John Thompson Reflects on Miami's Superteam
On Friday, one day after the announcement, FanHouse caught up with John Thompson, Georgetown's legendary former coach and current TV and radio commentator, to discuss the magnitude of the All-Stars joining forces, and what it may mean for sports business going forward.
On James, Wade, and Bosh joining in Miami ...
"I think you start with the historical aspect of it. You saw three young men who got themselves in a position where they had enough business acumen to make a decision that would benefit all three of them financially as well as competitively. I don't buy the part that they're going to be financially at a disadvantage, because you know as well as I know ...
"But as an African-American, I'm very proud of them for that, because of the fact that I think you hear too much foolishness with athletes today about not being business astute, not thinking about the things that they need to think about.
"All you hear is about somebody going to some strip club, somebody doing something wrong and going to jail. They sat down and constructively did something. Now if I were management, on the management side, I would stop that (expletive) from happening. It depends on what hat you wear as far as how you look at it. I'd be afraid. You know as well as I know because of the historical precedent that it set, that that's going to be contagious. There's not a man who's in management who's in sports who's not scared to death about what they saw happen.
"Because you know that football players, baseball players, and everybody, when they become free agents, they're going to say, 'Hey, let's do the LeBron, let's do the Wade thing, and let us control it.' That's what's going to happen, but I don't know that anybody can stop them because of one word, 'Free.' That word 'free' agent means that they're in a position to do that, but the other thing that I'm curious about, very curious about, is what impact will that have on professional teams being supportive of international competition, because that's where it originated from, the fellowship of getting to do it together.
"I'm very curious to see whether they will be as supportive or if they'll be thinking these guys are going to get together and get their heads together. It's a good thing, I think. When you think about what Oscar Robertson did years ago, when he put guys in a position where they could be in a position to negotiate. I talked to Oscar today. But it depends on what side of the fence you're on. If I was a coach, if I was in management, I'd say, 'Oh, (expletive), I'd better figure it out. ... But that's the side you have to think about, your business part of it.
"I also feel it's been overblown about their dominance because you have those three guys on the team. There's a vast difference between having good players and having a good team. They could be a lot, but they've got to become it. I don't think it's an automatic that because you put those three guys on a team, (that they dominate).
"It's a hell of a lot different when you're having dinner and talking about making sacrifices than it is getting out on the floor and doing it. You're talking about me getting the ball, you getting the ball. My ego comes into play when the coach is taking me out of the game or putting me in the game or saying 'shoot it' or 'don't shoot it.' So it remains to be seen whether they can carry out that part of the plan. But I don't buy into the fact that because those three guys are together, that they automatically (dominate)."
On the reaction of the Cavaliers fans ...
"If I lived in Cleveland, I would feel awfully bad. I don't think that necessitates you burning jerseys or anything like that. I mean hell, that's the same organization who fired a coach who had the best record in the NBA. That's the same organization that made it uncomfortable for Ferry to be there. OK? And both of them were part of the success that they had.
"When does loyalty come into effect when you talk about the coach and talk about the general manager? I think they made themselves vulnerable in taking those actions, which made it much easier if I'm LeBron to see that we're not talking about loyalty all around. But if I am living in Cleveland, am a fan of Cleveland, because he is a native son and somebody who we love, who we'd like to see there. ... But guys don't identify with cities the way we did years ago. These guys are worldwide. They have jet planes, they have electronic communications going on, and they don't see the world the same way a player did years ago. Years ago, a player would have literally lived in Cleveland, worked in there. I really wonder how much time LeBron spends in Cleveland during the offseason because of the world we live in now.
"But if I was a citizen there, I would be hurt, be disappointed, and think that he had an obligation (to stay), but that's an unfair assessment I think because I think based on what he has available to him he made that decision, and none of us can make that for him.
On the "Decision" show and how James handled the process ...
"I heard a lot of reaction to the process, including myself. I wondered why it was prolonged. I wondered why all this (hoopla) happened. But I'll tell you why. It's because all of us made it, that they weren't the dumbest people in the world because look at all the attention. There's two ways to get attention in this thing -- they either love you or hate you. The worst thing is if they ignore you. Nobody ignored them. They accomplished what they needed to accomplish. They got all the attention. My talk show today, that's all we talked about for two hours. Even though we were frustrated by the process, because it was new to us -- we'd never seen free agency marketed like that. They did the right thing, because that's what we're all in this for. If I don't get ratings, then I don't (have a show).
"It's an unfair comparison. Comparisons are sometimes odious. LeBron is a big boy. He understands that to make that kind of decision, 'I'm going to be praised and I'm going to be criticized.' You don't do that naively. You expect it, but I think fans have a responsibility to be conscientious of a lot of things.
"This boy has been through a lot in his life to overcome to become LeBron James. And ... once he became that, it's in his court to decide what to do with that. That's not the city's. That's not anybody's. That's his. That's stuff he worked for. He overcame hurdles, overcame hardships to become LeBron James. Now he has the right, as do all of us, to decide where he wants to be employed. I may not like it. You may not like it. ... I'd never want anybody trying to deprive me of making a decision as to where I work or what wife I take. There are certain things in life where you have a right to make a decision, and you have to respect that.
"Was I surprised (he went to Miami)? I was shocked. I said on my radio show that this is (expletive), he's going to go back to Cleveland. I know he's going back to Cleveland. But I respect him for sitting down and making a decision that he thought was in the best interests of his life. And I respect him even more that they had enough business acumen to set a historical precedent, to sit down and say 'This is what we're going to do.' They're running around talking about Pat Riley, but Pat Riley jumped in. He joined in and made believe he was the leader. In the meantime, those kids sat down and did that. "
On the fact that Dwyane Wade was more influential in recruiting than Pat Riley ...
"No question. No question. And I love Pat. I respect him. I sat down with him when he talked to Alonzo (Mourning). I sat down at the table and talked, but Pat Riley didn't do this. They did that. And that's what's going to scare the hell out of me if I'm a (sports executive), like, 'God, we've got to stop this from happening.' I'm curious to see what David Stern says about this. He can't want to see this happen, because you lose control. All of us want control. Everybody in the work place wants control. I want control. You want control. Those guys took control, and made a decision, and it's awkward to all of us. But I respect the hell out of them. It doesn't matter whether I agree or disagree. I respect the hell out of what they did."