Like many around the globe, I've been fascinated by the premature legend of LeBron James and even more stunned by his ongoing realization of it. The kid was anointed the Next Big Thing when he was, what, a sophomore in high school?
Possibly a junior?
That means King James was a prince at the age of 14 or 15 and was bequeathed the keys to the throne room about the same time he got the keys to an automobile. That's a considerable burden of potential and expectation to carry around at such a young age, but James has—to this point—delivered at every step of his maturation.
However, we might be seeing the openings of a few cracks in his flawless public persona.
First, there was the ugly-yet-understandable episode after the Orlando Magic sent James' Cleveland Cavaliers home for the summer from the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. That night, we were all witnesses to LeBron's insolent display of poor sportsmanship.
The Chosen One stalked off the court, refusing to shake the victor's hand.
Ultimately, the scene could be dismissed as a momentary blip on the radar of a feverish competitor and born winner. You must learn to lose with dignity just as you must learn to win with it and it's entirely understandable that a beast like LeBron James would learn the latter well-before the former.
Then came the posterizing of James at his own camp and subsequent confiscation of its evidence. Initial reports were that Nike order seizure of the tape, but eventually rumors surfaced that it was King James, himself, who lay down the kibosh.
Strike two on the intolerable ego front—what professional basketball player hasn't been dunked on at some point? For that matter, what college player hasn't?
Furthermore, it was a freakin' summer camp! Only someone who fancies himself really special would feel the need to spasm into damage control over something so trivial. Dear me...
Now there's this over-before-it-started crusade to get Michael Jordan's No. 23 retired across the National Basketball Association a la Jackie Robinson's No. 42 in Major League Baseball.
If you want to read a genuine Sherman-through-the-South assault on James' stunt, check this outstanding work by FOX Sports' Kevin Hench. I'm not sure I agree with all of Hench's observations, but he raises more than a couple scathing points (like the bit about retiring MJ's number while switching to Bill Russell's No. 6).
Regardless, I don't think you need to go to such extrapolations to see trouble brewing in LeBron James' world.
From his own lips: "I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I'm starting a petition, and I've got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23 , then nobody else should be able to wear it." [Emphasis added]
Whoa, whoa, whoa—is the NBA supposed to retire Michael Jordan's number because of how great the man who wore the jersey was? Or because of how great the guy suggesting its retirement is?
Is this about His Airness or His Heirness?
Perhaps it was a simple slip of the tongue by a still-maturing 24-year-old youngster. Maybe it was an awkward, but innocuous manifestation of James' necessarily strong self-confidence. Maybe it was merely poor execution of a noble tribute.
Or maybe it was strike three.
Given the last six months or so as well as the regal aura that's always permeated LeBron James' immediate vicinity, I'd say there's reason to worry. The man's always had a healthy opinion of himself—no doubt about it. But this could be something different.
The Association's premiere young talent may be developing its most insufferable ego.
And nobody wants to see that.