This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Lebron, Legacy and Loyalty: The trickle-down effect of "The Decision"

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under Basketball Updated: July 8, 2010 - 4:51 PM

 

 

 

Thanks a lot, LeBron.

It's already bad enough that every high school and college wannabe thinks he has to hold a press conference whenever he makes a "decision."
 
That every prep kid on a "top 100" list thinks he has to announce that he’s narrowed down his list of colleges before he narrows down his list again and then, narrows down his list one more time. Were you really considering Hofstra? Made a choice yet? "I'll tell you at the press conference."
 
It's so frustrating that every college kid who thinks he's destined for NBA greatness makes everyone wait for the obvious announcement that he's going to enter the NBA draft. No. 1 overall pick John Wall told me in April that he had a really tough decision to make. Really? $5 million per year. Endorsements. The best basketball in the world. I commend him for making such a tough decision.
 
It’s annoying that every wishy-washy Division I basketball player who's dissatisfied with his playing time feels the need to tell the world that he's considering a transfer.
 
That every high school kid who's not in his team’s starting rotation by the end of his sophomore season threatens to go to another school. Play for another coach. Move to another district. Well, go!
 
That college coaches flirt with NBA gigs and then, tell the public that they never really thought about leaving because they have the best jobs in the world. But those private jets were nice!
 
The James fiasco confirms what most basketball fans already know.
 
Basketball creates, maintains and supports more divas than any sport in the country. The self-obsession, however, begins at the top of the game's pyramid.
 
(Kudos to Kevin Durant for signing a five-year extension Wednesday and avoiding the “me-first” attitude of his counterpart.)
 
James' one-hour promo on ESPN Thursday night will only make things worse for anyone preaching the value of teamwork, selflessness, loyalty and legacy to young basketball players who mimic everything the NBA all-star does.
 
Whether he stays in Ohio or not is beside the point. He's ignored the values emphasized by his predecessors and made this entire hoopla all about LeBron, um, King James, according to his new Twitter handle.
 
Legacy and loyalty don't mean anything in basketball today. And that philosophy affects all levels of the game.
 
If you're going to stay in town, then stay in town. The suspense, the mystery, the drama is not necessary. Sure, Michael Jordan had conversations with the Knicks in the '90s, but did you ever think he was leaving Chicago, his legacy, to go anywhere else? 
 
Magic Johnson equals Lakers basketball. Ditto for Larry Bird in Boston. These guys defined their teams, their cities and their eras because they stayed with one franchise for the duration of their careers. And they won titles.
 
There's nothing wrong with free agency. Bron-Bron has every right to look around. The man gets to choose his employer. We'd all do it if it were that easy.
 
And if he chooses another squad … fine. But don’t hold everybody hostage.
 
He can save the "I just want to win" one-liners. And he can hold off on the Boys and Girls Clubs of America references, too. This is not about helping the needy. It’s about James entering the Terrell Owens stratosphere and embracing a Diva-complex that’s been largely ignored until now.
 
He’s also telling the young athletes I deal with every day that it's all about them.
 
I got a message in my inbox Wednesday morning from a guy named Keith Estabrook. Didn't recognize the name. But his email offered this subject line: "If you want to know more about LeBron James and 'The Decision' please visit www.LeBronjames.com."
 
"Lebron James and 'The Decision'" sounds like a '70s funk band that plays summer music festivals. But I guess Estabrook is James’ publicist.
 
Estabrook and the rest of James' camp really went overboard with this production. I can't believe they're calling it "The Decision." 
 
And I fear the impact that the charade will have on the rest of the basketball world.
 
This sport values decisions over production. Where will Player X finish his high school career? What college will he choose? Will he turn pro this year or next year? 
 
James' primetime special will add even more weight to these deliberations in the future.
 
Minnesota men's basketball fans have experienced the backlash of a variety of "decisions" over the last year.
 
Royce White quit via YouTube. Thought about returning, then left school. Trevor Mbakwe has been through a dramatic legal situation that's affected his entire career. But now he's in the "possible transfer" boat with rumors that he's considering a transfer to a number of other schools, including Memphis.
 
Texas commit Cory Joseph toyed with the idea of playing for the Gophers but ultimately signed with the Longhorns. Tubby Smith is always the focus of coaching rumors at the end of each season. But he manages to say just enough to make you think he's staying, while leaving the door of opportunity "slightly cracked."
 
Will someone just make a decision and stick with it? Does it have to involve so much drama? 
 
The LeBron special will turn future "decisions" into more elaborate, unnecessary presentations.
 
Jordan’s decision to return to the Bulls in 1995 meant something. Winning three more rings during his "Welcome Back" tour in the '90s meant everything.  
 
I hope the national media refuses to mask LeBron’s true diva persona in the future. He’s no longer Kid Wonder. He’s a grown man who’s caught up in his own hype.
 
Yes, he’s a very good player. But the great ones (Magic, Bird, Michael, Kareem, Big O) let their legacies speak for themselves. At all levels, players get too much money, too much prestige, too much fame before they’ve proven anything.
 
He says he wants to be better than MJ.
 
MJ was flashy off the court. But when it came to basketball, he just won. A lot. That’s the only statement he needed to make.
 
LeBron says he wants Cleveland to surround him with more talent. But superstars make guys like Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Derek Fisher, Steve Kerr and Robert Horry look like borderline all-stars in clutch situations. That's what makes them great.
 
James' perspective will inspire more "put better guys around me and we'll win" rhetoric instead of "I'll help the guys I have get better" mantras.
  
But maybe my ideas are old school.
 
You decide.
 
Westbrook, Rickert vying for spot with Timberwolves summer league
 
Former Gophers Lawrence Westbrook and Rick Rickert are competing for a spot on the Timberwolves' summer league squad, which begins play in Las Vegas next week. The two are attending a minicamp that began Thursday and ends Saturday.
 
Earlier this week, former Gophers forward Damian Johnson worked out for the Miami Heat, an attempt to latch onto that franchise's summer league squad. Johnson considered trying out for the Timberwolves' team, but things have gone well in Miami and it looks like he'll be a part of Miami's summer league squad.
 
Rickert, who plays in the Australian Basketball League, was drafted by the Timberwolves in 2003 but ended up playing in Europe. He recently signed a lucrative deal with an ABL squad but maintains his dream of competing in the NBA.
 
The Timberwolves have two spots available on their summer league roster.  
 
Keith Kreiter, the agent for both Johnson and Westbrook, said he believes the two still have a shot, albeit slim, to make it to the NBA. The Chicago-based player rep said he's heard from multiple NBA squads who believe Johnson and Westbrook belong at the next level.
 
"Both players are very attractive to international teams," Kreiter said. "Several teams have fallen in love with Lawrence ... and Damian, who is 6-7 with a wingspan of 7-2. ... A lot of people feel as if Damian belongs [in the NBA]. One team feels as if Lawrence belongs [in the NBA]."
If they don't find work in the NBA, however, Johnson and Westbrook won't have a problem finding a gig overseas, Kreiter said. So far, he said he's heard from solid European teams that are willing to offer the two Minnesota grads "$75,000 to $120,000" per year.
 
Notes
 
-Gophers freshman Oto Osenieks hasn't enrolled yet due to NCAA Clearinghouse issues. He's currently competing for Latvia's under-20 national team. Osenieks said he hopes to have all of his academic issues cleared up in time for the start of fall semester.
 
"I know that I will not come to summer school for Minnesota," Osenieks said. "I will go to play with my Latvian national team. I pray God that I will be cleared by NCAA to play next fall. Hopefully everything is going to be OK."
 
-Haven't heard anything else on Mbakwe's status. He suffered a dislocated finger during a recent Howard Pulley summer league game. When I talked to him a few weeks ago, he said he hadn't made up his mind about transferring. He's scheduled to go to trial for felony assault in Miami July 26.
 
-Rumblings that White may end up with Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State.
 
White told me that he's hoping to appeal to the NCAA to regain his eligibility. He's currently academically ineligible to compete in the fall, meaning he'd have to pay his own way if he enrolled at any Division I school.
 
But White says he will ask the NCAA to allow him to play because he never attended his second-semester classes and that the NCAA should grant him eligibility based on his first semester, when he completed all of his courses and earned a 3.2 GPA.
 
I think it'll be tough to sway the NCAA on this one.
 
Coming Next Week: A conversation with Tubby Smith
 
I talked to Smith about a variety of topics a few weeks ago. Hear what he has to say about the program, his summer, Royce White and his 2010-11 starting point guard next week ....
 
 
 

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