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LeBron TV fest not for me; give me Bill Russell, Jean Beliveau, Ray Bourque and the good old days

For many, the LeBron James TV drama this week was must-see TV. Where would LeBron sign, everyone seemed to wonder?

I didn’t watch, and wasn’t much interested.

He’s clearly a wonderfully talented player, but as someone approaching his late 50s who well remembers basketball greats like Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and Bill Russell—guys who did their job as well as any modern-day athlete, but with little fanfare—I don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for the attention-seeking huge egos that taint professional sports nowadays.

Those guys had egos, for sure, and personal pride, no question. But can you imagine Russell, the quintessential Celtic, their captain and a true leader, playing for someone other than Boston, or even more unimaginably, making a production out of his decision to do so?

In the hockey world, I’ve often mentioned former Montreal legend Jean Beliveau in my posts. He was a true superstar, a tough competitor, a winner, too. Yet he was also a humble and gracious man—and still is in his elder years. This was simply not something he would have done.

Yes, I realize we are in a different world. It’s the media age. Athletes have more freedom to move.  It’s a different time, and money and entertainment drive so much of what transpires in professional sports. But the very public free-agent silliness of the past few weeks in the NBA must be leaving even some die-hard basketball fans a bit saddened, regardless of who they “cheer” for.

I may be alone, but I’ve grown weary of always hearing that athletes want to “play for a winner”. So they demand a trade to a contender or use free agency to join a team that seems destined for championship. I would so appreciate a player who (while already making millions and millions of dollars, in most cases) doesn’t complain and just tries to help make the people around him better, and does what he can to help make the team he is already on better.

When guys like LeBron and Chris Bosh leave their teammates, they are basically saying, “those guys are not good enough for me—I need to play with better players than that” in order to win a championship.

It strikes me that Kobe Bryant has done OK in LA, without switching teams.  He just makes the people around him that much better.

Yes, Boston Bruin great Ray Bourque left Boston to join Colorado and won a late-career championship with the Avalanche. But he stayed for 20 years and never really wanted to leave Boston, as I recall. He took less money for many years when he could have left to play on a better team, because he liked Boston and was proud to be a Bruin. He finally left with the whole-hearted blessing of team management.

I’m out of touch, I realize. It’s all about entertainment and “reality” TV these days. I know things weren’t perfect in the old days, but I guess I just liked a lot about the old-time reality.

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