The most common barometer of sporting success lies in the ability to win.
It’s quite simple really - the ones who win are more remembered than the ones who do not.
Sometimes that might seem unfair but it’s the inherent nature of sport. The ultimate goal tends to narrow down to a solitary result – to get that elusive ‘W’.
This is precisely the reason why numerous NFL experts and fans would choose Tom Brady over Peyton Manning to build a team around.
Because Brady has won more than Manning has.
Now Lebron James is a winner.
Over the past seven seasons he has done more than just run up a few ‘W’s’ for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He turned the franchise around and gave it the respectability that it never had. The Cavaliers were always remembered for being Jordan’s buzzer-beating bunnies. Now they’re remembered for having Lebron James.
They still might have him.
The moment June ends, (crazy enough as it sounds), Lebron will garner twice the obscene amount of attention that he’s already receiving in the middle of the NBA conference finals!
The spotlight seems undeserved to a lot of basketball fans and a good bit of it has to do with the fact that James still hasn’t won an NBA Championship. But a lot of the attention is also due to the build-up.
Lebron James was built up.
The NBA has always needed a face. In Jordan, it got more than a decade’s worth of faces. Ever since then, there have been conscious attempts to find another star to elevate and there is little doubt that this is a seemingly dangerous and often futile exercise.
It leads to immense pressure on players who might not have had the calibre in the first place. More importantly, it ensures that players who would have been remembered as very good or great will instead be remembered for never living up to their ‘potential’.
For never getting that final elusive ‘W’.
I’m thinking Grant Hill (injuries), T-Mac, Vince Carter and a couple more.
The negativity behind James’ inability to win a championship for Cleveland is offset by his positive intangibles. NBA franchises don’t account for the fact that he failed to win in Cleveland. What they account for is the fact that he’s 25 years old.
That he’s hungry for championships.
That he’s a 6’8” 280 pound physical freak of a basketball specimen coupled with tremendous agility, speed and a basketball IQ the likes of which the league has never seen all in one person before.
Thus, James has the attention of most NBA fans.
There’s another fan that seems to want a say in the matter - Barack Obama.
Obama, in an interview with Marv Albert, seemingly tried hard to insist that he wasn’t trying to meddle in the Lebron James free agency circus.
So hard that he managed to restrict himself to one line. And what a line it was!
“You know, you could see Lebron fitting in pretty well there (with Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah)”.
Obama’s trying to swing this and he knows a thing or two about swinging things. He’s interfering in the sweepstakes and he’s doing it while stating explicitly that he doesn’t want to “meddle in this”.
And he has every right to. It makes it that much more exciting while hyping James up even more.
Sure, Lebron has put up gaudy statistics; the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Big-O triple doubled the league a few decades ago. He’s an unselfish basketball player who seems to be a natural leader on court.
But he hasn’t won anything.
And it doesn’t matter whether he had an insufficient supporting cast or he didn’t.
He hasn’t won a championship.
So when the President of the United States of America says that he thinks Lebron James would look good in a Bulls uniform, that’s when you know how big Lebron James truly is.
All the televised high school games.
Shaq watching them, Kobe watching them.
The $95 million dollar Nike contract before he joined the league.
They were all parts and pieces of a singular intentional effort to make Lebron James the face of the NBA. He may validate it when he wins a championship. Or he may be remembered as an overhyped superstar if he doesn’t.
But he’s big. Presidentially big.