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July 17, 2018

7/6/2018 7:27:00 AM
Good for LeBron and his move to L.A.

Nick Sabato
River News reporter

LeBron James has opted for change in scenery once again. This time, James decided to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that has featured more NBA stars than any in league history.

It is still early in the process and James chose not to leave Cleveland in a television special this time, but he hasn't received the same vitriol.

Perhaps it could also be due to the fact that James helped guide the Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016 or that he came back to the city he bolted from with the sole purpose of winning a championship.

That's a good thing. James is nearing a legacy that even Michael Jordan can't compete with and fans should enjoy watching his greatest while they can because once he's gone, it could be a long time before another talent like him comes along.

I was in college when James decided to "take his talents to South Beach" and I must admit, I was among those who bashed him for the perception he was taking the easy route to winning a championship.

I was young then. I looked at sports in a different light. That tends to happen when you are young, but as you get older, views on such matters change.

Fans love to bash players for leaving or taking the easy way out, as they see it. But what is often forgotten when it comes to professional athletes is playing a game is their job.

For some it's a passion, but for others it's simply a job. A sentiment that all Americans can relate to. Some love their jobs, but for others it's just a way to make money to support their families.

When Cleveland Browns Pro Bowler Joe Schobert spoke at Lakeland Union High School on Sunday, he was candid about just that. While he loves to watch football in his spare time, some of his teammates don't.

"There are some guys that don't watch a lick of football," Schobert said. "When they're out doing their own stuff, they don't watch any of it."

Because fans are entrenched in their city, often since birth and have ties spanning generations, they have a loyalty and expect it from professional athletes.

Professional athletes, though, are drafted to a city at the beginning of their careers. Like every other American, they do not get a say on where they work. Everyone else may not get picked by the company they want, but they also get to say no to a company that may want to hire them.

Fans and media personalities also tend to get hung up on winning, needing to be the most important factory for players. Why?

If a player competes to the best of the ability, it helps the team. In business, high performance helps a company, but most employees aren't concerned with out-performing another company in the same field on a daily basis. They are concerned with providing the best life for themselves and their families.

What's best for an athlete or their family isn't always the same across the board.

Many professional athletes follow the money and attempt to maximize their values while they can because their window to make a top dollar is less than half of what regular workers get so I'm fine with players chasing a paycheck.

Happiness in the workplace can also be about simply enjoyment in coming to work.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Cassius Marsh was panned by many in the media and former players because he said playing for the New England Patriots wasn't fun.

"They don't have fun there," Marsh told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. "There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it. I didn't enjoy any of my time there, you know what I'm saying?"

Just because someone wants to enjoy coming to work doesn't mean they aren't going to work hard or be successful.

Millions of Americans change companies or professions for personal happiness, but just like the loyalty aspect, it's forgotten that sports are jobs for players, not a way of life.

Kevin Durant has taken the mantle from James of being the ultimate bandwagon jumper in sports the last two years by joining a Golden State Warriors squad that had just won a league-record 73 games. So what?

People leave for top companies in the business world on a daily basis. Why wouldn't you want to be part of a winning situation? When life is good, people are happy and usually wealthier. Those workers have no problem being the explicit reason for the company being on top and neither should professional athletes.

So I'm glad LeBron James left more than $50 million on the table to head to the West coast, to a team that isn't quite ready to be a championship contender, even with the best player on the planet.

James decided to make the move because it was what he felt to be the best place for his career, his family and their future.

If a fan wants to complain about a player being paid a boat-load of money and then subsequently not playing hard, then that's fair.

A player leaving for what they perceive to be a better situation isn't a reason to vilify anyone.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @NickSabatoLT.

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