By Samuel Williams, Jr. –
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a very unique sports soap opera developing in the summer of 2010; complete with accusation of slave master mentalities, heckling fans and the potential of yet another “Big 3” blockbuster coalition.
Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert on July 11, saying Gilbert sees LeBron James as a “runaway slave” and that the owner’s comments after the free-agent forward decided to join the Miami Heat put the player in danger. On July 8, James announced he would play for Miami after a whirlwind of NBA teams courted the highly prized athlete to play for them.On July 10, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cleveland’s fans, ripping the 25-year-old and promising to deliver a title before James wins one. He called James’ decision “cowardly” and later told The Associated Press he believes James quit during a handful of Cavaliers playoff games.
“He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship— between business partners—and LeBron honored his contract.”
Jackson’s portrayal of Gilbert may be a stretch since Cleveland just released a black coach and hired yet another, Byron Scott. If anyone should be angry it should be Scott … he went from rags-to-riches (inheriting a team which included James) to riches-to-rags (a team without James). After James’ departure, there is no real star power left in Cleveland. If anything, Gilbert could best be defined not as a racist but more of disgruntled owner who just watched his financial gravy train pull out of the depot.
And if the attack by Gilbert wasn’t bad enough, New York Knickerbocker fans voiced their own displeasure of James’ decision when James attended his good friend Carmelo Anthony's wedding July 10 at Cipriani's on 42nd Street in New York City. According to one New York sportswriter who attended Carmelo’s wedding, New York fans booed James as he arrived for the wedding and heckled him, saying James still would not win a title.
But New York fans may still have a chance to see an NBA title in the future. Chris Paul, the superstar New Orleans point guard, was also in attendance at the wedding and during a short speech, predicted a future Knicks "Dream Team." The Knickerbockers recently signed center Amar'e Stoudemire and Paul hinted that perhaps he and Denver star forward Carmelo Anthony would sign with New York, giving the Big Apple team its own version of a “Big 3”.
Several things are for sure: James is a bona fide Miami Heat player; moving forward Gilbert needs to get over losing James; and New York needs to focus on actually making Paul’s wedding comments a reality by signing Paul and Anthony thus creating their own “Big 3”.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s summer soap opera continues.
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