You getting’ money/If I cant get none wit’cha, then f—ya.” – 50 CENT
This weekend marks the 14th anniversary of what used to be Zo’s Summer Groove, the charitable celebrity basketball weekend that was once run solely by NBA Heat star Alonzo Mourning. Now renamed The Summer Groove, it’s co-hosted by Dwyane Wade, the rising NBA superstar with the misspelled first name (Or so we think, since we have no idea if his mom deliberately intended to put a unique spin on Dwayne.)
Wade, the 28-year-old shooting guard and star of the amusing T-Mobile commercials with Charles Barkley, has already earned a ring with the 2006 Miami Heat championship team and a gold medal with the so-called “Redeem Team” at the 2008 Summer Games. His financial future, as well as his NBA legacy, barring any serious injury, seems to be set, as he continues to fashion himself into a world-class shooting guard.
But you can assume that while the NBA glitterati are rubbing elbows this weekend on the golf course and at the gala dinner, they will also be talking about the deal the Heat just pulled off with a convincing win of the free agent lottery.
Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh and superstar Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James (who announced his decision on an hour-long ESPN special) will be suiting up with Wade this fall, a decision met in Miami-land with the kind of fervent celebration that Spain’s World Cup championship set off in Madrid. Well, almost.
Obviously, the Cavaliers organization didn’t agree. Their owner Dan Gilbert fired off a fevered letter on the Cavs official website as though James jilted him as a prom date after he’d paid for his school lunch for the entire year. Is it befitting for a team owner to spazz out on a man who assuredly earned him millions more during the seven years he played in Cleveland? No disrespect to the city, but if you’ve been there in the wintertime (and I have), you’d know it would take some serious entertainment to get folks out of their homes in the colder months. And James brought ‘em on out.
Despite that, Gilbert called James narcissistic, disloyal and damn near not fit for Heaven because he chose to play for another team. He then set himself up for a big fall by claiming that James’ bad karma would somehow translate into a championship for Cleveland well before James gets one. (Dream on, Cleveland fans.) Predictably, Gilbert was then fined $100,000 by NBA commish David Stern, then faced down the ire of the good Reverend Jesse Jackson, who said Gilbert’s letter indicated that Gilbert sees James as a runaway slave.
As someone who covered basketball for four years with the upstart baller Bible Slam magazine, I’d say Jackson’s rhetoric was a little strong – hey, this is Jesse Jackson we’re talking about – but pretty on point. Why is a black man who honored his contract, played for his hometown team for seven years being reviled for doing something that he’s well within the boundaries of his contract and human right to free will to do? Did I miss something here? Did James sign away his rights to make decisions for himself when he signed his NBA contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Did he do something that Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and countless other NBA stars of the past and present didn’t do? Was the fact of the matter that three black men sat down and had the now infamous “free agent summit” – again, well within their contractual rights – to determine that they wanted to …..