One major Decision over the last three years plays a major role in what team many Americans will root for in the NBA finals. No one wants to root for someone who ripped a city’s heart out. No one wants to root for someone that was only in the game for the money and fame and not bringing a championship home. No one wants to root for somebody who took the easy way out went to place where everyone would worship him and he’d be held less accountable. That’s right, for those reasons and more; I’m rooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA finals. You thought I was talking about LeBron and his Decision? Not at all, I’m talking about Seattle Supersonics / Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett .The fact that most people think I was referring to LeBron James is one the reasons this country is politically going to hell.
Most everyone in the United States with even a nominal degree of pop culture knowledge is aware of “The Decision”. You don’t have to be a sports fan to know that LeBron James, super-duper-nova star of the Cleveland Cavaliers held a live press conference in 2010 and announced that after 7 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers he was “taking his talents to South beach” and joining two other All-Stars on the Miami Heat in the hopes of winning an NBA championship. The story since then will go down in sports lore as one of the most reviled decisions in history. Fans burned LeBron James’s jersey, he was called a traitor in an open letter penned by the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, sportscasters and analysts piled on him for a plethora of reasons: Joining with fellow stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh was the easy way to an NBA title. He ‘owed’ it to his sports crazed home city of Cleveland to bring them a championship. The decision itself was okay but it was HOW he did it that offends people. In the end, regardless of the veracity or logic of any of these criticisms (and they’re all bunk) they have lingered. Now almost 2 years later as LeBron makes his second attempt with the Miami Heat to win an NBA championship some still hold up the “Decision” as a reason to root for the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Miami heat. Clay Bennett must be laughing himself to sleep on a pile of money and green blood.
In case you don’t know, or remember or care to the Oklahoma City Thunder have only been in existence for 4 years. Why? Because in another more damaging, more cowardly more disgusting and far reaching Decision Clay Bennett stole the Supersonics Franchise from Seattle and moved them to Oklahoma City. You see, the city of Seattle had been the proud home of the Supersonics for over 40 years, had seen the team win a championship in 1979, go to the finals again in 1996 and remain an important an integral part of the community. When Clay Bennett bought the team from Starbucks magnate Howard Shultz in 2006 he pledged to keep the Sonics in Seattle, he talked about keeping the public trust, and respecting the history and legacy of the Sonics. But Bennett was lying all along, after leveraging Seattle for tax breaks and sweet deals, he bolted for Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City, where he’d be the only game in town, held less accountable, where he could make money no matter the quality of the product, a decision that was ultimately about pocketbooks and pride instead of winning championships. LeBron was one man who left to win and cement his legacy; Clay Bennett left to chase dollar signs and buried the Seattle franchise six feet under. Cleveland fans still have memories of Craig Ehlo and Mark Price . The Cavs are still playing games downtown and Kyrie Irving was 2012 Rookie of the Year. LeBron hurt the franchise but he wasn’t THE FRANCHISE. Seattle Fans have nothing. And worse now they have to watch a nation of fair-weather fans swallow the narrative of the small town team against the smarmy city-slickers while driving past an empty arena every day. Bennett is obviously worse yet somehow LeBron stays the villain?
The existence of this narrative about LeBron and his Decision versus Bennett and his Decision is exactly what is wrong with the American people today. This is the mentality that allows our legal system to throw the book at a kid who knocks over a liquor store, but businessmen who steal billions of dollars from a retirement fund get stern lectures at congressional hearings. This is the mentality that allows Mitt Romney to say “Corporations are people too” and the American public barely blinks. We are mired in this backwards 20th century thinking clouded by race and class deference that allows elites to walk all over us without consequence but we blame the visible individuals forever. If anything you would think Cleveland fans would know the difference. In 1995, after 34 years Art Modell took the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore and won a Superbowl 4 years later with basically the same squad. LeBron left after only 7 years, and whether he wins a title or not you can’t tell me he deserves more hate than Modell.
In the end, the winner of the NBA championship will be decided on the court and in the minds and plans of the coaches. But regardless of who wins or who you’re rooting for, let’s remember who the real villains are in this series. It’s not the guys out on the court who have made decisions based on wanting to win, or taking care of the families or quality of life issues. The villains are the owners who lie and cheat and hold cities hostage then bolt for the highest bidder stealing 40 years of legacy and history just to line their own pockets. Wake Up sports fans, if the Decision is driving who you root for, then get mad about the right one, and root for the Miami Heat.