In Cleveland, Ohio, he could have gone on to die a hero. Instead, last July, LeBron James decided the prospect of becoming the first global icon to don an aerobic sweatband was the wisest decision of them all.
As the Miami Heat threaten to lace up for the final round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, June will mark the 11th month since The Decision was made. And with each passing Heat game, win or lose, thoughts on The Decision still reverberate. Philosophical LeBron theories get tossed around and dressed more ways than you can serve a pizza pie. (Of all the meaningless stories with legs-this one is Prefontaine.)
Of course this marathon is fueled mainly with ridicule. But is any of it justifiable? Is there a level of hypocrisy to be dealt with? Maybe its a cultural or political disconnect, one Joe Pesci’s character in JFK probably would decree, “this is too big for you!”
Are fans, who have every tool necessary in 2011 to better educate themselves on how the world functions, still humming to the narrow-minded tunes of, “Shut up and Play” or “Athlete’s are spoiled and overpaid”? Even worse, are the grownups who get paid to enjoy all-access passes to these games further echoing or scribing these kinds of Reagan-era sentiments with a finger wag and a wink in between a McDonald’s commercial and a book plug?
LeBron James is simply a product of society dominated by young Americans who continue to be manipulated by a scam disguising itself in four letters (it used to be two, but it’s gotten so big and powerful that its actually doubled in size over time): HDTV.
The irony is that King James forever had the city of Cleveland at his fingertips had he just signed one more long-term contract. He could have been a Saint in Ohio, a symbol of Hope-like Obama once campaigned for. Only LeBron wouldn’t have had to campaign for it. Just ball, visit hospitals and schools and generate nonprofits that come with a boatload of jobs. But who in his inner circle is going to tell him that staying in Cleveland was the right thing to do?
Not his old man. LeBron of course, was raised without a father. In fact, the public perception is that young, inexperienced males his own age do the thinking and decision-making for him. LeBron just doesn’t know any better. Never has and sadly never will. Maybe he was afraid of that kind of civic responsibility-and the idea of having to be “on” all the time.
As far as his trade is concerned, James certainly has Michael Jordan’s basketball talents. But Jordan became the greatest athlete of all time thanks in large part to the continued guidance of his father, James. When Jordan felt unsure about his team’s chances of winning a game seven against the Knicks in 1992, it was James Jordan who told MJ to be aggressive and take the initiative early on in the game, and the team will follow. Sure that bit of wisdom wasn’t biblical, but it was all the assurance Air Jordan needed to beat the Knicks and eventually lead the Bulls to their second NBA title.
Who has been mentoring LeBron James all this time, giving him direction when he needs it? Sesame Street characters? Juwan Howard?
You have to forgive him, Cleveland.
Forgive him because most of us don’t know what its like to be an A-list, multi-millionaire at 18. Forgive him because, for most of us, we didn’t need to enter an NBA locker room to see a grown man shaving for the first time. Forgive him because we watched The Decision-and for that reason alone-are just as guilty as he is for televising it.
At some point we have to understand that this is the world we live in now: where senile guys named Harold are going to trend on Google for trying to impersonate God and impressionable kids are going to take the money and fame over dirty fingernails 97% of the time.
Perhaps the real reason why The Decision keeps hanging around like a gray Seattle sky (and shows no immediate signs of termination from public consciousness) is because nobody has proposed what a happy ending would look like for James; a guy we all wanted to revere at one time.
The professionals in the entertainment/sports industry will continue to analyze the logic and morality behind LeBron’s Decision and every move he makes until he retires. Meanwhile, his fellow generation of 20-somethings, The Kardashian Generation, will probably go on selling out in 3rd person and all.
Just forgive LeBron and who knows, Cleveland, maybe your real hero will emerge in a Browns uniform.