Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who Is LeBron James?

Photo by Keith Allison
LeBron James is quite possibly the most naturally talented player to have ever stepped foot on a basketball court. He melds the scoring prowess of Michael Jordan, the court vision of Magic Johnson, the sixth sense and rebounding knack of Larry Bird, the graceful athleticism of Dr. J, the strength of Scottie Pippen.

He came into the NBA with unparalleled hype -- ESPN televised some of his high school games -- and he manged to exceed expectations. His career averages (27.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 7.0 assists), are astonishing. He's already won two MVP awards, and he's only 26.

And yet, especially after the conclusion of the recent 2011 Finals, he's also one of the most enigmatic players in recent sports history.

Who is LeBron James?

Clutch or not?

In basketball and sports in general, it's usually pretty easy to separate the clutch from the timid. You're either one or the other. There are players who rise to the occasion and are their best when the stakes are highest (Michael Jordan, Robert Horry, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson), and there are the players who shrink from the glare and don't rise up when the game is on the line (Chris Webber, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley).

But no player that I can think of has been both clutch and timid in such a short stretch in his career.

Who is LeBron James? Is he the guy who was responsible for one of the most astonishing postseason performances in NBA history, scoring 29 of his team's last 30 points and single-handedly destroying the Detroit Pistons with a 48 point, 9 rebound, 7 assist game on his way to the finals?

Or is he the player who shrunk from the moment and seemed almost disinterested when it counted last year against the Celtics? Is he the dominant force who sent the Bulls packing this year or is he a 4th Quarter disappearing act as he was against Mavericks? 

There are definitely clutch players who come up short - Michael Jordan missed his share of big shots, and Kobe Bryant pointedly quit in the 2006 playoffs, taking only three shots in the second half of a Game 7 blowout. But I can't think of another player whose demeanor could be so wildly different between seasons and even within the same season.

How could the player who willed his team to victory so many times disappear when it mattered in two straight seasons? How could the most talented player on Earth, playing next to Dwyane Wade, arguably the second most talented player on Earth, lose to Dirk Nowitzki and a band of aging roleplayers?

Who is LeBron James?

A Product of Our Time

LeBron James has made no secret that he wants to be the world's first billionaire athlete, and he has spent years cultivating his brand. In essence, he's trying to out-Michael Jordan Michael Jordan. And the way he's gone about it is such a product of this particular moment. But times have changed.

As we all know, Michael Jordan was the individual who took athlete-as-brand to new, uncharted heights. He became a global celebrity and made gobs amounts of money.

But he also had the luxury of playing in a time where he was completely insulated. Everything we knew about Michael Jordan was filtered through the breathless adulation of sportswriters, the carefully constructed unreality of commercials, his performances on the court, and his masterly postgame interviews.

What did we know about the real Michael Jordan? There was no unfiltered Jordan, no direct contact, no Internet dissecting his every move. He was completely buffered. Everything we saw of Michael Jordan we saw through a filter.

How would Michael Jordan, who publicly called Kwame Brown a "flaming f*****t," have fared in the Twitter era? How would his gambling have played under the glare of the modern Internet tabloid world?

Athletes don't get to live behind a carefully cultivated brand anymore. There is no more insulation. The Internet allows 24-hour access, 24-hour observation, 24-hour rumor mongering, and 24-hour dissection.

Who you are is as important as how you perform. There is no hiding.

Unreality Television

LeBron James tried to embrace this new era. His Twitter account boasts over two million followers. He spent a lot of time hanging out with his old high school buddies. He cultivated an affable, humble image. He played for his hometown team. It all seemed completely genuine, and he was wildly popular.

And then he tried to capitalize on perhaps the iconic genre of our times: reality television.

Last summer, amid the most frenzied free agency season in NBA history, LeBron opted to announce where he would be playing the next season via a thirty minute special on ESPN called "The Decision."

And? It was a trainwreck, one of the most narcissistic displays... pretty much ever, culminating with the now-iconic announcement, "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat."

I'm going to take my talents..... to South Beach. Leaving behind his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, without so much as a thankyouverymuch. LeBron went from hero to villain in thirty minutes.

Unlike, well, pretty much everyone in America, I think LeBron made an honest mistake in how he handled "The Decision." From a basketball standpoint, playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was a no-brainer. People say "Oh, Jordan wouldn't have done that! Jordan wouldn't have gone to play with his arch-rival!" Well, LeBron wasn't gift-wrapped a Scottie Pippen. He wasn't Magic Johnson playing alongside Kareem, or Bird with McHale and Parrish, or Shaq and Kobe.

The second best player on LeBron's team was Mo freaking Williams. I mean, come on... That same team without LeBron finished 23-59 this year. You can either luck yourself into a superstar teammate or you can go find one your ownself.

I honestly believe that LeBron thought that people would understand his motivations. He thought that people liked him enough to see what he was doing and would forgive him for leaving Cleveland. He embraced the genre du jour and tried to connect with the world through the prism of reality television.

He miscalculated. And I think he knew it immediately. Look at his body language in the wildly ludicrous introductory rally in Miami. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh look like they're in their element. LeBron just looks uncomfortable.

His reality didn't survive the limelight.

Hero or Villain?

In another era, pre-Twitter, pre-24 hour access, pre-reality TV? No "The Decision?" In the Jordan era?

We'd know LeBron as the best player on the planet playing for an incredible team. He would be Shaq moving from Orlando to Los Angeles: just a superstar changing teams.

Only now LeBron is trapped in a world where everyone thinks he is a villain.

Add up all the external forces, the Internet chat rooms, the Trending Topics, the rumors, and now LeBron has a different kind of pressure -- the world thinking he's a villian when it's not necessarily true, him wanting so badly to be liked but not having that perception survive reality. So now he's in search of an identity that matches public perception.

This is the world of reality television, an intersection of fiction and nonfiction, of wearing different mantles and shedding your identity to see if a new version fits. This is the fiction and narcissism of the social networking era that Jonathan Franzen described in a recent New York Times Op-Ed:
But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).

LeBron went from trying desperately to be likeable to trying now to play the heel in the 2011 playoffs, mocking Dirk Nowitzki's illness and being arrogant in his post-finals press conference.

Only, playing the villain feels no more natural than "The Decision." It's not who he is.

But who is LeBron James?

On the Court

Well, he's a basketball player. And yet all these questions of identity are playing themselves out on the court as well. One minute he's dominating, the next moment he's deferring.

Is LeBron the greatest player of all time, someone even Scottie Pippen suggested could be better than Jordan? Is he the LeBron who destroys teams single-handedly and could be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double?

Or is LeBron the guy who deferred to Mario Chalmers and Juwan Howard in Game 6 of the 2011 Finals, who handed his team over to Dwyane Wade, and played as if he's the greatest second-banana of all time? Someone willing to diminish his own abilities in order to enhance his teammates or maybe even someone who just shrinks from the moment?

Who is he?

The story of who LeBron is is yet to be written. He's only 26. It's worth remembering that Michael Jordan was 28 when he won the first of his six championships. There is plenty of time for LeBron to rattle off a similar string of championships and go down as the greatest of all time.

But will he find the sense of self he needs in order to be great?

The Scam Filter

I believe LeBron is a product of our time. There is no more hiding anymore, no more cultivating of brands and images and fictions. There is no more suspension of disbelief.

We modern humans spend our days sniffing out spam and deciding whether to click on suspicious links. We watch reality TV shows and try and sift out what's real and fake. The Internet is a massive bull**** detection project, and we spend hours a day trying to sort out truth from fiction. We have all become masters at boring through the false and pinpointing what is real.

We can spot phoniness ten miles away. When the glare of the Internet is upon you, if there isn't a truth that you can shine to the world the Internet will sniff out your weakness and expose your hollow innards.

I think the glare on LeBron is especially harsh right now because he doesn't know who he is, and the world wants people to know their place. If you're a villain, own your villainy, if you're a hero, act like a hero. Just know who you are.

LeBron still has time. But in order to make things right on the court and with the public perception he's going to dig deep and find a true identity. He's got to decide if he's the top dog or a supporting player, if he's a villain or virtuous, if he's a brand or a baller. The dithering in real life is playing itself on the court. The external reflects the internal, and there is some truth out there yet to be discovered.

LeBron has to be the one to find out who he really is.


James Scott Bell said...

What he needs most of all is something little taught or talked about anymore. Class.

E.J. Wesley said...

He's neither hero OR villain. Just another jerk who thinks entirely too much of himself.

He should have taken his "talents" to college, not South Beach, and perhaps he would have learned a little discipline and humility along the way.

Just my take.


Bane of Anubis said...

I think it was Jon Barry or perhaps Michael Wilbon who summed it up pretty well... he's a 26 years old who look likes like he's 36 and acts like he's 16.

But in the end, he's only 26 years old. Hell, I'm 33 and I'm still trying to figure out who I am (and have this sinking feeling it might take a while).

Do I think he should be cut any slack? No. When you call attention to yourself with such glorious affectation (The Chosen One, King James, etc.), you deserve all the scrutiny and unwarranted vitriol (likewise, the adulation/overrespect) directed your way.

Sommer Leigh said...

Here is the only thing I know about LeBron James:

My husband is teaching summer school and is determined to put books into his student's hands that they will enjoy without the gloom of homework looming over their reading assignment. He wanted to show them that reading wasn't all Shakespeare and Dickens and Hemingway and papers and analysis and that reading could be entertainment if allowed to be entertaining.

He had trouble with a few of his students who were uninterested in any book he produced until he was given a copy of LeBron James Dream Team by his librarian. Now he has had so many requests for this book he's had to go to other libraries and bookstores to track down more copies because his reluctant reader students wanted to take their copy of the book home to read that night, "I have to know what happens next," one of his students told him. Which is funny, because the book is a biography.

And now these "I've never read an entire book in my life" kids are all like, - you got anymore books like this?

And I can't help but think, oh god, please let LeBron James write another book or pay a ghost writer to write another book for him.

Joe Romel said...

He's the most incredible blend of talent and athleticism since Wilt Chamberlain. He's got strength to finish through hard fouls, the wherewithal to find the open guy through a crowd, and the frame to grab eight or nine or ten rebounds every night.

His knuckleheadedness isn't new, or unique to him. He's got two guys on his own team who are just as guilty of saying stupid things that only get them in trouble, and there were Dallas Mavericks in the Finals who made bolder predictions (Jason Terry got the fricken championship trophy tattooed on his biceps. Imagine the fallout if LeBron did that?) He isn't classless, he's clueless.

And that's the problem, that's what sets him apart from MJ and Wilt and Kobe and Hakeem, and even guys like Scottie and Karl: LeBron doesn't "get it." He has the body of power forward, but he refuses to develop a post-up game; he has the court vision of a point guard, but he won't play the position. He will play the style of game that he's grown up with and will never make an effort to get better. MJ developed a jumpshot. Scottie developed a perimeter shot. Even Amar'e Stoudemire, a current NBA star, when his knees failed him, developed the deadliest mid-range jumper in the game.

But LeBron won't do that, because that requires introspection and effort, two things apparently, and unfortunately, lost on the King.

Eric J. Krause said...

As you said, Nathan, I don't fault him for joining the Heat. I fault him for how he did it. Just hold a two minute press conference instead of what he did. I have no problem with him going to where he could get a ring (he wasn't getting one in Cleveland), but we don't need the narcissistic display of announcing it to the world that he chose.

Matthew MacNish said...

Personally, I try not to consider athletes as people, because unfortunately, more often than not, they are not great human begins. There are exceptions, obviously, but I don't watch sports for the character of the characters, I watch sports to enjoy the physical prowess that never ceases to amaze me.

Did you see the picture I tagged you in on Facebook? Pretty funny visual comparison of this years finals to Tolkien, and the Jackson films.

Patti said...

I agree with Eric. If he had just sent out a press release and not had their big celebration I don't think he would have seen any of the backlash that he's getting.

And even though he's only 26, he should still know better than to make fun of Dirk's sickness in front of the cameras. Even my 15 year old son wouldn't do that. It just shows what little respect he has for other players.

JP Kurzitza said...

Gotta call you out on the "scoring prowess of MJ" comparison. Not really. Though he can score, as per his average, he can't score at will like MJ could, especially in the playoffs.

Also "clutch" doesn't apply in the 2nd or 3rd rounds of the playoffs, it applies when it really matters - in the FINALS! The textbook definition of a clutch sports athlete is Joe Montana. Not necessarily the best quarterback during the regular season, but unquestionably and undeniably the best EVER in the playoffs. Just check out his Superbowl stats averages.

The thing that separates Lebron from MJ is heart, will, and a ginormous chip on his shoulder. Lebron has always been the best at every level and has been told so by everyone near to him. He's been coddled and catered to every step of the way. In his mind he's always been the best and always will be. Therefore, no need to prove anything. He's got his, and that's that.

MJ, on the other hand, was not the best growing up. He was not a freak of nature. He had to scratch and claw his way to the top all the while competing against all those other Hall of Famers you've listed above. That's lots of motivation for an athlete, and Lebron just doesn't have that kind of motivation to be the best among his peers.

Because he already believes he is the best.

Mira said...

Boy, Nathan. You really like sports.

Just had to be said.

So, I thought this was a fascinating article about the impact of the internet age on celebrity/public presence, and it raises alot of issues about maintenance of image vs. who we are as real people.

You gave me alot to think about - does the internet age peal away pretentions, forcing people to confront themselves more honestly? This sentence you wrote: "the Internet will sniff out your weakness and expose your hollow innards", wow, that's powerful.

But you also point out that the internet can skew reality, so that misunderstandings or momentary errors can define someone's reputation on a broadscale basis.

It's fascinating to think about. It's also fascinating to hear your thoughts, because I know this area is an area of great interest and study for you. I feel as though I'm watching this unfold. The internet is powerful and is changing the world. It stopped a Dictator from coming to power recently. That has never happened before in the history of mankind - that a Dictator was disposed due to public pressure. A extraordinary force, the internet, with its access to immediate information and communication.

One other factor I would add: I've noticed the internet is massive in terms of its response, pro or con. But it's also surprisingly forgiving. People can change their image relatively quickly. Because the actual individual people involved changes constantly, nothing quite solidifies.

So, coming back to LeBron, once he figures out who he is, he'll probably be able to settle into a new image.

I guess! Everything I learned about sports, I just learned from this article.

Thanks for the really interesting topic, Nathan!

Joel Q said...

Good post.
As you mention he's just 26. That's about the time most people start coming into their true self.
But he has to battle all the people expecting him to be something else other than himself. He was raised without a good role model, mentor for a father to help build a solid foundation of what it means to be a man of integrity.
That's a lot of pressure.
He'll win some championships, if he learned from this year's finals. If not, he'll be one of NBA biggest disappointments.


Tracy said...

Yeah... I don't have much of an opinion other than he's just another athlete that is beyond over paid.
How ever never in a million years did I think I would willingly read an article about sports or athletes. I enjoy you're writing that much. because I don't, I do not follow sports.
Sounds like a mess of problems though.

IsaiahC said...

As a Dallas native, I have to get a little troll off my shoulder:
LeBron iz a luzer, Mavs r00l, all Mi@mi's base R belongz to us!

Ok, he's gone now.
Great article, Nathan! Every NBA player should read it, print it, paste it up on their locker, and recite it as their pregame mantra throughout the season. Heck, every public persona could use what you said. But especially the NBA.
Except the Mavs, cuz they r00l.

Cathy Yardley said...

I'm not a sports fan either, but I think this is a fascinating character study and a point well made about the transparency effect of the internet. "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to read about in the Times" has a whole new meaning. I feel badly for the kid, though. Yes, it seems ridiculous to pity a multimillionaire sports god, but I'd hate to feel that insecure, especially when my whole life seems to depend on the public's opinion and I'm bombarded by wave after wave of hatred.

That said, I might be able to console myself, a little, with some of the cash. ;)

Tim Riley said...

Great post about LeBron. I wrote about him in my last post as well-give it a look if you get a chance, let me know what you think.

LeBron looks even worse in comparison to a guy like Dirk. He mocked him, burt he couldn't beat him, and that makes him look foolish. Dirk has been with the same team his whole career, and it has been rocky at times. His success, at LeBron's expense no less, is just too good of a story to ignore. It could have been LeBron's story, and we all know it now. He bailed when the going got tough, and that's not what we want in our heroes, on the court or off.

Theresa Milstein said...

Jordan must've been pretty handled during his career. I don't remember him causing much controversy. He was loved by fans, including me. Only when he gave his Fall of Fame Speech did I realize how bitter and petty he was. I said, "Dude, you're in the Hall of Fame. You don't have to tell them you're better. It's obvious." It changed my view of him for the worse. If he'd done it during his career, he'd be treated more like LeBron is treated now.

Good thing about writing is we can delete before we hit "send".

Shaq made similar mistakes to LeBron. Who, at the peak of their career, decides to become a rap star? I argue he could've been greater if he'd focused all his attention on basketball like Jordan did.

LeBron would've been forgiven for leaving Cleveland if he hadn't said a bunch of stupid things afterwards. By the time he tried to be nice, it was too late. And now he's reverted back to saying whatever is on his mind. Good thingfor him is that he has a number of years to get better. Jordan wasn't Jordan at LeBron's age either. If LeBron can stick with basketball and hold his tongue, he'll have a fantastic career ahead of him.

Robena Grant said...

Awesome post. I agree the young man has not a clue.

So many with a giant ego, (often fed by parents, managers, promoters...that is, anyone who can make money off them) these people end up with the I'm a star, I'm a god or goddess persona. They have to fall flat on their bum, reach rock bottom, pick themselves up and rebuild before they can understand and reach their true potential.

Nancy Thompson said...

LeBron shouldn't be hated for abandoning the team who allowed him to be great. Who can blame him for wanting to go to the next level? His problem was created long ago as an only child whose mother hung all her dreams on a boy she exalted above all others, never once teaching him respect. That attitude was cultivated as he grew older by everyone who benefitted from his abilities. And he believed their propaganda, believed that greatness was his only commodity.

He wanted more, yes, as do we all. But LeBron was not willing to share the spotlight. He believed he could completely steal it away from Dwayne Wade & when that proved impossible, he stomped his foot like the spoiled, petulant child he is. And all this after guaranteeing that he would take his team all the way.

LeBron is hated for his God-complex attitude, for believing that he alone is responsible for his success. He & his team lost to a bunch of aging athletes who understand enough about humility to know that the game is won through teamwork & dedication to the whole, not one part, one player.

You'd never hear Dirk Nowitzky or Jason Kidd guaranteeing, let alone celebrating, before a win. And they would never publicly ridicule another player. LeBron James lost because he gave up, unwilling to accept the fact that he's not the best in all the ways that truly count. He's just another over-entitled ego that crumbled under the massaging of his own hand.

Anonymous said...

There aren't many pro athletes in Mensa.

We, as a society, give them too much credit and too much money. And when they "miscalculate" they get a slap on the wrist. Helen Thomas retired in disgrace for less than what some pro athletes say and do.

Something's broken.

Erik said...

LeBron has the physical gifts to be the best ever, but he's lacking the fire in his belly that Jordan, Kobe, and even his teammate D-Wade has. We saw glimpses of it in the first couple of rounds, playing with a chip on his shoulder, putting his head down, and getting to the rim. But the fire faded against the Mavs. I don't care about him as a person. I love basketball and really want him to be the best that he can possibly be so I can say that I watched him play. But he won't be the best without that fire. And a post game.

Bryce Daniels said...

Jesse, err...Lebron James is just another reason I like college basketball better than the pros. Actually, I prefer the collegiates over the professionals in all sports.

It's one thing to have an attitude like that. It's quite another to be paid millions and not care who is paying for all your goodies.

I agree with James. The man needs some classes on class.

Krista V. said...

Wait, LeBron James is playing for Miami?

D.G. Hudson said...

I think JS Bell pegged it. You either have class or you don't. (re-LeBron James and many other celebrities)

Class doesn't equate to money or background, it's how a person conducts themselves on and off the public radar.

Sports heroes like other celebrities fall victim to the greed for higher salaries, & more notoriety assuming their popularity will carry them.

Jonathan Franzen's comments about the fiction and narcissism of the social networking era expresses my opinion as well. The social impacts of our dependence on interconnected-ness are yet to be fully understood.

I kept thinking of how this relates to writing, Nathan, and the same lesson applies: Edit that mouth before you speak, and think before you act. Always good advice.

Hannah said...

Disclaimer: I live in Cleveland. I'm not obsessed with the Cavs, or with any of our sports teams, but I was honestly hurt by LeBron's dismissal of Cleveland -- his former team, his former fans, his former home.

I don't really care if LeBron plays for us, or if he plays against us. (Us being the Cavs and all Cleveland sports fans.) What I care about is that he disgraced us, on national television.

By putting himself in front of a national (and even international) audience with "The Decision", LeBron backed himself into a corner: he could continue to play with the Cavs and continue to be lauded as the King, or he could not play for the Cavs, and be the villain.

Had he not opted for televising his decision, with live reactions in all interested cities, I don't think LeBron would be so hated. He might still have a home in Cleveland. If he had just signed the contract with the Heat, without all the fanfare, he could have left and he would still have the option to return to Cleveland eventually, when it made the most sense for him to do so.

But he burned that bridge, and I seriously doubt he will ever be able to repair it.

Lesson of LeBron and being in the public eye, in this day of Twitter and Facebook and social media: Don't burn bridges. You never know when you'll need them in tact.

/angry Clevelander rant.

bakingepiphanies said...

"So now he's in search of an identity that matches public perception."

That is what we all need to be cautious of in the internet age. You can't get away with not knowing yourself and being true to yourself, even if it makes you unpopular.

Sorry, don't know enough about either LeBron or basketball to comment further, but I get your point about internet celebrity.

Everyone's a celebrity these days. Fame has lost its charm.

Allen B. Ogey said...

I stopped caring about professional basketball when they stopped calling traveling.

WRT LeBron and the rest of the NBA: Much ado about nothing.

J. T. Shea said...

What makes me think you think you like basketball a lot, Nathan?

I've never heard of LeBron James, or most of the people you mention, except Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. And all I can recall about them is that they had something to do with sports.

So I've learned something new! Which is fine, as long as it doesn't replace some really important bit of sports info in my brain, like who skippered Reliance to victory in the 1903 America's Cup.

Bane of Anubis, you're Bane of Anubis.

Sommer, amen! The roads into the world of reading are indeed many and varied.

Joe Romel, and Wilt Chamberlain gave a damn good performance in CONAN THE DESTROYER.

Mira, Nathan likes sports? I'd never have guessed!

Skipetty said...



Mr. D said...

LaBron James? How many books has he written?

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Wonderful post, and I agree with what you said. But I also find the responses to LeBron very interesting, and that goes for the comments following this post, as well.

It's interesting the flak he gets without having actually done all that much wrong. Yes, the Decision was a bad idea, and comes across very narcissistic. But I seriously doubt it was his idea, nor do I think, when it was first decided, that he knew he was leaving Cleveland. It's not like he was revelling in the moment: he was horribly uncomfortable during that entire interview, and you could see he didn't want to be there. I think his "team" was largely responsible for that. A group of young men from Akron. Hometowns are great, but that doesn't necessarily mean you want to live there your whole life. A bunch of young men, wanting to get out there, taking offers from New York, Los Angeles and Miami? I don't think that's strange.

The Decision was bad, certainly. Yet it did raise millions for charity. I'm guessing the benefit to children, in the long run, is a little more important than the silliness of The Decision.

He's had a few other minor missteps (who hasn't?), but generally he's carried himself well, said the right thing. He praises the people who came before him. He's kept his nose clean (literally and figuratively).

And this brings us to the point I want to add: we live in a culture that has grown to love tearing people down. It's filtering into our very nature, through TV, the news, and the internet.

News is no longer news (if it ever was). It's a business. And the business is getting people to watch and buy, and nothing grabs more eyes than pulling down someone famous (or someone not famous, if that's all you can get). And the cleaner the reputation, the more we seem to take joy in the hunt and the kill (Tiger Woods, anyone?).

Which is not to say that people should not be responsible for their actions or their mistakes, but there is a skewed sense to how these things are meted out. The basic fact is that there are athletes everywhere that have done far, far, far worse things than LeBron has ever done, and receive far less, if any, negative response. DeShawn Stevenson, of the Dallas Mavericks, has said far worse things all series. I mean, he's been wearing a shirt that says "LeBron, how does my Dirk taste?"

Which is funny, but also sort of awful. But no one really cares, because he is Deshawn Stevenson and not LeBron.

That goes for so many people. They are not LeBron.

So, what is LeBron? Inside, I can't say. We can only guess at that. But in the public eye?

Part of this reaction, of course, comes from the fact that you garner greater scrutiny the higher you rise. This is always to be expected.

But another part, I think, is psychological. We are a very ambivalent society, I think, in terms of what we want: we want to witness greatness, but we also want to witness people fail. There is something captivating about seeing someone torn down, whether by a quip in a schoolyard or a jibe in the New York Times.


Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


Politics has become little more than an endless series of smear campaigns. It's not about who is raised up higher, but who is brought down lower.

The internet merely fuels this. The internet is the Eye of Sauron, ever-present and always watching. More and more people need stories, need news, need failure. The big eye needs to draw lots of little eyes. The big eye withers without the attention of the little eyes to feed it.

People dig, pry, and warp. Our culture has become like a great lens that magnifies everything... and then sends the image reflecting endlessly through a maze of funhouse mirrors. Endless circulation, with the image bent and twisted and warped. Fat LeBron! Skinny LeBron! Wobbly LeBron!

We seem compelled by these stories. There are no Hectors in our society anymore. A hero who fails, and is cast down? After the fact, well, we'd be reading about this affair he had, how he always struggled with pressure, always stole the limelight from his brother, sometimes didn't wash his hands before dinner.

In our culture there's only room for Achilles. Go Achilles, or go home. And, in the end, the story amy not even be about Achilles. It will be about that loser Hector. Did you see that video on youtube? Or those dirty pictures from college?

The fact is, LeBron is a great basketball player. And, in the midst of thehoopla, this will often be lost. Because he did not surpass the best player to ever play the game, which is a ridiculous thing to ask of someone. Did he play his best? No. Dwyane Wade is also a great player. As is Chris Bosh. They fought hard, and they lost. Perhaps, Hector, too, did not fight his best. Who can say? And perhaps it didn't matter. He could not beat Achilles on that day.

But there are no Hectors here, not anymore. We won't allow it.

The thing is, Dirk Nowitzki is also a great player. And he has a great team around him, a team that was hot at just the right time. They played better basketball, played better as a team, and that's why they won. They deserved to win, and did.

But the story, somehow, seems to be about how LeBron failed. And that cheapens everything that Dirk and his teammates accomplished.

It seems, now, there is little room even for Achilles. We don't even like the classic story of accomplishment, of men coming together to create a sum greater than its parts. This is the true story, the real story of what makes sports wonderful. The story of competition, striving, and success.

But who cares, when Hector's dirty laundry can be aired? And, did you hear, he was really having an affair with Helen? Who knew?

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is fans, who think the players owe them something. LeBron made the best movce for his career--when do we fault other people for doing this? And don't think that the owners of the teams don't buy and sell these guys on a dime. So good for LeBron, and if he wants to be a punk about it sometimes, so what--people have been hating on him all season.

Now, the real issue is how Wade took out Rondo in that series and why the Celts didn't make it back to the finals.

(Yes, Beantown resident here!)

E.J. Wesley said...

Good thoughts, B.

Just as an aside, I'd say had it just been the "Decision", most folks outside of Cleveland would have moved on. But it wasn't. He has continually thrown his name out among the greats, mentioned how many championships he plans on winning, and disrespected other players and teams in the league through is on-court hubris.

Fans aren't blind. Everyone saw him chest bumping, screaming and pointing seemingly after every layup he scored in this year's playoffs. No one failed to notice how the Heat celebrated like champs after winning a second round series. (I don't care who you've just taken down; IT'S THE 2nd ROUND.) We all watched as he refused to give credit to opposing teams in post game interviews after losses and poor performances.

Are folks celebrating his failure to excess? Absolutely, but that's what happens when you paint a target on your back. I'd feel completely sorry for him if he hadn't brought every ounce of it on himself.

I'll also add that there is no room for his "potential" in this discussion. Kwame Brown had potential, and all of the physical tools to dominate the game one day too. Potential is nothing unless it's realized. The fact is, he isn't the most talented player in the game. The most talented player in the game doesn't score 8 points in an NBA Finals game. Ever. Unfortunately, he seems to think (based upon his actions and words, which is all we can truly go by) that he is.

Fans, media, and Lebron need to accept the truth: At this point, he is more Derrick Coleman than Michael Jordan. Perhaps the best thing for LBJ to do would be to apply the words of the great philosopher, the Rock ~ "No your role, and shut your mouth."

Anonymous said...

Leave us have some perspective here. This is no epic. This is about guy with physical skills and immaturity. Like a lot of athletes. It's a tawdry short story, that's about it.

This is about a guy who ran his mouth and didn't back it up. This is a guy who posed and mocked, and then disappeared when it counted.

I'll tell you what it is: a cautionary tale. Let youngsters learn.

LeBron is not the stuff of myth. He's the stuff of miss.

Chuck H. said...

LeBron James? Drawin' a blank here.

Hektor Karl said...

Bryan --

Your comment is fascinating and I agree with much of its larger analysis, but (to me) it doesn't quite fit with LeBron.

People aren't criticizing LeBron for being Hector -- they loved him in the Hector role on Cleveland (until the end of the final Boston series): battling nobly with an over-matched team.

What happened is he turned into Paris -- he fled when people expected him to fight. He let Wade fight his battles for him.

Wade is still a Hector -- he made some pretty major mistakes in both Games 5 and 6 and still has mostly been praised. He fit the character of the noble warrior (and has also won in the past).

Other Hectors: the Knicks teams that lost to the Bulls, the Barkley Suns team that lost to the Bulls, the Reggie Miller Pacers team that lost to the Bulls. The Steelers in the last Super Bowl. The Butler team that lost to Duke.

A lot of the criticism is unfair ratings-bait; but there *is* something tremendously odd about LeBron's change of direction.

It's not his failure to be Achilles; it's that he seemed to give up on that goal at age 26, despite being the best player in the world.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comments. Any thread that covers both sports and the Iliad makes my day better. :) And, of course, Paris did get Achilles in the end. So LeBron's story is far from over...

A different Hektor

Michael Matewauk said...

Nice/refreshing sports post, Nathan.

LeBron is a basketball player, everything else is extraneous. Picture him the first time he picked up the rock & rolled with it. When he discovered what he was good at. He's only 26, who the hell knows who they are at 26 -- I thought I wanted to go work for the Ross Perot campaign for crying out loud.

He hasn't had the adversity Finals-wise to figure out how to be a champion & Dallas showed LeBron what hungry really looks like. How can he lead his team to a ring when he gets cut off at the knees by fans/critics/players for trying to do what it takes (jumping markets) to get to the next level? Talk about a tough mindset.

And 'The Decision' was genius. Donald Trump can work up the media and divert attention for a birth certificate & leverage his tv show & he's a genius. But LeBron is a tool. Hate to break it to folks, but it's called Welcome to America. He'll be back once he matures. With the attendant media saturation. His talent invites it.

Great post, Nathan. Hunter Thompson would be proud.

Anonymous said...

Put LeBron James into a time machine, let him play against 90'ies Bulls and every other of the great teams the Bulls have crushed and let's see from there.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ E.J.

I agree, to a point. But I think there's a ridiculous double standard; people like bringing Kings down. Serious crimes are committed with barely an eyelash batted, but the silliness of The Decision becomes a national spectacle for an entire year?

I mean, LeBron has mostly been a humble player most of his career, and said the right things. Thanked those who came before, gave credit where credit was due. People put his name in with the greats, and he accepts that, because he is. Humility is important, but false humility doesn't cut it for me. If he went around saying he wasn't very good it would be silly. He's a multiple MVP winner. Only a handlful of players have done that. Putting his name in that discussion is only honest, in my opinion, and not arrogant.

Which is not to say that he's never had an arrogant comment. But other players have far crazier comments all the time (including in this series). What's interesting is why James's invoke such strenuous reactions when others do not?

And while he's not Michael, he's certainly not Derrick Coleman, either. It's interesting that people, simply because he failed to achieve the final accomplishment (winning a championship), want to ignore or discredit his other achievements.

I suppose what I want is a return to realism. People certainly don't have to like him. But respect and criticism should be doled out where due. If Cough-gate, for example, really was directed toward Nowitzki, hey, that's worthy of critique. As are the ridiculous things Stevenson says and gets away with. But critique it for what it is.

He competed. He lost. He wasn't the best player on the court. But that's basketball. That's the basic story of basketball, of sports, of every game. You compete. Someone wins. Someone loses. But I have trouble with the fact that many people treat it like some moral failing. They treat it like some transgression, and whip out the machetes.

It is what it is. He wasn't good enough this series. In the future? Maybe he will be, maybe he won't. But that's the game. That's why you tune in the next year. For a new story, with a new ending (or maybe an old one).

The transformation of perception by culture is interesting here. What stories are being allowed here? What stories are being sold? Why is LeBron's failure more important than Dirk's success?

Why does the silliness of The Decision mean more to people, when it comes to winning and losing, than, say, a rape charge? To me, that says something really interesting about the culture we live in.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

I've seen this happen to a lot of actors. You spend a long time dreaming of making it big. No one warns people of the perils of making it. Losing your sense of who you are is the biggest pitfall. When everyone around you is telling you that you're wonderful, it's easy to forget the most important thing:
Yes, you are wonderful and you always were wonderful, but SO ARE your fellow humans. And they deserve your respect and good behavior.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Anonymous

The comparison between basketball and the Iliad was, obviously, a metaphor, and not a comparison of importance.

And perspective is just what I would like, and what I think is so lacking. I think the media (both formal and social) skews perspective for its own need, its own hunger to create stories. And what our culture seems to love, more than anything right now, is the story of failure. Perspective, thus, is warped in that direction.

James Scott Bell said...

I don't know, Bryan. "To whom much is given, much will be expected." The fact that he is so good increases his responsibility (to himself, mostly).

Yes, perspective is a good thing. But the reason people don't talk about DeShawn Stevenson is...who the hell is DeShawn Stevenson?

I think LeBron got "caught up" in things, and perhaps listened to the wrong people. I don't know. But as I said at the outset, "class" is a thing that must be taught and learned. Dirk showed class throughout. LeBron didn't. There's something in that, and I think that's what fuels the commentary.

I think LeBron could turn this around.

A) do not bump your gums, ever, about a championship. Even after you win one (or six, or seven).

B) become a 4th quarter killer like MJ or Kobe.

We love a good comeback story. This could be one.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Hektor

I agree, the metaphor is imperfect.

LeBron is flawed. But, then, so is everybody else. So why have people turned on this particular Hector so hard?

I think we like our heroes perfect (though they never are), but as soon as we find a chink in their armour we try to bring them down. This isn't just for sports. Why are a priest's wrongs more noteworthy than an accountant's? I think it's about expectation. And I think our culture has a problem with creating unrealistic expectations. And these expectations are our fault, not the fault (usually) of the people we place them on. LeBron's great sin, it seems, is that he did not play like the greatest player to ever play the game. But why should he?

It seems silly. Why not appreciate him for what he is, rather than what we unrealistically expect him to be?

And I don't think Wade is getting to be a Hector anymore, nor is Bosh. Because a story is to be sold, here, a story of failure. LeBron gets the lion's share, but Wade and Bosh are getting their share, too. Because that's what we want, it seems. We want Troy to fall. It's a better story that way, no matter the human carnage along the way.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ James

I agree, but only to a certain point. Because I think people let DeShawn Stevenson be DeShawn Stevenson, while they won't let LeBron be LeBron. They create a fictitious figure that better suits the stories they want to sell.

And I agree, it can be turned around. People are fickle. Comeback stories are interesting. But as soon as he's back on top they'll start looking to drag him down again, I'm guessing. It worked once...

Hektor Karl said...

@ Bryan

Well, LeBron has the best selling jersey in the league. Wade is sixth. And every sportsbook had the Heat as significant favorites. So the bandwagoning goes both ways.

Sporting events are more interesting when people feel invested in the outcome.

Unless LeBron's endorsements have gone way done (which I haven't heard), it seems that the impact hasn't been overly personal.

(And all non-Lakers fans I know dislike Kobe WAY more than they've ever disliked LeBron.)

"Why not appreciate him for what he is, rather than what we unrealistically expect him to be?"

The expectations might be unfair -- but we've also seen him be that good.

He also named his goals as being a global icon and the first billionaire athlete -- so he helped build the expectation.

(FWIW, I like LeBron and Wade, though I was rooting for the Mavs. It's more fun to cheer for the underdog.)

Bane of Anubis said...

Bryan, you know why people dwell on him so much, it's because they wanted to love him, wanted him to be an icon (which is why the focus is on him losing, not Dirk winning). Then he screwed up in one form or another, and in typical Barry Bonds/Mark McGwire fashion, acted like he didn't do anything wrong. Sure, his transgressions were minor, and solely on a perception level, which in some ways only makes it worse.

It's easy to fake humility when things are going well. Humility is not saying something along the lines of "Fuck all you haters, your lives suck. Mine doesn't." (as James did in so many words after game 6)

Lebron was never a good guy. Never someone who understood humility (though he may have pandered to it). It's a nice lot in life. Sure, he's no more of an assclown than Stevenson or 90% of athletes, but he's juggling a lot bigger balls.

And the whole charity thing... launch a clothing line, or your own cartoon... don't be stupid. Don't blame stupid on your underlings. Own up.

On a side note, I've never liked the idea of sports figures as heroes or role models, unless you're talking about the Pat Tillman's of the world.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Marry a Kardashian and "double-up" your own hype!

Haste yee back ;-)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Hektor

Do you think LeBron's signed new advertizing deals in the last year? I sort of doubt it. I haven't seen many advertizements even from his old sponsors (not that I particularly care whether he makes a few million more or not... he aint' hurting financially either way.

And while lots of people don't like Kobe, well, lots of them never liked Kobe. And I remember no real character commentary either way when he won or lost in the last five years, and certainly nothing close to what LeBron is going through. Of course, I think we sometimes like to shy away from real issues, and maybe because this issue (The Decision) is sort of silly it's easy for everyone to vent about.

I think, for me, I just care about good basketball. And so I dislike basketball commentary being corrupted by media story-making (particularly when it engages in the ridiculous).

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Bane

No, I'm not for athletes as role models (at least not in any general sense). In fact, I think our culture has a huge problem with celebrity in general, in terms of what it means and what it influences.

I think that's what I want, as part of a clear perspective. It's just basketball. It's not a great moral play, and the muckraking is usually pointless, and usually inaccurate.

It's just basketball. Two really good teams fought for the title. One team won. It's just basketball.

The problem, I think, is that this is almost impossible now in our culture of magnification. The real story is not enough. We have to fabricate a morality play out of every scenario (well, almost every scenario). I think that's why everyone disliked the Spurs, pre-Longorria: no stories.

And I agree, I think LeBron's biggest fault is that he hasn't really owned up to his minor faults (though I do think, in the scheme of things, the faults are pretty minor).

Hektor Karl said...


"for me, I just care about good basketball."

I agree on this point.

I think where we differ is that I haven't seen the basketball conversation as being totally dominated by LeBron character assassination.

In my circles, praise of Dirk, Terry and Carlisle has been as prevalent as criticism of LeBron. (My blog post the day after was on Dirk, not LeBron.)

In non-basketball media, there's been less focus on the basketball -- but that's because it's non-basketball-focused media.

LeBron didn't have to take the Jordan path to global icon if he didn't want the scrutiny. He could have quietly gone about his business like Tim Duncan.

Of course, controversy sells, and the superstars that are just about basketball make half as much money. LeBron has been pretty vocal about wanting that status, considering himself a business, etc.

Maybe he didn't know he was making a deal with the devil. But he probably should have.

Hollister Ann Grant said...

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Hektor

I certainly think LeBron's choices have led, to some extent, to the scrutiny, but I do think we can choose how we make the evaluation.

And I have seen very little praise of Dirk and Co., at least not in any central way. Most of the lead stories and commentary I've seen have been about LeBron (and the Big Three). Sometimes, in the middle, it's sort of like "Hey, Dirk and the Mavs were pretty good" and then it was back to the LeBron Saga.

Which we'll probably have to hear about all summer.

Maybe the Tour de France will distract me. Crazy guys riding bicycles up mountains is always entertaining.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

(I mean, I'm a Raptors fan, of all things, and have no real reason to love Bosh and the Heat. But the illogic of the endless abuse almost makes me cheer for Miami -- sort of an irrational attempt to even the scales)

Joe Romel said...

Yes, if he had simply told the press that he was going to Miami via his agent, or some other innocuous means, the backlash would have been minimized. There's every chance the media would have still focused on Cleveland's reaction as a city, and that might have served to make him the villain to some degree no matter what, but forgoing the bold talk and the party and "The Decision" would have been better for PR.

Carmello asked out of Denver, KG asked out of Minnesota, Karl Malone asked out of Utah, and they were all celebrated for wanting to go somewhere they could win a title. In KG's case, he was roundly criticized for not asking out of Minnesota earlier, so this hatred for LeBron leaving for Miami is a double standard. But again, as we all know, the bad feelings are rooted in the media circus he created around it.

But for as bad as it is today, public opinion is fickle, and we've shunned personalities only to embrace them later. Kobe Bryant was the black sheep of the league for a couple of years--both for his ruination of the Lakers post-Shaq and, more appropriately, for the accusations of rape levied against him--and today he's once again a bankable brand.

We may very well take LeBron back into the fold. A couple more playoff exits without the title, and he could even become a sympathetic figure again. But it begins with him.

He needs to become LeBoring. No more soundbites, no more faux pontificating on the podium after a win, no more excuse-making after a loss, no more answering the baiting questions from the press. It has to begin there, or else I don't know what's going to help him.

Hektor Karl said...


"the illogic of the endless abuse almost makes me cheer for Miami"

My dad rooted for the Heat for this very reason, so I have a lot of sympathy for that view.

"I have seen very little praise of Dirk and Co., at least not in any central way."

I thought the hero worship of Dirk (and even what's left of Jason Kidd) was fairly high, but I guess we just perceived things differently.

Also, the Heat were pretty clearly the better team. The Vegas odds for next season are out, and the Heat are again favored to win the title (5 to 2). (The Mavs are down at like 10 to 1.)

The Mavs wouldn't have been able to beat the Heat at their best, so I think that is shaping the narrative a bit. It was the Heat's series to lose.

"Which we'll probably have to hear about all summer."

I think you're right about this. Though the lockout will also get a lot of press. The Knicks, Lakers or Celtics might also grab attention if they make a major move. Poor Chris Bosh is going to be in every other trade rumor.

"Most of the lead stories and commentary I've seen have been about LeBron (and the Big Three)"

Perhaps Nathan's post tomorrow can be "Who is Rick Carlisle?" But I'm guessing that would get fewer hits :).

Lucinda Bilya said...

The only encounter of the Lebron type was at the Waffle House. He came in with his lady-friend and her baby and I served them breakfast. Before he left, he bought some stranger their breakfast and gave them an authograph. He seemed very quiet and polite.

Opinions? Okay...I think that no matter how timid a person may be, given enough razzing and tazzing by the media, so-called "fans," and public exposure...a person usually changes, adapts, or breaks.

I don't follow sports, but people fascinate me.

Patrick Neylan said...

Fascinatingly parochial, like reading about Indonesian volleyball.

I can't wait to hear your take on Samir Nasri joining Manchester United (if it happens).

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

@ Hektor

I'm fond of your Dad already.

And it's funny, I thought Dallas was always the better team. The Miami Heat is three players and a gimpy, out of shape Udonis Haslem. It's by far the most flawed "great team" I've ever seen. They have no point guard, and their starting center is the worst offensive player in the league. And he's a fellow Canuck, so I feel bad saying that, but it's true.

Every player on Dallas came out and made plays, even guys who'd barely played in three months. I think the series was about whether a really good team could beat three great players. They could.

Miami was a crapshoot all season, and Vegas has always liked big names. There will probably be a Big Three Cabaret there this summer... roll the dice and win free tickets!

Funnily enough, the only real reason that Miami beat Boston and Chicago, outside solid defense, was that LeBron went crazy in the clutch. Play either of those teams again and it could easily come out the other way (and, frankly, a healthy Boston would have been a better team).

Bethany Robison said...

The interesting thing to watch in the LeBron narrative will be if he makes the switch from hero to villain and back to sympathetic character again. This wouldn't surprise me at all.

The only thing Americans might like better than an underdog story is a redemption story. We want him to be better, in every respect.

brianw said...

I played basketball at the university of Akron when lebron was in high school and I played with him many times in an open gym format. I also know most of his good friends (dru Joyce, Romeo Travis, and cousin/manager maverick Carter). I knew lebron when he was 16 through 18 but I do not know him now.

In my opinion lebron was a very nice, polite, funny, and cool high school junior and senior. I saw him in Vegas a year after he went pro and he greeted me like an old friend. He was competitive and friendly at the same time, which is no easy feat. Most of all he was a freak of nature-bigger, stronger, and better than D-1 athletes when he was 16 years old.

I think he just simply had too much thrown at him too fast. He was given the opportunity to design his high school uniforms at st. Vincent st. Mary's and he was give. A loan on a hummer with the collateral being his athletic talent. He signed a contract with Nike for 100 million before he ever played a single game. He was called the chosen one and expected to save an entire region of the country from their misery. Could you handle all that as a high school senior?

Since he was 14 he he never knew if anyone really wanted to be his friend. He has been used for his money, his fame.

All that being said, he picked the wrong people to represent him. He surrounded himself with yes men. He didn't keep a single person in his inner circle who ever told him no.

I think Nathan is right. I think lebron has no idea who he is. Jordan and Kobe were a-holes who really didnt care about anything but winning. Kobe may or may not have raped a woman, yet he is forgiven because he's good in the fourth quarter? Has lebron broken the law? Did he ever lunch a teammate in practice?

Maybe he's not as good as we want him to be. Maybe he's missing something that Jordan had. Maybe he's still overwhelmed by south so fast. Can you honestly say you wouldn't be the same way?

I didn't start this post to defend lebron but I knew him when he was just a kid. And I liked him. So did everyone else I knew. It makes me sad that I don't anymore.

brianw said...

Sorry for the misprints above. I'm on my phone in the airport.

Matty McFatty said...


Been reading the blog for a few years, although I rarely comment. Fantastic post on LeBron today; you could give Bill Simmons a run for his money.

I couldn't help comparing your account of LeBron to your post about how authors respond to critics a few months back. Both demonstrate the acute need for grace on the part of the critic and the critiqued alike (even if the critiqued is a billion dollar athlete or a broke self-published author).


Rebecca H said...

Wow. I'm not a fan of the NBA, but this post was riveting - which is an indication of great writing.

llwroberts said...

I do think LeBron James is the best basketball player today -- but as James Scott Bell said, he has no class.

Perhaps a healthy dose of humility would go a long way towards teaching him something that can't be learned on the basketball court. The question is, is he listening?

LLinTexas said...


lb james is a dumb A## with a limited IQ. At 26 he looks OLDER than ANY of the Dallas MAVs.

The MAV's deserved this one for their hard work, devotion to one another and their LOVE for the GAME of basketball and not fame.

Teamwork was the key. And Pride.

I at least appreciated lbjame's subdued concession that Dallas played the better series. Let's hope that he matures and finds a way to be a great role model for the kids that adore him. He is an awesome BB player, no one can deny that. Let's hope his future choices are 'Enduringly Precise'.

It was a long road thru the finals and I confess I'm a lifelong Dallas fan - female at that.

Go Mav's! Texas is so proud YOU.


James Harden said...

Hey Nathan, can you please start up another blog that's just about basketball. Thank you.

Also, I'm pretty sure there's a job for you over at if you want one.

Jonathan Dalar said...

I asked LeBron James for change for a dollar the other day. He only gave me 75 cents. He didn't have a fourth quarter.

It was LeBron James day in Dallas yesterday. Everyone was encouraged to take the last twelve minutes of the day off.

Why didn't LeBron James go to college? He couldn't show up for the finals.

Moses Siregar III said...

Great post, Nathan. I really enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

(Note: It seems the process for logging in here has become more convoluted - rather than fill out another internet form, I'll just post this as Anon)

5 things:

1) LeBron's numbers are no better than Larry Bird's career averages

2) While he's possibly the best all-around player in the league atm, he barely qualifies as a great player in historical context.

3) Michael Jordan didn't get a gift-wrapped Scottie Pippen - like everyone he played with, Jordan ELEVATED Pippen to what he became.

4) I agree with Harden's sentiments above, you could write a great column for or ESPN...but the last thing the world needs is more analysis of LeBron James. That being said, yours was the most insightful and unique piece I've read about him in the past few weeks.

and as for LeBron himself,
5) How vain it is to declare oneself king without ever coming close to the crown.

Phil Clements said...

Nathan, your argument relies on a false premise: "We [modern humans] have all become masters at boring through the false and pinpointing what is real."

Modern Americans are hardly masters of critical thinking. The vast majority are masters of blind obedience.

The success of Fox News, "A Million Little Pieces", and Harold Camping demonstrate this fabulously.

SuzRocks said...

As a general rule, I could care less about sports. That being said, I was intrigued by this- and actually read the whole thing. So much so, that I decided to de-lurk and leave a comment.

The quote by Franzen was great- needs to be on a wall somewhere.

Anonymous said...

By FAR one of the most INTELLIGENT, HONEST, and INSIGHTFUL blog posts I've read in about a year.

Nathan, you've always amazed with your ability to avoid group-think and the mob mentality.

But this might be the home run of your blogging career.

All the people who've dedicated themselves to hating a well-meaning 26 year old who makes some bad choices will ignore what you've said.

But to all those who know how to actually CONSIDER OTHER POINTS OF VIEW, your article demands respect.

And you have it from me.

Oh, and I hope LeBron and the Heat win 3 titles in a row just to for kicks.


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