By the end of the 2012-13 NBA campaign, the "Curse of Madden" may very well be joined by the "Curse of Marvel."
For the first time in nearly a decade, LeBron James wasn't the center of almost unfathomable and downright excruciating championship-related attention; life for King James was good, as pressure-free as it's ever been.
James is fresh off his first championship campaign, so naturally it makes perfect sense for ESPN The Magazine and Marvel Comics to team up and create a LeBron: King of the Rings comic.
The issue doesn't hit stands until October 19th, but the preview comes complete with a cover photo and plot description:
TWO YEARS AGO, LeBron James predicted he would win not one, not two, not three ... but seven NBA titles. What if he was right? ESPN the Mag and Marvel Comics have united to create LeBron: King of the Rings, an epic tale of zombies, clones, holograms, bionics and a star who will stop at nothing to fulfill his promise.
Intriguing? Definitely. Unique? Completely. Detrimental to James' pursuit of a second championship ring? Absolutely.
Let's ignore for a moment that, at this point, LeBron, at most can be considered "King of a Ring" and focus on the unnecessary pressure this now puts on him.
No one will ever forget James' promise of epic proportions, but after finally yanking the championship-monkey off his back, "not one, not two, not three..." seemed like a distant memory. Because it was.
Now, though, this "project" has once again brought it to light, once again placed the weight of eight-titles worth of prominence on James' shoulders.
Am I overreacting?
I answer that question with another question: Did LeBron win an NBA title after he first made such hefty promise?
No and no. While we can attribute the Heat's failure to win a championship in 2011 to chemistry issues and an overall lack of execution, we must also acknowledge how this very promise went on to plague Miami for an entire season.
When the Heat lost, James and Dwyane Wade weren't a suitable duo. When LeBron missed a shot in the latter half of a game, he was a choke-artist. And when Miami fell to Dallas in the Finals, King James was destined to finish his career ringless.
Then came 2012, which saw James claim an NBA title, league and Finals MVP and even an Olympics Gold Medal. Was his predication from 2010 still a prevalent reality? To some extent, but he had captured the very accomplishment that eluded him for nearly a decade—a championship.
Would he go on to win eight titles? Was there even still time for him to match Michael Jordan's total of six or Kobe Bryant's five? Maybe, maybe not, but it didn't matter, not as much as it once did. James was the real deal, a perennial star who we could now judge by not just his statistical dominance and athletic prowess, but tangible achievements as well.
Which is why this comic book is such a hindrance to his quest for more. It not only predicts that he'll win at least seven, but implies it will take him another 15 years to do so:
There are three seconds left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2030, and LeBron's Akron team is down by one. LeBron, now 45 years old, is trying to win his eighth NBA title and playing in what will be the final game of his career. He's triple-teamed when a teammate cuts to the basket. Shoot the ball? Pass to his teammate?
Now, perhaps we can take solace, and even find humor in such an obnoxious hyperbole. But perhaps we could also acknowledge this serves an unnecessary attention-grabber.
Why must we already be focusing on the rings that follow LeBron's second one, a ring that he isn't even guaranteed to obtain? Why can we not spend our energy on James' title defense, instead of what the distant future may or may not hold? Why can't we, and LeBron, move on from this prediction?
Not unlike a bad penny, this hypothesis keeps coming back. It has become an omnipresent roadblock that will never allow James to meet or exceed expectations, only fall short of them.
And after claiming his first title, that's a shame. Finally, it seemed James, the media and the basketball world in general was prepared to look past 2010 and perhaps adjust the unrealistic bar LeBron not-so-shrewdly set for himself.
But, just like James' prediction when he signed with the Heat, this most recent spin in his championship saga has done nothing more than make the worst of what should be a favorable situation.