LeBron James

…has every right to work anywhere he wants.  He’s under no legal obligation to northeast Ohio; this is obviously advice for chumps and losers.  If he thinks the $28m he made there last year is cramping his style, it’s the American way to add to it. I myself have no conception how to spend a tenth of that; it’s easy to possess a lot of stuff (many houses with many rooms, many expensive cars, jewelry, and the like), but James only has about sixteen waking hours a day to experience it, just like everyone else. But the very rich are different from you and me.

Anyway, he said he went to Miami so he could win, and winning is what he’s all about.  Obviously winning basketball games is the precise and limited sense in which he means this, though a lot of observers seem to think he had other priorities during this year’s playoffs.  While his importance to the stumbling economy of his rustbelt home is almost certainly exaggerated (winning sports teams do not save cities), what he means is not be confused with any sucker’s idea that teamwork applies to a village, a family, fans, or a city.

James is a role model and an ideal of a certain type.  Where have we seen this type before?  Ah yes, in Blue Chips.  I recall a little conversation between the coach and the mother of one of his players, who are being corrupted left and right by boosters. From memory: “Well, maam, if Joey makes it into the NBA and becomes a star by cheating, what would he really be?”

“A millionaire.”

Mom knows where its at.

James is not technically cheating, and if you’re not technically cheating or breaking the law, you’re a good person, right?  We have absolutely no right to criticize someone who hasn’t actually been indicted convicted exhausted his appeals.

Someone else is coming to mind in connection with this episode…oh yes, Midge Kelly.  Again, this is so unfair:  James is, as far as I can tell, a better person than Kelly, and never beat up a crippled brother; I can’t imagine why Kelly came to mind reading the saga of James leaving everyone behind while he goes for a personal brass ring; completely unfair.  James seen his opportunities and is taking them, and is there really more we can expect?

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

10 thoughts on “LeBron James”

  1. The problem with this sarcasm is that there is a layer of responsibility between the player and the fans. Two of them, actually: management, and ownership. I'm not a big basketball fan (baseball and hockey are the two sports I follow most), but, as I watched, the people running the Cavaliers never gave off any sign that they had the slightest idea what they were doing. I don't think it's so unreasonable to want to be a part of a competent organization.

    My impression is that the way LeBron James went about leaving Cleveland leaves a lot to be desired, but the simple fact of his going somewhere else is perfectly reasonable. Unless, of course, you think that accepting large contracts means that sports star shouldn't ever have the ethical option to choose where they want to work and who they want to work for.

    I find the insistence of people criticizing sports stars for exercising basic rights that the rest of us take for granted to be repugnant, and that's true even when it's bloggers I usually respect making the criticism. LeBron James never chose to play for the Cavaliers. They chose him in a process that prevented him from offering his talents to any other top level company in his industry within North America. Saying that he has ANY obligation to stay there, and that any decision to leave opens him to criticism that he has failed to respect the idea of teamwork, is unbelievably stupid for anyone who is a front pager here.

  2. James is just doing what a lot of people before him have done. Cleveland has lost about half of its population since it peaked.

  3. No, almost all the other people who left Cleveland left because they had no job, no prospects, and few were seen by the community as valuable and a source of collective pride (beyond their immediate circle of family and friends, at least). He's not at all doing what the laid-off Warner and Swasey machinists did, not at all.

  4. Geeze, what a whiner. The guy is entitled to live where he wants, period, full stop, end of story. There isn't any more to it than that.

    It's embarrassing enough to whine, but about where some dude who plays children's games for a living decides to live? Get some conception of what having a live would be like, dude.

  5. I don't begrudge LeBron James his choice of Miami, but how he announced that decision — keeping Cleveland and the other teams/cities hanging on for his hour-long "it's all about me" ESPN special. If he'd done it with some respect for all the people he was affecting then his decision would have been respected.

  6. Did you write anything so vitriolic or condescending about Arlen Specter when he decided to change teams?

  7. We teach these athletes that the world revolves around them from the time they are first noticed in high school. By the time they hit the NCAA, we tell them that without their excellent basketball/football skills, their university would have absolutely no alumni donor support. We work them physically like slaves but deny them the intellectual workout of a college education.

    Of course these guys hit the NBA/NFL with the mind frame that they owe the world nothing–the world owes them. This is what we taught them. With this life lesson deeply ingrained, loyalty is so yesterday and showmanship is so today.

    Of course James has the right the leave Cleveland, but the way he did it was definitely not classy.

  8. Yes, the very rich are different from you and me. A friend says he was once talking to a Wall Street type who had made $20 million one year. My friend observed that if he had made $20 million, he would retire. The Wall Street type paused, looked directly at him, and explained: "That is why you will never make $20 million."

  9. I think this is Mike O'Hare's way of saying he doesn't watch any professional sports.

    If he did, he would be aware that athletes spend their years between the ages of 10 and 35 training for and working at a career that ends at age 35. In their new career, that starts at age 36, they will be 15 years behind their peers in job experience, training, and the rise up the salary ladder.

    Most sports fans know what this means and do not begrudge the athlete's salaries or their choices of when to change teams.

    And what the heck is with the idea that LeBron would have no idea how to spend $27 million? Couldn't LeBron invest the money, put it in savings, purchase a business, or do the other things people with a million dollars do? Mike really ought to think about what he's saying there, because he's telling me more about himself than he is about LeBron

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