I stopped watching NBA games over a decade ago. A league without rules, or more specifically, certain rules for certain players and teams is really no better or interesting for me to watch than the “wrestling” in the WWE. At least the WWE now acknowledges that it is “entertainment” not sport. To me, the NBA is no different. I feel that the league and the officials conspire to market first, stay true the sport—well, that’s got to be 7th or 8th on the list.
With that frame of mind, I didn’t think I’d really care either way about LeBron James’ “Decision” about where he’d be playing the next few years of his career. I honestly hoped that he wasn’t going to come to my home town of Chicago. I get that he’s a superstar, but he’s always rubbed me the wrong way. My rooting interest was for him to remain in Cleveland. I’ve felt bad for them ever since Michael Jordan hit “the shot” over Craig Ehlo. As a fellow Midwesterner, I understand the draw of the home town kid whose made good.
So, with only that casual rooting interest, I was surprised at how deep and visceral my reaction was when the announcement came that Mr. James was taking his game to Long Beach. I had a feeling for him that literally bordered on hatred. Watching such blatant narcissism at the expense of and in the face of a home-town city, which had treated him like the “king” he claimed to be was literally painful.
I’ve heard people talk about how uncomfortable he looked up on that stage, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for him when it was his choice to be there. It’s ridiculous to believe that his decision was made just that morning. James has been a member of the Heat for two years now in all but uniform. How does “King” James choose to tell his loyal “witnesses?” He hides behind some kids from the Boys & Girls Club in a town in Connecticut.
But that wasn’t all. He spoke in third person. And perhaps most cruelly of all, he chose Miami without saying much positive at all about Cleveland. Oh, he pointed out that he played hard for them, he acknowledged all he brought to that team and the city, but all he said about Cleveland or the Cavaliers was that he had much respect for them.
Much respect. So. That’s nice. Huh?
That word has become a joke. Respect. When you respect a city, it’s people and it’s team, you don’t go on television, on an hour-long program glorifying yourself when you know your decision will hurt all those you leave behind. When you respect the fans and the team and the city, even if you do decide to leave, you cancel the show, you release a heartfelt press-release explaining your decision and begging the forgiveness of the people you supposedly respected.
You don’t make a spectacle. You don’t rub in an entire city—an entire state’s face just to appease your own narcissistic needs. Is anyone else tired of celebrities and superstars feeding and fueling their own narcissism in these kinds of spectacles and expecting us to be okay with it simply because they donate the proceeds to some charity? Congratulations Boys & Girls Clubs, you’re whores. And if I was dying of thirst, I’d crawl into the afterlife parched before drinking a Vitamin Water.
Your Nike commercials say it best LeBron. We are all witnesses. We witness not only your play on the court, but the way in which you comport yourself off it. We are not fooled by a pittance given to a charity, we know what this was about. It was all about you. It was one of the most gross and painful to watch displays I’ve ever seen.
And I can’t help but draw parallels. I remember back to when I did watch the NBA and I remember my childhood hero, Michael Jordan. Mr. James will never live up to that mantle. He’ll never reach the standards of excellence set either on or off the court by MJ. As witnessed by his induction speech into the Hall of Fame, Jordan obviously had that same narcissism, but throughout his career, he managed it, he kept it inside. He took challengers as affronts to his supremacy and he dispatched them like a cold-blooded assassin.
By all accounts, James has done nothing but choke in the playoffs. Instead of taking challengers as slights to your supremacy and vanquishing them, James chose to partner with at least one player who is arguably his equal or even his better. I learned all I’ll ever need to know about LeBron James last night. The Air is rare in the echelon where the masters reside and the King will never breath it.
And we’re all witnesses.