The Low Key R/Evolution of the American Athlete Pt. 1

Paid any attention to the NBA, NFL or NCAA lately? Not a sports fan? That’s cool. Whether you’re a fan or not is irrelevant. The issues at hand aren’t taking place on the field. They’re taking place in courtrooms, press conferences, boardrooms and

While these issues are wide-ranging, involving many social, economic and racial groups, their impact will be felt most in urban America.

The LeBron Effect

Back when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Akron, Ohio native Lebron James in 2003, it was clear that a long road was ahead to the NBA finals. Fortunately for Cavalier fans and owner Dan Gilbert, four years was all it took for James to put the organization in a position it had never been before in 2007.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 when James, a free agent, decided to take his talents to South Beach, a decision met with tons of criticism.

The criticism, however took place on two levels.  On one hand there was the basketball discussion which featured many NBA legends including Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley questioning Lebron’s championship mettle as he decided to join forces with 2006 Finals MVP Dwayne Wade.

The other discussion, which is where the issue lies, dealt with whether or not Lebron had the right to do such a thing.

Lebron’s “owner” Dan Gilbert definitely didn’t think so. Shortly after James’ announcement, Gilbert released a statement that read more like a letter from an angry boyfriend who just lost his girl than a letter from an NBA owner. Perhaps that description fits since some guys feel they own their women. It was almost as if Gilbert forgot the meaning of the words free and agent. James being called a traitor and the implications that somehow his decision to play for another organization contained any element of treason is absolutely asinine.

Clearly Dan Gilbert, to a certain extent, felt he owned Lebron James and that he was his to lose.  In many ways Gilbert’s views are status quo in professional sports. In the aftermath of Lebrongate, the trend is beginning to emerge.

Carmelo Anthony was not a free agent when he packed his bags for New York. He would have been this summer, however. The Nuggets knew ‘Melo wanted to go to New York so they traded him before they could be left empty-handed like Cleveland. The same goes for Deron Williams who now plays for the New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets.  

To be clear, this will not be a league-wide phenomenon that will feature all types of players switching teams at will. But the generational effect it will have on players entering the league is unquestionable.

Right now there are three kids from different parts of the country, playing AAU basketball and making their plans to one day become teammates . When they come into the league, their mindset will differ greatly with the current NBA veterans. This is good. It’s a great start to empowerment among athletes which is necessary.

After all, there are no leagues without players right?


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