain friends