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Associated Press/Photo by Mark Duncan

Abdicating the crown

Sports | LeBron James is no longer captain, nor king

Issue: "Your right to vote," July 31, 2010

The Decision, as the hype machine at ESPN dubbed it, might better have been named The Disappointment. LeBron James' hour-long special to announce the winner of his free-agent sweepstakes began as a balloon of hot air and ended with the distinct sucking sound of deflation when the former Cleveland Cavaliers star named the Miami Heat as his team of choice.

NBA basketball fans in Cleveland reacted with anger and sadness, many feeling betrayed, used, and deceived. James claims he only decided on Miami in the days leading up to his announcement. But the similarity in the structure of his previous contract to that of fellow Miami-bound free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade suggests a much older plan, one possibly dating back to 2006 when the three players each inked short-term deals.

Clevelanders were far from alone in their bitter sentiment. NBA fans in New York and Chicago took the news like a shot to the gut, too. Losing the LeBron sweepstakes to his hometown or the Big Apple or the Windy City would have been hard enough. But South Beach, to a Heat team already occupied by a do-everything superstar in Wade? It raises the question what exactly James is thinking, a question the media shills participating in The Decision never explored.

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Perhaps James was simply exhausted from seven years of being the man, seven years of taking final shots, seven years of single-handedly carrying the weight of pressure and expectation to win a title. Now, he is free from all of it. The Heat belong to Wade, a player who has never shirked from pressure-packed moments and never wilted in critical games of a playoff series as James did against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals this year.

James will make less money in Miami than he might have elsewhere, something he says is worth it for the chance to win a championship. But that appearance of propriety cannot mask the plain reality that this decision amounts to James shirking the responsibility that his talent demands of him. He has the skills to lead a team like Kobe Bryant and the presence to win titles like Michael Jordan. But he lacks the guts to realize that potential. Instead, he'll play sidekick. He'll follow Wade's lead.

That should disappoint NBA fans everywhere. In a league made by superstars, James has chosen to drop the super from his moniker. He is king no more, only a subject in the kingdom of Wade.

Exclusive club

Paul Goydos, an unassuming 46-year-old journeyman pro golfer with two career wins on the PGA Tour, has entered some of golf's most rarified air. He shot 59 in the opening round of the John Deere Classic this month, an iconic single-round score that has eluded many of the game's greats. In fact, the list of golfers to accomplish the feat is so short that it excludes the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, and Bobby Jones.

Goydos joins just three other players who have broken 60 in PGA events. Amazingly, Steve Stricker nearly joined that exclusive club mere hours later when he fired a first-round 60. The historic achievement has happened only once on the LPGA Tour.

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