We typically think of Forbes as a magazine mostly devoted to the financial world, but today they have an article by Monte Burke, who covers the sports money beat, that basically stakes out the position that LeBron James and John Calipari have both achieved major career goals in a controversial manner:
This marks the second of these validations in the basketball world this year. John Calipari, the brilliant yet maligned coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, won his first championship in early April. He and LeBron share many similarities.
Both are the best at what they do. Calipari is one of the top coaches in college basketball. LeBron just won the NBA Finals MVP trophy, to go along with his third NBA MVP trophy
Gotta love that, right? This, maybe not so much:
Both LeBron and Calipari made decisions are both well within the rules of their respective games. But they seemed to have broken some unwritten fan rules, ones having to do with loyalty and integrity.
I have to ask, what the heck is this supposed to mean? Any basketball fan that is sane understands that professional basketball is a job, one with a very narrow window at that. It is absurd to expect "loyalty" in professional basketball. It's nice when players sometimes show it, but it's downright wrong, in my opinion, to hold them to a standard of loyalty that exists neither in written nor unwritten rules except in the minds of a few partisans clinging to some fanciful notion of how the world should be ordered.
Loyalty is a concept that professional athletes generally cannot afford, and it isn't reciprocated by either fans or team management in most cases. Athletes have personal and professional goals just as everyone else does, and nobody takes shots at ordinary people who leave their home towns for better opportunities elsewhere, or when people leave companies that they have been at for a while if something closer to their career objective comes along.
The same is true for coaches. Did we scream "Disloyalty!" when Rick Pitino took a job with a legendary basketball program making legendary bucks? I don't recall a lot of sturm und drang over that, other than concern about who would replace him. But that's normal, and natural.
Did LeBron make a mess of his free agency? Yes, it was a spectacle completely unworthy of the excellent player he is. What I love about LeBron is that he just plays. He doesn't celebrate a big shot, or carry on with the officials, or act out like a 12-year old. He plays the game like a man, and he's really great at it. I was rooting for the Thunder in the NBA Finals, but I admire LeBron's professionalism, and how he plays the game.
Now I ask, what unwritten rules of integrity did John Calipari violate? The same kind of made-up nonsense that LeBron James apparently violated, I suppose.
Calipari's offense (if we assume that the "integrity" thing is directed at him) would presumably be related to the educational integrity argument regarding "one and done" players which is almost exclusively made by educational establishmentarians. Frankly, I don't know any fans of college basketball other than those of inferior teams or rivals who hold that against him -- almost every other high D-I coach has to deal with the same issue. The only difference is that Calipari is honest in his dealings, where many others try to dissemble about it. That hardly seems worthy of any sort of criticism, but then again, this is a rather well-worn path.
Perhaps this gives us more of a clue:
Both will always have haters. Cleveland will always hate LeBron. Those offended by "the Decision" will, too. College athletic purists will always believe Calipari is a cheater.
As I said, a well-worn path. Can you be offended by the pomp and circumstance surrounding "the Decision" without being offended by the decision itself? I think so. Maybe not if you're a Cleveland fan, though.
As to "College athletics purists," I'm assuming this is in reference to the educational establishment who so often decries Calipari's "one and done" embrace. What I'm unclear about is the reference to "cheating." The only people who have accused Coach Cal of cheating are those in the commentariat who eschew facts in favor of high dudgeon, and rival fans.
Ah, well, at least the author gets the part right where he suggests that winning has a way of making all these criticisms less persuasive. That's just how it is in America, and frankly, it's probably just as well.