It seems likely. The experience of playing together on the national team from 2006 to 2008 confirmed that Wade, James and Bosh are as adept at being role players as they are at being the focal point of a team’s offense.
What does this do for James’ legacy?
The current hullabaloo defies logic. After seven years of playing the role of hometown hero trying to bring a title to the beleaguered fans of Cleveland, which hasn’t hosted a professional sports title since 1964, James has decided to take less money to play on a very promising team with two other top players in Miami. None of that should vilify him outside of Ohio, yet LeBron is getting more hate than the people involved in the Oscar Grant trial verdict. I suspect that this is pent-up irritation with the process than it is with the person. In other words, if James was a stock, then this is the time to buy; he might always carry the stain of leaving Cleveland, but his stature as a great ball player should be repaired before next winter’s All-Star game.
Will this media circus become an annual ritual of the NBA off-season?
Fortunately, I doubt it. This off-season resulted from the confluence of some unique events: the incredible 2003 draft, the opportunity for three team-oriented players to play together on the national squad during the World Championships and the Olympics, and the current financial structure of the NBA. Carmelo Anthony, the prized unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011, doesn’t seem to have LeBron’s or even D-Wade’s love of the spotlight. It’s hard to imagine him doing more than a routine 20-minute press conference to announce his decision. Kevin Durant would be the prize of a free agent class in 2012, but he signed a contract extension this week that will keep him in an Oklahoma City uniform until 2015. The next collective bargaining agreement will almost certainly “harden” the salary cap, which will change player movement and payroll management in the league.
What happened this week was a once in a lifetime situation that resulted from the courageous work of Oscar Robertson. It was The Big O’s lawsuit against the NBA 40 years ago that paved for free agency, and this week amounted to a garish celebration of self determination by athletes. It wasn’t pretty, but it is over.
Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.