LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh Are Free Men. What Are We?

Did you have a grand 4th?

I hope so.

I hope it was safe and happy, especially if you live somewhere where fireworks are allowed in the hands of untrained, drunken folk.

Something you may have missed while you were celebrating America’s meaningful and historical independence was an independence of another kind.  LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, and other NBA basketballers found themselves independent of their respective teams.  In other words, after battling through their previous contracts, they are now free agents, exploring other frontiers to see what kind of wonderful deals they can get, even at the expense of fans, cities, and franchises.

Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks signed a new 6 year, $119,000,000 deal with his team.  You saw right.  He decided to ‘bind’ himself to his old team for a maximum deal that his panicky team will soon regret.  His freedom was too much for them to bear.

These other men, however, are now bachelors of basketball…singles looking to sign.  They are out on the NBA market looking for the best deal, the next big thing, the next transitory commitment.  Gone are the days of loyalty in sports (if they ever existed).  No more are the days of building relationships and remaining close to a fan base.  It is a noble war.  A glorious fight.  A necessary and dirty business of dodging and weaving amongst myriad offers to get the most benefit when the treaty is finally signed.

And, it’s big news.  It’s on our radar.  It’s at the water cooler.  As the sides do battle, we are held captive.  We have to see who goes where.  Who will get the best deal?  Who will be left in the cold?  How will these accords be negotiated?

But isn’t that the story of humankind?  Isn’t that the great scenario of the human condition?  Don’t we all, after all, want to get what we can get while the getting is good?  Don’t we all look out for number one at the expense of our brethren?

Actually, I don’t think everyone feels that way (just like I don’t think every NBA player is a greedy person), although I must say, there is a lot of that going around.  And that battle in our daily lives always has a justification.  A defense.  There’s always a reason to let someone else fall through the cracks or deny them something they need if we feel it will cost us a little more, or keep us from getting something we really want.  After all, they are nameless…faceless.  They aren’t in my carpool.  They don’t work at my business.  They can’t live where I live.  They didn’t work as hard as me.  They don’t deserve this or that.  They don’t live my life.  They don’t touch me.  They don’t matter.

They don’t vote.

Ah, freedom.

Now, all of this being said, there is a lot of good going on out there.  There is a lot of charity in the NBA; and in the franchise I root for, there are a lot of class acts.  A lot.  Men who value their family, their commitments, and their teams.  Just like I know a lot of people in the non-sporting world who care about their families, communities, and all the obligations that come with these things.

It’s July 5th today.  We are still blissfully independent, and very fortunate.  There are freedoms that are in my blessing count all the time, and I have not lost sight of their importance.  But with freedom comes a responsibility.  The responsibility to help others, appreciate equality, and to manifest tolerance.  The ability to foster community, judge fairly, and forgive.

Not all NBA players are the same, just like we non-NBA folks aren’t all the same.  We all have the choice to use freedoms positively.  We can choose to do more with our freedom than rake in money, hurt others, or be one-dimensional.

Some will.  Some won’t.

But in the end, all we have is ourselves, I guess.

But then again, maybe we also have our teams…our fans…and each other.

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