LeBron James hour-long special on ESPN Thursday where he announced his intention to join the Miami Heat also doubled as an abdication ceremony. The moniker "King James" is now officially dead.
No longer can LeBron be referred to as “King James”, he is no longer worthy of a title both self created and bestowed by media and fans alike. LeBron is now nothing more than the common mercenary, a man who, facing the pressures both external and self created, tucked his tail between his legs and fled for warmer waters.
In other words, it appears that Skip Bayless from ESPN's First Take was right all along.
Forget what this will do to Cleveland, as badly as I feel for them that is not what this is about. LeBron James has now shown his true colors, and not because he left the Cavaliers, but because he joined the Heat. A true competitor, a true King, would rather conquer than sign a peace treaty.
If James truly had that true inner fire, he would want to beat and conquer Wade and Chris Bosh, not join them waving the white flag.
Not only has James given up on his home territory of Cleveland, which will never welcome him again, but he has also given up on his potential legend status. What I mean by that is LeBron was the true King of the NBA with Cleveland, and by joining Wade in Miami he has not only lost his title as King but also his status as King.
The King of the NBA is a superstar player on the court that is likeable and marketable off it. A player that both fans and media alike believe can fill the void of dominance left when Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls. Now, first off to be marketable a player has to be flashy with the ball, so no big men.
So the King is a small forward or guard, a superstar player, flashy, likeable, and marketable that the general masses believe can be Michael Jordan dominant.
Now keep in mind that if James had left Cleveland and went to New York, New Jersey, or Chicago he would still be King both in title and status. The reason being that even though he would be leaving an American City in ruins spiritually and economically he would still be the leader of a team in a basketball crazed mega city.
Instead, with Miami LeBron is second fiddle in a decently sized American city that is blah about basketball.
James will still be a certain hall of famer given the trajectory of his career, and now he may even win a bunch of titles, but they wont be his. Those titles will belong to Dwyane Wade first and then LeBron James second, and he will have to celebrate those titles in a town that doesn’t really care about basketball. Unlike Cleveland, Chicago, or New York, where they actually love the game and would have appreciated it.
Also, if you think top billing doesn’t matter you're insane. This is about legacy and status, and it says here that LeBron has taken a huge chunk out of both his. Shaq and Kobe battled because they wanted top billing for the Lakers threepeat. When David Robinson won his titles no one thought they were Robinsons, they were Tim Duncans.
Even if LeBron wins multiple rings with the Heat, he wont get top billing like Michael Jordan did, or Kobe does now for the Lakers. So now that LeBron James has abdicated his throne by deciding that he will sacrifice hometown love and his competitive fire, who is going to take his place?
Some would say Kobe Bryant, but they would be wrong. The reason why Bryant can never be King is because he doesn’t have the PR value; he is just too prickly and unlikeable. James was both affable off the court and a genius on it, and you need both to be King of the NBA.
The heart of what I mean by that is that The King of the NBA is very much like a real King, in that its not just about the actual power but about the perception of power. LeBron was perceived to be better than he actually was while still being a Super Star player in Cleveland. Kobe is perceived to be worse than he actually is, in many ways not getting the credit he deserves as a player in Los Angeles.
So in that way Kobe can never be King, no matter how many jerseys he sells he will always have just as many detractors, he just doesn’t have the mass appeal, too many haters.
So now that LeBron has taken off his crown and become a mercenary, what does that make him? It makes him the villain. Many NBA analysts are saying that this new team of mega stars in Miami will be good for the NBA in that it will make the casual fan pay more attention because said fan wants to see greatness. LeBron instead is going to be watched by said casual fan with an almost morbid curiosity. What I mean by that is that these casual fans are going to watch LeBron and the Heat to see if he and they will fail, not succeed.
Instead of the hero, now LeBron is going to be viewed as the villain. A gun for hire who cracked under the pressure of Michael Jordan, another failed pretender to his Airness. Many Kings have failed, and now we can add the former King James to that list.
So, if LeBron James is now the casual NBA fan’s villain, the player they root for to fail, who will play the hero? Who will be the new King, the new heir?
It says here that it happens to be a young man playing in Oklahoma City named Kevin Durant. Durant and his young Thunderous crew must step into the void that LeBron James has left in Cleveland.
Not only do I believe that Durant will sit in that throne, I believe he will take it to places James only teased. I believe Durant is the first King that the NBA has seen who might actually make us forget, if only for moments, Michael Jordan. That is what it means to be the true King of the NBA.
In the end that is what we expect a true King of the NBA to do. We expect the King to start off as the superstar we think can be like Mike, but the true potential of the King is to make us stop talking about Michael Jordan, to just talk about the King. LeBron has failed in that regard, but he had the potential to do it, just not the attitude.
Strange that LeBron looks like he will be a hall of famer with multiple rings on his fingers, but he is still going to be a viewed as a failure. C’est la vie, and rightfully so. At the end of the day, with LeBron going to Miami he can only be viewed as a failure due to the blatant fact that he cracked under the pressure by failing to win in Cleveland, regardless of circumstances which admittedly were not perfect with the Cavs.
Now going back to Durant I believe that he can make us forget Mike, and be a true King. Unlike a young LeBron, Durant has several things going for him that LeBron didn’t with the Cavs. Durant already has his Pippen, a young point guard named Russell Westbrook. Heck, Durant already has his Horace Grant in Jeff Green. LeBron had Darius Miles early on. Durant also has a good coach, a fantastic general manager, and an owner that only meddles in marketing. LeBron had none of that early on in Cleveland.
However, it’s not just the external factors that make me believe Durant will succeed where LeBron has failed. Durant, unlike LeBron, seems less interested in marketing appeal and more interested in the game. Durant was on the bench during summer league play this last week cheering so loud you would swear he was a cheerleader. Durant breathes basketball; LeBron only seems to breath the things that basketball gives him.
So mark it down ladies and gentleman, July 8th 2010 will go down as the day The King of the NBA abdicated his throne, too weary from the pressure. And if we are lucky, July 9th 2010 will go down as the day the new King, King Kevin Durant, took the crown and never looked back.