Big hoopla tonight over LeBron James choosing a city. Will he stay in his hometown? Where will he go? Cities and teams smushed into one entity. All the speculation about his travel plans is over now. With the words, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach,” LeBron’s Miami-bound.
“I never wanted to leave Cleveland, and my heart will always be around that area,” LeBron said. “But I also feel like this is the greatest challenge for me, to move on.”
Know how you feel, LBJ.
So much of sports is travel, and rightly so. As you get better and better, you have to travel farther and farther to find people good enough to compete with. From lowly in-house soccer, to the middle school travel team, to an hour bus ride for high school sports, to a four-hour ride in college. Professionals are jetting somewhere new at least every week. At the very pinnacle of world competition, it becomes more practical to pool the talent in a single country (or continent) and duke it out: The English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, the European Champion’s League, the Olympics, the World Cup.
(There’s a strange parallel here with the world of socialites, which has plenty of competition of its own. The more sophisticated you are, the further you “have to” fly to find company that’s not dreadful.)
But back to LeBron. Some people say he went to be with his friends, or where the parties are, or where the income taxes are lowest.
“I think I was attracted to a lot of cities, and that’s why I brought the six teams in that I was attracted to most,” he said. “It came down to where I felt I could win the most.”
The travel serves LeBron’s higher goal. He’s not headed to South Beach to find himself, or for a change of scenery, or for the bikinis, or even the taxes. For a competitor at this level, I doubt those consciously factored in much at all. Sure, he wants a new experience — an NBA championship — but he wants the championship because, fundamentally, he wants to win.
Winning isn’t a new experience to King James. And if he, Wade, Bosh, and the rest can become the team that’s most familiar with the familiar experience of winning, they’ll be champions.
Goal first, city second.
Now that’s probably an oversimplification. How to explain LeBron’s mentioning South Beach before mentioning the Heat? OK, maybe somebody wrote the line for him. But here are two other possibilities:
One, the South Beach party n’ thong scene factored plenty into his decision, but you can’t go to the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club and say that. It’d be like a Bangkok Lifestyle Design-preneur admitting why he really loves Bangkok. Not good for business.
Two, LBJ was able to make The Decision from the pure perspective of competition. Once he made it, though, the fringe benefits of the chosen city started to creep into his thoughts. The temptations reserved for Star Athletes in Miami will continue to, presumably, and it remains to be seen how King James navigates South Beach.