Monday, August 20, 2012

Lebron vs. The World

One thing I hate about talk radio is the lack of originality. Granted, listening to sports talk radio for roughly six to eight hours daily probably isn't recommended if you are looking for fresh takes, but neither is jumping from desk to desk terrorizing your coworkers' cubicles with Dust-Off and jar of used staples, so I do what I have to in order to keep my sanity. So, I hate when I rehash topics that have been discussed ad nauseam, but today, I have to. It's been eating at me, causing me restless nights of sleep and days of loneliness and disconnect(not really), and I have to let it out. No, I don't have Bieber fever. I'm not secretly in love with Nickleback. This might be even worse....

I want to like Lebron James.

Seriously. I do.

Please withhold your shaming of me until I have a chance to explain.

Hating Lebron has become en vogue, much like the short-lived Kony 2012 movement or making a Kardashian joke, as if he was some modern day Benedict Arnold, turning his back on his native land to go skipping off into France with baskets of wine and cheese. We all have our reasons for the perceived "hate", and all in all, most of them are at least defensible. We hate that he stabbed Cleveland on national TV, that he chose the road less taken, or less manly, or easier, depending on who you talk to, by teaming up with a "rival" in Dwayne Wade. We despise the fact that he controls his own destiny so fully, that he has such freedom and can essentially do whatever it is he wants, while the majority of us are constrained by money, family, career, or various other influences. The honest truth? Dude is practically spotless. Outside of his mother (and let's be honest here, almost everyone has been embarassed by their mother at some point) causing minor drama with a valet, and a Delonte (see what I did there?), Lebron has done nothing that a typical citizen would define as offensive. In fact, outside of an incredibly stupid pep rally, where, defensibly, LBJ got caught up in a moment and made a statement that was incredibly dumb, insulting, and possibly motivating, a few rogue quotes, and a badly publicized birthday party, he's been a beacon of positive examples. (You could even argue that the "Not One, Not Two," debacle should be on management, seeing that they were the ones to organize it, thinking only of capitalizing financially on "The Decision". I'm appalled that no one thought throwing this party would result in people throwing anything they can get their hands on at you every time you leave your home state, cursing, and outright hating your team. This is common sense 101 for 75% of the population. I'm just sayin.)

His play alone should be enough to have quieted any critics. Like anyone, LBJ is not perfect, despite his recent Herculean play in both the NBA Finals and the Olympics, and though the antagonism against the King has died down considerably with his recent title triumph, there still remains a huge part of his legacy that is yet to be made, and with every missed shot, missed opportunity and season without another ring, the door will once again be opened to drink the Lebron Haterade and criticize the greatest player of the current generation.

He does a ton of good things off the court, as well, most of which I'll skip for lack of my time and your attention. His teammates rave about what a great guy he is, and rarely do you catch such a scrutinized superstar on a bad day, or see him overreact to the massive herd of media that covers his seemingly every move. That alone might be more impressive than his on-court game, until you watch him run a fast break.

All of the above reasons make me want to like Lebron.

Simply, we've never seen an athlete of his caliber, magnitude, or ability. I have zero doubt that he could start today for every team in the NFL. Can you picture him as a defender or an attack in Soccer? Messi who? Rugby, Tennis, Volleyball, hell, practically every team sport save Hockey and possibly Baseball (unless he's hiding some skills there, which I would find completely possible) would reap benefits from him taking his talents there.

I'm sure you get my point.

People in life are going to believe what they want to believe, sometimes despite being presented with evidence that often presents a story quite to the contrary. When I write about basketball, I typically write from the perspective of a Jazz fan, and my loyalties will likely always lie there, but I'm not so blinded by adoration that I don't appreciate greatness. I've seen his games, watched him dominate, heard the quotes, seen the proof. Lebron James may end up the greatest player of all time, but though I've tried my hardest to embrace the man, I can't in good conscious say that I will ever support him, outside of the fairy tale ending of him finishing his career in the valley of salt and granite. My heroes are guys who fight their guts out, shed tears when they lose, fight the uphill battle, and know that with great power comes great responsibility. Lebron has a gift unlike any we've seen in generations, a transcendent talent that we are lucky to be able to witness, but at the end of the day, we're all just pawns in the Lebron show, patrons in the audience as he writes, directs, and stars in the play of his life. I won't say that James has been wholly selfish, but the way he operates has always been about him, and rarely anyone else. His style of play(wanting to distribute as opposed to taking over games), the move to Miami, seeking help from Wade and Bosh, the commercial he made in retaliation to the Decision backlash, playing "the Villain" (the one thing he's probably ever done poorly), all of it rotates around what Lebron wants. At the end of the day, that is something I just can't overcome. Not when it comes to a guy I idolize.

Greatness can be defined in multiple definitions, the most common of those being a feat that surpasses all others similar to it. Howver, greatness for me is personally defined by doing the thing that sometimes is the hardest, and giving the most of yourself for the benefit of others, and figuring out how best to share your talents with the world. I will never blame Lebron James for wanting to do things his way, we all have days and moments where we think that will be great, but I can't currently stand behind a player who had so much potential to change so much, from the way people view athletes, to his influence over a community, or how his play was relocating the axis of professional basketball to Ohio, even, and chose to do what he wanted over it all. More power to him. He doesn't need my support, nor that of the many others who feel the same as I do.

There are millions of small-market, underdog kids however, that could have used his.