Full Court Press: Inside the Complexities of the LeBron Saga

This is ridiculous.

That’s what I said a week ago while I was doing a running commentary of LeBron’s narcissistic, self-indulgent, completely unnecessary television special.  I barely had time to react to the decision, with a deadline to meet and a mass of thoughts in my head.  Naively, I figured LeBron would make his decision and all the fuss would be over.

I was dead wrong.  Since then we’ve been plunged into an insane saga of anger, opulence, harsh words and drama.  And all sides of the debate have to stand back and reevaluate where they stand.  This is too dramatic.  It’s too unsightly.  It’s all too much.

So, I figured I’d take a moment to examine all involved parties in this ridiculous LeBron apocalypse.

LeBron

I cannot believe what he did last Thursday.  He took what could have been a simple announcement and made it an hour long special.  Then he tried cover up his vanity by making his special some humanitarian effort for the Boys and Girls Club.  Nice try, but absolutely nobody bought it.  The fact that he couldn’t even own up to his self adulation shows how immature he is.

That said, I think the anti-LeBron discussion has been blown way out of proportion.  I’ve heard him compared to tarnished stars like A-Rod and Tiger.  This is just false.  LeBron did not betray his wife and family or break the rules to get ahead.  He’s not a creep, he’s not a cheater, he’s not a traitor.

Here’s what he is: a fraud.  For the past few years, he led us to believe he was a man, when he’s actually a child.  He led us to believe he was a galvanizing teammate who breaks his back for his team, when he’s actually more interested in everybody watching him.  He’s not at all what we thought he was.

But now the truth is out.  LeBron is not a man, he’s a boy.  And his decision to run that special was the most self-indulgent, narcissistic action I’ve seen from an athlete.  He wasn’t trying to be malicious to the Cavs.  He’s just too immature and too in love with himself to realize how much of a jerk he was being.  And we can never forget that.  Nobody should look up to LeBron.  Rather, until he finally grows up, we should look down on him.

Furthermore, LeBron’s obliviousness to the anger from the Cavs is astounding.  He seems to think that Cavs fans should be grateful that he gave them seven years of his career.  Sure, they were so damn lucky to have LeBron grace them with his presence, even though he didn’t deliver them a title, he only helped prolong their legacy of losing.  He came to them an eighteen year old kid, played hard for seven years, and emerged from it a kid.  Unbelievable how he’s still so immature.

Dan Gilbert

Gilbert’s now much publicized open letter about LeBron was classless and unnecessary.  It is bad for several reasons.  For starters, he now looks like an obnoxious corporate giant who isn’t used to being told no.  Gilbert acted as if LeBron has no right to leave the Cavs, even though it was his decision.  He’s drawn the ire of thousands, and even prompted Jesse Jackson to accuse Gilbert of having “a slave-owner mentality.”  With one extended statement, he took a massive ordeal and made it at least twice as large.

But that’s not even the point.  There are several who agree with Gilbert’s words, so clearly it’s subjective.  But Gilbert’s letter also is damaging to the organization.  First of all, his words show just how hopeless the Cavs are without LeBron.  His words admit that Cleveland has absolutely no backup plan, as if they figured LeBron would have to stay with them just because he had some sort of debt to them.

Gilbert and the Cavs certainly supported LeBron as he blossomed into a star, and there’s plenty to be said for that.  But they also made lame efforts to keep him, such as the insufficient Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison acquisitions and the utterly idiotic Shaq trade.  Next time Gilbert and the Cavs try to keep the most talented basketball player in the world, they should consider convincing him with savvy signings and trades, not with some sort of obligation to his home.  LeBron’s a business and a brand.  And he has the right to seek greener pastures if he thinks it will benefit those two factors.  You screwed up, Gilbert.  Skewering LeBron only makes you, and the Cavs, look worse.

The Fans

I think Cavs fans have plenty to be upset about.  Intentionally or not, LeBron basically dangled his Heat contract in front of them for an hour on Thursday.  If I were a Cavs fan, I would be frustrated and upset.  But enough is enough.

I’ve read statements from Cavs fans saying they have nothing left.  Considering the millions of people in the world who literally have nothing, even food, water and clothes, I’d say that’s short sighted.  Honestly, the desperation of Cavs fans may be part of why he left.  The trendy, more fair-weather Heat fans suit LeBron terrifically.  It’s not the fans’ fault LeBron left.  But sooner or later, they have to move on, and not act like their lives are over.

Furthermore, the possessiveness of LeBron is remarkable.  He’s a man, not an object for their amusement.  And they can call him immature, narcissistic and self-serving all they want.  But calling him a traitor of some kind is ridiculous.  LeBron did not owe it to the fans to stay in Cleveland.  It’s a simple fact.

Regrettably, the LeBron saga is another supporting source in a sad argument: athletes care about fans infinitely less than fans care about athletes.  Cavs fans would have taken a bullet for LeBron.  They defended him no matter what he did, how his team failed, whatever laws he broke (I’m referring to his speeding record).  And LeBron does not love them the way they love him.  Because, honestly, the relationship between fans and athletes is not a marriage, as some say.  Rather, we fans are the average guy who stare longingly at the girl next door, who just doesn’t like him in that way.  Inevitably, they break our hearts.  But it’s beyond our will-power to avoid falling in love again.

I’m so sorry Cavs fans.  I hope someday you do find that perfect suitor.  Sadly, you’ve spent the last seven years pouring all your devotion into an immature narcissist, and now he’s left you in a classless way.  It happens to everybody.

Us

We’re an integral part of this whole saga.  Everybody argues that LeBron should be more loyal, that LeBron should care about his legacy, that LeBron is never going to be as good as Michael Jordan.  But who said LeBron wanted to be Jordan?

Jordan was a transcendent player and a winner.  But that’s not what LeBron wants to be.  He wants to be bigger than Jordan was on a global, corporate level.  He may want to win championships, but he doesn’t care whether he’s the undisputed top dog.  Moving to Miami was the biggest possible move from a publicity standpoint; just look at how much time has been spent discussing and dissecting the Heat’s every move.  LeBron James has placed himself firmly in the spotlight.

The fact of the matter is that we set standards for the path LeBron should’ve followed, not him.  And we can be disappointed in his narcissism, but not in the fact that he didn’t “follow MJ’s path.”  It wasn’t our decision to make for LeBron.  He has to blaze his trail.  When all is said and done, when he’s retired, we can talk about how he didn’t meet his potential.  But he won’t care.  He’ll still have the most money.  He’ll still have the most fame.  He’ll probably buy a team when everything is said and done.

But our blame runs deeper than how we discuss him now.  Like it or not, every adoring fan and writer and broadcaster and commentator who lauded LeBron made this spectacle a reality.  We gave him a moniker, “King James,” and crowned him lord of the NBA even though he didn’t even win a finals game, much less a title.  We hailed his dunks and blocks and unbelievable.  And we, even myself, blamed everybody but him when things went sour for the Cavs.

For me, last Thursday was a revelation.  For seven years, no, ten years, we’ve been feed this kid’s ego, making him larger than life, making him a king he wasn’t worthy of becoming.  He earned too much adulation too fast, and now he feels infallible.  That’s why “The Decision” happened.  His narcissism and his ego is massive and unchecked.  Who do you think would say to LeBron, “maybe you shouldn’t rub your decision in Cleveland’s face on national television”?  Absolutely nobody.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve created a monster.  A basketball dribbling, money toting, fame seeking monster.  And with all the fuss he’s created in Miami, LeBron will only grow bigger.  It will only get more spectacular, for better or for worse.

Welcome to LeBron’s world.  Time of Departure:  Nobody knows.

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