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Former NBA Star Billy Cunningham Is Sick of the LeBron James Frenzy

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Former NBA Star Billy Cunningham Is Sick of the LeBron James Frenzy

It’s the moment that everyone is the sports universe has been waiting for and it’s the moment that fans here in Cleveland have had circled on their calendar for the last three years.  LeBron James is a two-time MVP and arguably the best player in the NBA and he is about to make his decision on where he will play his basketball for a majority of the prime of his career.  There is no question that the world will be watching and his “decision” has turned into a fiasco of self-promotion.Last week executives from New York, New Jersey, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago all came to town and created a circus-like atmosphere here in downtown Cleveland.  And now a one-hour special to announce his decision to potentially break the hearts of every Clevelander on national TV?  This is fascinating and people will watch.  He has stolen all the headlines, but LeBron’s image has taken a huge hit on the national stage and here in Cleveland and with good reason.  After tonight LeBron James might go from being one of the most beloved sports figures of all time in Cleveland to being included in the same conversation as Art Modell as one of the most hated people in Cleveland sports history.Billy Cunningham joined WIP in Philly with Howard Eskin and Rob Ellis to talk about how sick of the free agent frenzy he is, whether or not he remembers anything like this from his time in the NBA, and how tough it would be as a coach in the NBA to handle some of these players right now.

On what free agency was like when he was in the NBA:

“First of all, I remember when free agency got started.  I remember all the free agency we’ve seen but this has gone to another level.  Newspapers in New York, it’s the LeBron James watch.  God love him but that’s for other people.  I’ve had enough of the whole thing.  The one thing people tend to forget is is it going to work?  Didn’t (Chris) Bosh and (Dwyane) Wade, they decided to go to Miami right?  Ok so now you spent 30-35 million dollars or something.  I think the cap is like 50 something million so you have 20 million dollars now to fill for what 13 spots?  I think people have the cart in front of the horse with all the excitement and everything.  We need to just see how all of this really works out at the end of the day.”

On whether or not he is tired of all this free agent frenzy:

“You can’t blame LeBron James or these kids.  From the standpoint that I can’t believe they played the year out with a guaranteed contract.  God forbid any one of them got injured during the course of last year.  They’re out and that’s it.  Contractually and financially but the whole media and everything, I think the whole league loves to see this.  It’s everywhere the NBA.  The NBA is shut down at this time of the year after the draft, that’s it.  You don’t hear anything about the NBA until sometime in October.  Here we are in July and ESPN will probably have great ratings tomorrow night for it.  (Host: I hope not.)  I understand what you’re saying but reality is these people are smarter than I am and there’s a frenzy of this thing.”

On how tough it would be to coach a team with three star players:

“Depends on the kid and young man.  I should use the word young man.  Moses Malone, when we signed him in Philadelphia, he was the first athlete to make two million dollars per year.  He was the easiest player to coach in his first year because he wanted to win.  Again I can’t speak for all these guys and I don’t know any of them but it all depends on the young man.  Okay, you got your money, now how important is winning and the commitment you make to the franchise to help us get a ring?”

On how tough it would be to coach some of these players in the NBA nowadays:

“I think there are some franchises that have tried to eliminate all that stuff going on.  I think when I look at San Antonio I see a franchise that they have looked for not only quality basketball players but quality people.  I gotta believe Phil Jackson has figured out how to operate over the years and there are certain rules.  I think that if someone doesn’t fit the role or do what you ask them to do you either sit them or get rid of them.  I remember in the early ’s when I first started coaching there were all sorts of issues with cocaine.  Cocaine was a problem that we had to deal with.  As coaches, players, etc.  There’s always been something going on in sports.  It’s never been a perfect world but I’m sure it’s gotten a little tougher today.”

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