Thursday night was one of the biggest nights in NBA history. Whether you liked the way LeBron James made his announcement or not there is no arguing that it was a huge night for the NBA. Throughout history we have seen great players team up (West, Baylor, and Wilt; Jordan and Pippen; Olajuwon, Barkley, and Drexler; Shaq, Kobe, Malone, and Payton; Pierce, Allen, and Garnett) but we have never seen three of the best players in the NBA decide to play together in their absolute primes. On paper this “super-team” looks unbeatable. Talk to Heat fans and they’re convinced that Wade is going to average 50 points a game, LeBron will get 40 points and 25 assists, while Bosh scores 30 with 25 rebounds. The 1996 Bulls record of 72 wins? History. The next 10 NBA titles? Over. Hand them to Miami. Ok, hyperbole aside that team is going to be good…probably really good. However, their ultimate success (read: how many titles they win) will largely hinge upon the following question. How well will these three superstars work together? Will they be able to put their king-sized (pun intended) egos aside for the betterment of the team? Will they be the Three Kings of Miami?
Of course LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will have us believe that everything is perfect in their Kingdom. They’re even willing to take less money to make this work. They’re best friends, loved playing on Team USA together, and have no egos at all. They want us to believe that they are equals and don’t care who gets the credit as long as they win. Those are all great sentiments, but they are just that: sentiments. When it comes to actions, I think they’ve gotten off to a bad start. In fact, so far it looks a lot less like the Three Kings and more like the King and two Princes.
On Wednesday word got out that Wade and Bosh would be playing together in Miami. Most people believe that LeBron knew of this decision (the three had spoken that morning) and may have even leaked it to the media. Once the media got hold of the story, Wade and Bosh were forced to officially make their announcements in a brief interview with Michael Wilbon and with little fanfare. In fact, their “huge” announcement was upstaged by the news that LeBron was going to announce his decision in a one hour ESPN special on Thursday. So, James’ first gesture to his new teammates was to upstage their announcement with his. Did he say, “Hey, why don’t all three of us announce together tomorrow night?” No, he let Wade and Bosh have their little interview while the world waited for “The Decision”. Sound like something someone does to teammates he sees as equals? Sound like someone who doesn’t have an ego or cares who gets the credit?
On Thursday morning word that LeBron might join Wade and Bosh in Miami got out. Once again Wade and Bosh got pushed to the backburner while LeBron got the spotlight. Then came “The Decision,” an hour long LeBron self-love fest. One more chance for LeBron to milk everything he could from his free agency. It was another opportunity for him to revel in people bowing down at his throne. Nobody seemed to like the spectacle of it all. Here’s what I wondered: Why did he need an hour long special to announce the same thing that Wade and Bosh did in 5 minutes the day before? Did he really need an hour to tell us what Kevin Durant was able to say in one tweet? Seems like he thought his decision was a bit more important than Wade and Bosh’s doesn’t it? In fact, where were Wade and Bosh during the announcement? If LeBron was so reluctant to share the spotlight with Wade and Bosh on Thursday what is going to happen in Game 7 of the playoffs? Does that seem like someone who doesn’t have an ego or cares who gets the credit?
Finally, in his interview (if you can call it that) with Jim Gray, LeBron responded to a question about sharing the spotlight and joining “Dwyane Wade’s team” by saying, “For me it’s not about sharing. You know, it’s about everybody having their own spotlight.” He went on to say, “You know, at this point D. Wade, he’s the unselfish guy here. To be able to have Chris Bosh and then LeBron James, to welcome us to his team, it’s not about an individual here.” Sounds like a guy who can’t bring himself to say he’s happy to give up the spotlight and play on someone else’s team. According to this he still wants the spotlight. He was also pretty quick to suggest that Wade is the unselfish one. He never said he was (or would be) unselfish. Sure, it could just be words but they do seem meaningful. Once again, does that sound like someone who doesn’t have an ego or cares who gets the credit?
So, let’s review, in his first actions as part of this “equal partnership” with Wade and Bosh, LeBron upstages their announcement, makes his own narcissistic, grand proclamation, and suggests that Wade is (or did he really mean, “better be”) the unselfish one. This seems a lot more like a King who is unwilling to give up his throne than one who is happy to share it. Of course only time will tell and I think this will be the greatest case study in team dynamics in NBA history. Maybe it will work and we’ll get to see one of the greatest teams ever…the Three Kings of Miami. That’s what they want us to believe. However, based on their actions I think it’s more likely that we see the King and Two (unhappy) Princes.
Noah Gentner, Ph.D., CC-AASP is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Sport Psychology graduate program at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA. He received his Ph.D. in Sport Psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2004. Gentner served as an Assistant Professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences at Ithaca College. During his four years at IC he helped coordinate the undergraduate and graduate programs in Sport Psychology. In 2009 he began his current position at GSU where in addition to coordinating the graduate program he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Sport Psychology and Coaching Education. He has published his research in several journals and has given presentations on Sport Psychology at worldwide and regional Sport Psychology, Coaching, and Athletic Training Conferences. Currently he is completing a book on Sport Psychology Consulting techniques. He is an Association for Applied Sport Psychology Certified Consultant and since 2000 he has worked with individual athletes, teams, and coaches ranging from youth sport to professional levels. For further inquiries or information about Dr. Gentner’s services or the graduate program at Georgia Southern he can be reached at [email protected] or 912-478-7900.