Even though this is my first basketball-related post on this blog, in my other lives I had written many articles and blog posts on LeBron James over the past year, with special focus on his free agency.
Like many others, I never expected him to take such an easy way out and run to Miami and join what is and will still be Dwyane Wade’s team. I had expected that he would either stay in Cleveland or head for Chicago (the best place for him as a ballplayer, excluding the Clippers where he was never going) or the Knicks (the New York market and the business opportunities that presents, Madison Square Garden) or maybe even New Jersey and Mikhail Prokhorov’s billions and yacht stacked with supermodels.
When he announced he was taking his talents to South Beach (one of the more unintentionally hilarious lines of all time) I churned out the obligatory reaction posts before finally deciding to take a break from LeBron James. Until next year, I vowed to not write a single article about, relating or even referring to the Man Who Would Be King.
Until I read this article.
After my initial reaction (a combination of shock and awe at the excess of the party, and confusion that Big Baby didn't start drooling at the naked chicks) I read the article a second time and finally grasped the point.
He’s an absolutely brilliant baller, but at heart LeBron James is still a kid.
I can’t believe it took me so long to figure this out.
With all the opportunities he had on the table at free agency, LeBron took the one that all kids would have – go spend the next four-to-six years playing ball with two of his best mates in the NBA and partying all night on South Beach after. Oh, and get paid pretty well to do so. The titles they’re surely gonna win? Another nice fringe benefit.
Having watched my ten year old sister grow up, one thing I know more than anything about kids is that they have no real sense of the future. LeBron’s “Decision” showed that he doesn’t genuinely care about his legacy either. As I mentioned earlier, the Heat are and will still be Dwyane Wade’s team. I imagine he will still be the primary scoring option for the Heat with LeBron playing a Magic Johnson-type role that probably is better suited to his talents than having to consistently carry the scoring load every night.
As for the money? Same thing. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are all making less than the max contract, and while Miami is a big market the business opportunities don’t compare to what LeBron would have had at his disposal in New York or Chicago, or Mikhail Prokhorov’s global reach. So much for becoming the NBA's first billionaire athlete.
So now that we've established that LeBron is a 25 year old man-child, then comes the next question.
I'm not 25 (six years off) and I'm hardly a very mature 19. But I'm fairly sure I'm a few steps ahead of LeBron on the maturity ladder. So why hasn't he really grown up yet?
It's simple. Call it Michael Jackson Syndrome.
Everyone who knows anything about Jacko's story knows about his obsession with reclaiming the childhood he never had.
With LeBron, it's a case of having never really had an adolescence.
You gotta remember, this guy has been basically hyped as the Next Jordan since his early high school days. Guys like Shaq were coming to his games when he was in his junior year.
While all that is nice, you've gotta imagine it was hard for a kid to handle all the pressure. Not only that, but it would have to have created a certain isolation between himself and his peers. Anyone who has seen the documentary of his high school basketball years can not only see this but also see that it does upset him - that this is a guy who wants nothing more than to be able to hang out and play ball with his mates and go party after like the rest of them, but isn't able to because he's basically too good for them.
Well, now LeBron gets to live out his adolescence. South Beach is his Neverland Ranch and Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh are his Bubbles.
However, we all eventually grow up.
Which is why I'm calling it now.
It's July 2013. The Heat are coming off their second consecutive title. LeBron, Wade and Bosh have all spent the past month partying non-stop.
LeBron wakes up in his Coral Gables mansion one day and it hits him.
He's basically pissed away his legacy as a player, his chance to become the first billionaire athlete, the chance to do something few others before him could have done just to live out the adolescence he feels was taken from him.
The media are questioning how good he could have been. He's growing apart from his teammates who are feeling the pinch of adulthood themselves and wondering how far they could have gone on their own. His kids are effectively growing up without a father. He may not be the most hated player in the NBA, but the hate is being replaced by apathy. Hell, even ESPN are beginning to care less and less about him and more about the team concept.
And all just to have some fun in South Beach.
Even though I didn't really have a dog in the hunt of "The Decision" (I'm a Kings fan), I hated LeBron when he made his self-aggrandizing announcement and stabbed the city of Cleveland in the back.
Now? I just pity him. Once he realises what he's done, he's gonna feel like shit.
And there'll be no going back.