James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, all NBA mega-star free agents, opted to form their own Justice League this week, declare themselves Superfriends and join forces for one franchise.
But is it their fate to become the opposite? The Legion of Doom?
As a longtime sports columnist who's been around countless mega-athletes, and a longtime corporate trainer with experience in team building, I see it as an almost foregone conclusion.
All three are adamant that they're together to win a championship. I don't doubt their desire; each left $15 million on the table to come together. I just doubt every single other aspect about them and their quest. Cue the scrolling list of potential issues with this that I see springing up:
- The bar for their success will be set stratospherically high. The media will expect them to win 70-75 games next season, and win the NBA championship four of the next five years. My own son said at dinner last night, "They'll win the next three titles - easy." But what happens when they don't? They have one - ONE - title ring among the three of them.
- When you bring together several massive egos for the purpose of winning a championship, a funny thing happens along the way: those egos refuse to bend, yield, or share for the sake of the team. Ask the 2004 Lakers with Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton - four sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famers - in their starting lineup. They were run out of the Finals in five short games by a Detroit Pistons team with no mega-stars but plenty of team chemistry. When you're used to having the spotlight, you don't give it up.
- Another problem with this mammoth sense of self is that when things start turning south - and they will - the finger-pointing by the Superfriends will begin almost immediately. Remember Terrell Owens blaming Jessica Simpson for a Cowboys late-season home loss? A team divided cannot stand.
- LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are their own team now. You saw them Friday night at their "unveiling" for the Miami fans. Where were the other team members? These three ARE the Heat. They'll look for each other on the floor, they'll hang with each other off the court. Whoever the Heat can scrape up with the remaining ashes of their salary cap room for the other nine roster spots will operate as another unit. The Heat Haves, and the Heat Have-Nots. This issue, when it surfaces, will devour them. As good as they are, the Heat can't play three-on-five.
- Whoever the coach winds up being (it almost certainly won't be the current no-name coach for long) has ZERO chance of reining them in. Would you answer to someone who makes 50 times less than you do, and has 1/1,000th the power? The inmates will run the asylum. (The only possible saving grace here is that Pat Riley comes down from the front office to coach. He may be the only one who could make them bend to his will.
- How will Heat ticket-buyers react to the tremendous price spike that's certain to come in order to pay this trio the $327 million? That's right - each one of them is a $100 million man. And will fans keep buying if this experiment starts to flame out?
- Finally, they've become the anti-Christs of the NBA. Every team in the league will be gunning for them every night. The Cavaliers, Knicks, Bulls, Nets, and Clippers may actually bring guns to the game. Or sign Gilbert Arenas.
The rest of the NBA didn't want this. A large part of basketball's fan base didn't want this. But James, Wade, and Bosh held the power cards, and they used them to bully their desires into reality, rest of the league be damned. (Hang on a sec while I wipe this Obamacare/cap-and-trade/illegal immigration flash from my mind...)
It's a sad day for the NBA. Individual has now completely supplanted team. It's a sad day for sports, as we continue to watch the media glorify and promote the self-adulation that was "The Decision." It's a sad day for impressionable youths, who now have a new standard, so to speak, when imitating their role models.
It's the safest bet around that history will remember James, Wade, and Bosh as the Legion of Doom. And I'll be waiting for a team-oriented opponent to unexpectedly broom them out of the playoffs. I shouldn't have to wait long.