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LeBron, You Really Should Have Studied More

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LeBron, You Really Should Have Studied More
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

So, LeBron, you got dunked on.  So you got dunked on by a kid from Xavier barely known to college fans.

Did you really need to act all "Big Brother" and destroy the videotape?

You've had a horrible time since the buzzer sounded on your '08-'09 season.  Immediately, you refused to shake hands with the victorious Magic, since apparently during your lifetime of sports participation no one taught you sportsmanship. 

Now you've given conflicting media reports regarding Trevor Ariza within hours of each other and confiscated a video to suppress an event with numerous witnesses.

LeBron, you've had six years to prepare for this time, of being in that small pantheon of basketball heroes whose personal merchandising and media attention outstrips that of many regions on the planet.

But yet, you know nothing.  You know nothing of the value of sportsmanship and humility towards boosting a public image, know little of how to manipulate a network that kneels before your golden shoes, and you seemingly feel entitled to being the flawless Nike poster-child, just naturally having a Jordanesque synergy of Championships and marketing prowess.

Your real-world age peers, LeBron, are 24.  Most of them have matured and realized that life isn't just handed to them.  Many of them have master's degrees, have gone through full career training, or served multiple tours in the military. 

For the average Joe and Jane, the years between 18 and 24 show a striking level of development.  Drunken, confused wrecks of humanity as fresh high school graduates turn into half-drunken, half-confused valuable citizens.  It's called "growth."

When His Airness was 24, he had just finished his third year in the league, only playing two full seasons.  In his first all-star game, his teammates refused to pass him the ball because they were envious of the attention he had received during the first half of the season. 

By 24, he had played a total of 10 playoff games and would not win an NBA title for another four years.

Could you, LeBron, even live with the thought of—gasp—not winning an NBA title until 28?  Could you handle a group of your peers rejecting you at 22 simply for being what you are?

At some point in his young career, Jordan realized it took more than mad skills and a dopey grin to become Michael Jordan.  It took a mind that understood image management was about much more than simple appearances.

Your ego, LeBron, is truly out-of-whack if you think it bigger than Jordan's, but Jordan knew how to tame the narcissist within when in public, knew how to spin it before media figures and at public appearances to his advantage. 

Self-deprecation, sarcasm, a well-placed sly smile, a quotable line that appears off-the-cuff: the tricks of world leaders like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are, in the end, no different than those of sports superstars.

LeBron, these last six years should have been a time to learn these things, to develop a pleasant media personality. 

But while many Class of '03 Johns and Janes went to college or trade school or the army and developed not only useful skills but also a manageable human personality, the Jameses apparently remain stunted as petulant 18-year-old ego-centrics.

In short, LeBron, grow up.  Manhood is about more than putting on 30 pounds of muscle.  It's also, in a curious way, about realizing your limitations and infecting your life with the humility and emotional skills necessary for public survival.

Jordan never second-guessed his godly basketball skills, but he knew not even He was big enough to suppress truth.  On the court, he may have been the alpha and omega, but off the court he was at the mercy of other gods, ones with microphones and pens.

LeBron, everyone loses.  When greats lose, they have the confidence to shake the hands of their opponents because they know that in the future meetings they will triumph with vengeance.  Jordan shook the hands of the Celtics and Pistons

Why?  Because he was mature enough to know it wasn't the end, that with hard work he would triumph.

LeBron, everyone who picks up a basketball gets shown up at some point.  If you really want to by MJ, forget about the video cameras.  Or, better yet, use them to your advantage.

Jordan would have said nothing, picked up the basketball, and school the guy who dunked on him to where he would never think of dunking on the great Michael Jordan again. 

The true greats don't have to suppress truth.  Instead, they always turn whatever reality is before them to their advantage with nothing more than the skills within their flesh.

That's how legends are born, LeBron.  That's what you might have learned in the last six years, had you studied.

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