With the 2010-11 NBA season wrapped up and with the 2011-12 season in danger as a lockout looms, we have some time to look back and analyze the undeniable significance of the impact that LeBron James had on not only this past season, but the future of the sport as a whole. We all knew that when James joined the league as a rookie, heralded at an almost unprecedented level, he was going to be a living spectacle. Maybe the purists had a better idea, but as an admitted Johnny-come-lately type of fan (read: last 10 years), I didn’t really expect what has become of this man who calls himself the “Chosen One” and “King”.
What James has shown us over the last year is that he’s a magician. Better yet, he’s an illusionist, Michael. He directs our attention to the stage – in this case the basketball court – and makes us focus on his play, and he tells us to keep watching because soon we’ll see the payoff, which is the NBA Championship that he desperately craves. But if you look away from the focal point for just a second, you’ll see his stagehands and assistants pulling strings, spinning mirrors and blowing smoke, because his actual goal is to be the biggest brand in the world.
That was the problem for James this season – too many of us looked away from the court. We saw “The Decision”, the commercials, the VIP birthday parties, and everything else that came with the Barnum & Bailey parade, and we started walking away because it was too big for us. Maybe James’ timing was wrong, with a poor economy making people shy away from the golden gods they’d once revered. After all, James said it best when he pointed out that we’re all back to dealing with our problems while he’s living the life of luxury. Perhaps we have 99 problems, and LeBron James’ championship quest isn’t one anymore.
James will win a NBA Championship before his career is over, probably more than one, and the millions of people who have been cheering against him will lose this euphoric buzz that they’ve enjoyed since the Dallas Mavericks defeated James’ Miami Heat on Sunday. But even as I admitted and ranted my hatred of James yesterday, I want the guy to win a title. I want him to win many titles. Because deep down in my soul, as a basketball fan, I want him to do it right and I want him to fulfill the promise that was made the day he was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. You know, except for that whole winning in Cleveland part.
As I assume James reads this site, like every professional athlete does and should, I’d like to help him, by giving him this personal letter of advice and inspiration.