I wrote a lot about LeBron James yesterday. Too much. Spent half my day on it. Tried to defend him. Tried to criticize him. Tried to imagine what things could be. But I couldn't commit to hitting "Publish" on any of it because I couldn't fully believe any of it. And now here I am, just starting over, from scratch. The more I wrote, the more I realized I didn't really have all that much to say.
I can't bring myself to defend him. People say—heck, I've said—"Oh, he's young, he's just gotta grow." But the dude's 27 years old. That's old enough. You should sort of have your crap togetther by then.
But I'm too nice to bring myself to talk badly about him. I'm one of those types who thinks the guys who spend all their time criticizing athletes are absurd, and I just can't bring myself to do that now. Besides, I want to like LeBron, and I want to believe in him, and I want him to be something great. It's more fun than ... this.
Some people get their sports kick out of hating somebody. Not me. I just can't. I was totally rooting for Dallas, which means yeah, I was totally rooting against LeBron and Co. But I didn't hate the guy. I know it's just sports hate and not real hate, but still—to me, in my mind, they're all people, real people, and words published anywhere have more power than I think a lot of bloggers realize. Or maybe I'm just being oversensitive, but hey, that's how I roll.
Anyway, it makes me feel a little dumb, dwelling on all this, because he's just a man, and it's just a game, but for whatever reason, it's grabbed hold of me. I wish I was a better person, one who focused instead on Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd and their first championship and what all they've done to get it and how awesome all of that is.
But instead, my brain got locked on LeBron. In a weird way, I think it's because he reminds me of someone I know, someone with an equal lack of self-awareness who also drives me crazy. But that's a tangent too psychological and boring for me to get into here, so I won't.
My whole thing is, I really want to like him. I love how good he can be, and I know he's capable of great things. I also think he's a good dude. But I'm starting to wonder if he has the guts to get to that next level, with Jordan, or even Kobe. I don't know if he has that killer in him. I also don't know if he's capable of looking at himself closely enough to realize that he's responsible when he loses games like were lost last night.
Also, perception is all that matters, and by this point, he's pretty well establishing how he's going to be perceived. That's sad, because, like Bill Simmons says—I quote from and link to his piece about it further down—it seems like he's just a guy who, more than anything, just wants to be liked by everybody.
That's what the move to Miami was about. A lot of people took it as some chicken move, some way of shortcutting the system and teaming up with his buddy to form a new superpower. But really, it seemed like it was just about wanting to play with someone he knew and could depend upon. It seemed like him trying to become a part of something great.
He doesn't want to be a villain, ridiculous as he's acted. But he got this snowball rolling, and the hill was long and steep and the snow was aplenty, and things grew beyond his control.
Or at least, that's how it seems to me. But anyway, since I can't really seem to make up my mind about him, here are some bits from people who have, from a few different sides of the whole thing.
Enjoy. And by all means, feel free to add your links and thoughts in the comments (below).
Thanks for stopping by.
A Boring Conundrum: LeBron's Exquisite Corpse | Grantland.com, by Jay Caspian King
Perhaps, the reason why nobody has ever answered the question "What is really going on with LeBron James?" isn't because we are all missing out on some vast, unplumbed psychological space of entitlement, insecurity, and self-destruction, but rather because the answer to the question is boring and self-evident. He is quickly becoming the problem nobody cares enough to solve, the bully whom you endure, not because you feel threatened, but because you've long since given up trying to reason with him. For the most part, the response to the coughing video wasn't outrage or even confusion, but rather a collective rolling of the eyes and a deeply felt, deeply annoyed sigh. That, more than anything else, was just LeBron being LeBron.
You could apply that logic to an entire subsection of the twentysomething demographic, the ones stuck at home living off Mommy and Daddy, letting them clean up their messes and refusing to take responsibility for their poor decisions. It's always someone else's fault, never their own, and if you disagree with them, you're the devil himself, and you're a horrible person for thinking that they might have misstepped. They rant and they rave. So all you do is roll your eyes and release that deeply felt, deeply annoyed sigh. And then you just try to ignore them, because engaging them never does anything more than rekindle the fire and give rise to more flames.
It's not hard to imagine the Heat as the good guys | Los Angeles Times, by Bill Plaschke
The Heat has been built around many of the values that many fans admire not only in their sports, but also in their lives, yet seemingly everyone is texting and chanting, "Go Mavs." Have you met anybody outside of Miami who is cheering for the Heat? I haven't, and it makes no sense.
The Mavericks are the team with a player, Jason Terry, who prances down the court imitating a jet after he scores a basket. Yet it is the Heat players who are considered arrogant.
The Mavericks are the team with the owner who sits behind the bench and attempts to bully the officials. Yet it is the Heat which is considered evil.
The Mavericks have a guard, Jason Kidd, who pleaded guilty to a domestic-abuse charge after assaulting his wife. They have another guard, DeShawn Stevenson, whose career has been marked by legal issues. Yet the Heat players are considered bad guys?
America thinks the Heat was unfairly built, but how many Americans have left their longtime jobs to take a chance with a hot company filled with all-star workers? America thinks the Heat has been constructed to defy the notion of fair competition, but since when is it unfair or anticompetitive to do everything within the rules to win?
I know where it starts, of course. We all know where it starts. It starts, and possibly ends, with Dirk Nowitzki versus LeBron James.
Even though he hails from Germany, the Mavericks star Nowitzki is viewed as an all-American player. Humble, deferential, shaggy hair, floppy walk — he's Jimmy Chitwood with an accent.
Even thought he hails from middle America, the Heat star James is viewed as a foreigner. Dark stare, hulking frame, intimidating swagger — he's Ivan Drago with a headband.
Nowitzki is the only one of these two players who has publicly ripped a teammate during these Finals — remember when he called out Terry for not being clutch? — yet James is considered the loudmouth. Neither player has won a championship, yet even though James has risked his reputation to be here, everyone thinks Nowitzki deserves it more.
Are there racial elements here? It would be naive to think otherwise. In some narrow corners I'm sure Nowitzki is considered a great white hope while James represents the heart of darkness. But James and, by association, the Heat are disliked for other reasons far more complex than color.
For one, there's history. Many have decided to dislike LeBron James since The Decision, and it's hard to argue with them. I thought James' nationally televised announcement last summer that he was dumping Cleveland for Miami was perhaps the most narcissistic bit of athletic behavior ever, and I ripped him for it.
But as time has passed, I've realized that James was an immature 25-year-old who was taking advice from other immature 25-year-olds. Wouldn't we hate for our lives to be forever stained by one of the many stupid things we all did in our mid-twenties?
Not much to add to Plaschke. I don't agree with him on everything, but it got me thinking. I almost sympathized with LeBron and the Heat. But then I read the following. It contains many the bad word. I've censored it, but proceed with caution nonetheless.
LeBron James is STILL a [Really Bad Word That Got Crash Davis Thrown Out of a Game in Bull Durham] | Deadspin.com, by Drew Magary
... there's nothing wrong with rooting for LeBron James to fail. It says nothing bad about you as a person to wish ill upon someone who is monstrously talented yet at the same time is also a world-class dips—. LeBron James has never been arrested or caught with naughty drugs or done anything explicitly "immoral," I suppose. But that doesn't matter, because he's still a piece of s— anyway. His reaction in the wake of losing last night was even more predictable than his on-court meltdown. His personal blind spot is as large as Lenny Dykstra's or Charlie Sheen's. Take a look at this tweet from radio host Holden Kushner, who spoke with Dr. Jack Ramsay earlier today about LeBron:Think about it how f—ed in the head you have to be to enter that kind of mindset. LeBron had complete control over The Decision, and was given a platform that ESPN has NEVER given any other person and never will. They gave LeBron so much freedom for that broadcast that it caused the entire network to questions its own principles. [Ed.'s note: Maybe they didn't.] And yet … they were f—ing unfair? Is it ever wrong to hate someone who thinks this way? NO. No, it is not.
NBA Finals Game 6 Retro Diary | Grantland.com, by Bill Simmons
Passed along by a friend of mine in NBA circles: LeBron caved from the never-ending scrutiny (as brutal as any athlete has ever faced in the Internet era) and his shaky inner circle, which consists of one parent (his mother, who battled a ton of problems over the years), his high school friends (who assumed an inordinately crucial role in his life without any real experience), his agents (who never threw their bodies in front of "The Decision"), and Miami's management (who walked him into another fiasco with the Heat's Welcome Party). By all accounts, he's a genuinely nice and happy guy who just wants to be liked — he was never meant to be a villain, and as much as he tried to feed off the heat (no pun intended), once it piled up past a certain point, he broke. Maybe he felt that happening against the 2010 Celtics as well; maybe that's why he chose to play with Wade in the first place.
And maybe that's why, right now, he's in total denial. Even in the postgame presser, when he should have been devastated the same way Magic Johnson was distraught after coming up small in the 1984 Finals, LeBron was doing the Frank Drebin "Nothing to see here, please disperse" routine, bristling at the notion that he choked and taking shots at anyone who rooted against him. That's what you do when you're surrounded by enablers — you blame everyone else, and you never look within. He never understood that people only rooted against him because that's what you do when someone boasts before they've ever actually done anything.
Really, that's what 50 percent of the Miami-related vitriol was about; the other 50 percent was because LeBron tried to stack the deck by playing with his biggest rival (we didn't respect it), and because he broke Cleveland's hearts on national TV (we didn't like it). To this day, LeBron hasn't shown any real regret about last summer; that's the main reason everyone rooted against him. He couldn't handle it. He caved. And now we're here.
And then finally, because I like to save the best for last ...
Feeling the Heat | SI.com, by the ever-eloquent Joe Posnanski
... while I should have been happy when the Mavericks put away the game, while I should have been happy when the Heat went down at home in Game 6 with barely a whimper, while I should have been happy when LeBron James batted away the ball in the moment, not unlike Yosemite Sam trying to give away a stick of dynamite, well, the truth is I had mixed feelings. I actually felt kind of felt cheated. You know that scene in A League of Their Own, when Dottie says: “It just got too hard, you know?”
That’s what I think happened to LeBron James. I don’t know that. I can’t know that. The only person on earth who can really know for sure is LeBron James. But it sure looked that way. The Heat, with James playing the lead role, had exemplified arrogance and glamour and talent and brilliance. They mocked the doubters. They bragged that with their talent this season was either championship or failure. They told us so. But in Game 6, with the game getting away, with Dallas’ team of 30-somethings who had never won championships tasting blood, with the minds of their home crowd apparently off to the next thing (and on South Beach, there’s always a next thing) well, it just got too hard, you know?
And LeBron James refused to even take the ball, much less take on the moment …
And the Heat faded away …
I feel like I could copy-and-paste virtually the entire piece. Posnanski nails it.
Then of course, to wrap it all up, there is the always-popular conspiracy theory. From Sam Alipour at ESPN, via Twitter:
This Lebron Mania is an elaborate diversion concocted by Hangover 2 creators to make us stop hating them. Im onto u!