Basketball

James, Wade too much alike to succeed together

LeBron James (29.7 points per game), left, Dwyane Wade (26.6), center, and Chris Bosh (24.0) finished second, fifth and ninth in the NBA in scoring in 2009-10.
LeBron James (29.7 points per game), left, Dwyane Wade (26.6), center, and Chris Bosh (24.0) finished second, fifth and ninth in the NBA in scoring in 2009-10. ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS — I didn't have as much problem with Le-Bron James choosing a one-hour ESPN special as a lot of fans did. This is, after all, the NBA, and Commissioner David Stern created this star-driven league years ago.

So it wasn't watching The Decision that troubled me. Hey, there are lots of bad one-hour reality shows that get great ratings. This was no worse than most.

It was just the decision that James finally announced 28 minutes into the telecast, choosing to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat, that was bothersome.

First, it was how he said it.

"In this fall — man, this is very tough — in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat," James said.

For a player of superstar skills who did not earn a championship ring in seven seasons in Cleveland and has handled this process as questionably as James, did he really need to mention South Beach before he even got around to the team?

Yes, South Beach is the party capital of this land for star athletes from all the professional ranks. We know this already. You think maybe James should have focused on the basketball part of this decision and not the 5 a.m. closing time that comes with it?

Just a small complaint.

There was also his curious decision to keep going back to his mother as the one who made him feel he was making the right decision. Just in case the poor fans of Cleveland, who have never seen one of their teams win a title on color TV, weren't able to focus all their anger at James, they could now turn to his mom, as well.

But the words James chose are not as important as the decision itself. And that's a decision I don't like for the NBA, for Wade and James, for anyone, really.

If you think back to February and how James, Wade and Bosh looked together in Cowboys Stadium, then you might think this has a chance to be the monster of all NBA squads.

However, they don't play All-Star Games every night in the NBA. They play a fair amount of defense in the regular season and a lot of it in the playoffs, and just lobbing passes to teammates for highlight-reel footage isn't the name of the game.

My main problem with James and Wade together isn't because these two great scorers are too selfish. Unselfishness will be the Heat's biggest problem.

ESPN analyst Jon Barry said it best just moments after James announced his choice. Barry said we won't see the same Wade or the same James we have enjoyed watching the last few years, and that's exactly right.

The natural tendency for great players thrown together is to become too deferential. Wade won't want to take the last shot all the time. Neither will James. I'm not even sure where poor Chris Bosh fits into the plan (not poor by financial standards, but you know what I mean). The Heat certainly won't be calling plays to feature his skills.

Wade and James are too much alike to thrive together naturally. This isn't Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, with a very obvious "A" player and "B" player. And the "B" player just happened to be the best defender in the league.

Even if you label Wade a shooting guard and James a small forward, both take on point guard roles in crunch time. Both need to dribble the ball and drive. It's what they do best.

At least it was until now.

Look, they're still going to win lots of games. They're still going to compete in the Eastern Conference playoffs. I'm not saying otherwise.

But the projection of 66 wins and a 35.3 percent chance of a title — really, that came across ESPN's crawl less than five minutes after he announced his choice — is farfetched.

Without special role players, the Heat won't be the best team in the East. There's a good chance the Heat won't be the best team in Florida next year.

Regardless, the days of watching Dwyane Wade vs. LeBron James are over. And if the Heat manage to win two championships in the next five or six years because of the decisions those players made this week, some will unfairly consider it a failure, anyway.

The NBA's great Summer of Free Agent Stars didn't have to end this way. At least it finally ended.

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