I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. I’m 31 years old, so the only comparable stories in my lifetime in terms of how much press they received might be when Magic announced he had HIV, anytime Jordan retired, Kobe’s case, when Shaq left the Lakers, and when Garnett (and Allen) joined the Celtics.
Let’s assess these, shall we?
The press for Magic’s announcement was justifiable. The guy was a 5-time champ, and was 1 of 2 guys from that era who literally saved the NBA from extinction. Plus, HIV is pretty serious–almost everyone watching and reading about Magic’s ill fortune presumed he’d be dead in a year.
Jordan’s retirements, like his championships, came in threes, but were justifiable simply on the strength that the first two times he retired, it was directly after winning a 3rd championship. And it wasn’t a foregone conclusion after any of his retirements that he’d be back, ever.
Kobe’s case came out of nowhere–he went from being America’s boy next door to being an alleged rapist. He’ll never live that down. And, like Jordan, this came shortly after he’d won 3 championships and was hunting for his fourth. Quite simply, this was by far the worst thing that Kobe Bryant could have done or gotten himself into.
And when Shaq left it was the end of an era. Shaq was, and is, a media darling. Like LeBron, they couldn’t get enough of him, even though unlike LeBron, Shaq was (and is) well known for offering venemous, spiteful quotes about his teammates, coaches, team execs, etc. Either way, when Shaq left, he was leaving as the most successful and accomplished player in the game, not just a guy who was widely “considered” great.
Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett did for the Celtics what Larry Bird did for them in 1979–they revitalized the team and made the franchise relevant again. But unlike the speculation about LeBron, them going to the C’s wasn’t a big story until almost moments before it happened. Nor was it made a big story DURING the NBA conference championships, even though both guys were, like LeBron, watching the playoffs from their living rooms.
I’m just saying, it’s getting pretty nauseating to keep watching and listening to the idol worship that this non-story has become. Can we please focus on the 4 teams left in the playoffs?