LeBron James and the 'Fame Monster' Lesson
LeBron, take notice.
In 2004, the "fame whoring" (as Lady Gaga would put it) of the sports world was centered around the Bronx Bombers when Alex Rodriguez was granted his wish of becoming a New York Yankee.
Matt Lauer described it as "the Beatles landing Elvis."
However, Rodriguez left the Texas Rangers in the dust after taking $252 million dollars from them, and not delivering a championship. Although, many Rangers fans had already identified A-Rod the demon spawn of un-capped salaries before he jumped shipped to the Yankees.
After a crash course in humility, A-Rod finally helped the Yankees to their first World Series title in almost 10 years. The road to humility and public redemption included a "Material Girl" and an admission of steroid use during the several years with the Texas Rangers.
Following the Rangers filing for bankruptcy, former owner Tom Hicks finally expressed his suppressed anger at Rodriguez before he was ran out the Lone Star state himself.
Now in the year 2010, a similar situation surrounds the Lebron James Saga.
When Cleveland drafted Lebron in 2003, the organization and it's fans proclaimed a new day in the city of Cleveland. The hometown hero was immediately nicknamed "King James," and comparisons to Michael Jordan were tossed around.
Like A-Rod, who was proclaimed the future "Home-Run King," Lebron James was the guy who would pick up where Jordan left off and shove aside the hated Kobe Bryant as the best player in the league. He was the guy who embraced his hometown hype, sported the sacred 23 jersey, and signed a 100 million dollar Nike deal before ever bouncing an NBA ball.
However, the last two years of his tenure in Cleveland showed a different side of "The King". An immature side of his public image came to the fore when he pouted his way out of the 2009 NBA Playoffs; similar to 2005 ALDS series that saw Alex Rodriguez slap the ball out of the first baseman's hands.
The 2010 NBA Playoffs may have been even an worse exit for James as Game 5 witnessed "The King" literally quitting on his team, taking only 14 shots the whole game.
Then, with the free agency rush, finally came Lebron James' true colors.
In the midst of a World Series game Alex Rodriguez announced that he was opting out of his Yankees contract, a shameless ploy to garner attention.
Lebron James topped that.
June through early July a media-frenzy was encouraged by the James entourage. From Tom Izzo's rumored hiring by the Cavaliers, to the "summit" of James with other free agents, James has came off like a Diva from a VH1 concert.
He'd rather lead a showcase of TMZ-like reporting than lead a team to a title.
It has even been rumored that James' camp wanted to film a documentary about the free agent process. It's not a secret now that James has fed into his own hype to the point of gathering the children of the Boys and Girls Club around him and broadcasting a live televised event of announcing where he would be playing.
He would rather tell ESPN than his former team.
However, it seems inevitable that James will have to learn the harsh lesson that Alex Rodriguez and Kobe Bryant learned before him. The lesson that your fame and Diva-ish antics should not overshadow your talent.
Unlike talent, fame can turn into a pissed off wife chasing you around with a golf club.
Numerous sportswriters have already expressed dismay toward the whole James ordeal, and with good reason. James left Cleveland the same way that he came: full of hype and money with unfulfilled promises.
Like Rodriguez in Texas, James earned money and MVPs , but his team won no titles.
I'm not wishing Lebron James bad luck in his personal life or even his professional life, but the way he has fed into his own hype calls for an inevitable harsh reality check. Alex Rodriguez had his with the revelations of his cheating and steroid use. Tiger Woods saw his ship crashing down with the dozens of extramarital affairs becoming public. And, the most remembered of the all, when Kobe Bryant was charged with raping a woman in Colorado.
The backlash from Cleveland may already be beginning. The fans are setting fire to the jersey of their once proclaimed hero. The owner Dan Gilbert, on the official team website, ripped James a new one.
Like Texas, the city of Cleveland may be back in their original sports-ruined form.
Will Lebron learn the same lesson? Only time will tell, but the egocentric King James better be careful. He's treading a fine line between sports hero (a title which to some he has officially lost) and a puppet latched on to the strings of ESPN and other media outlets.
He will be taking his game to Miami, but his humility has yet to be found.
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