We currently live in a world inundated with reality TV and reality TV stars. Because of this, a generation of people have been created that strive to be rich and famous, that crave notoriety and attention, but don't want to put in the work to get there.
Kim Kardashian is a leading example of the talent-less reality star. She wanted to be famous, to be on television and in magazines, but she wanted to do as little as possible to receive the fame. Apparently, LeBron James is no different, as evidenced by his announcement last night that he was quitting on the Cleveland Cavaliers and going to the Miami Heat.
Reality TV stars can't be bothered to better themselves. Why spend time going to acting school, and dancing school, or studying or practicing, when you can just go on reality TV?
It is a shortcut to fame and to money.
Seeking such a shortcut is also exactly what James did when he signed with Miami.
Just as reality TV stars do not see the difference between being known and being loved, or between having fame and earning fame, LeBron James apparently sees no difference either.
He said this move was about winning. Yes, winning championships is the ultimate criteria in separating and ranking all-time greats.
But, all titles are not created equal, and there is a difference between winning and earning a championship.
The Yankees won a string of championships in the 1990s with teams built on their farm system and players like Paul O’Neil, David Cone, David Wells, and Scott Brosius. Last year, they won another World Series, but that team had a roster filled with hired guns and a $200 million payroll?
Thinking in just the here and now, a title may be a title, but when thinking of the big picture, how each team got there matters a great deal.
Kevin Garnett finally winning a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008 was a great accomplishment. But wouldn’t it have done more for his legacy had he been able to win a title when he was in Minnesota, as the unquestioned leader of the team?
Same holds true outside the sports world.
Have you ever met someone who went to a great college like Harvard? It is an impressive accomplishment. But, there is something very different about someone who got into Harvard based on studying hard, testing well, and doing extra curricular activities as compared to someone who got into Harvard because his well-known and wealthy parents went to Harvard, and his uncle went to Harvard, and his grandfather went to Harvard.
Or what about someone who is a millionaire? Isn’t it a greater accomplishment to have started with nothing and built your fortune through hard work as compared to someone who inherited the money, or married into wealth, or won a lawsuit because the top on their hot coffee fell off?
See what I'm saying?
When trying to determine the importance historically, the road taken to reach a destination—whether it is personal wealth, college education, or achievement in sport—is as important as the final destination.
This brings me back to LeBron. He wants to be the King, he wants to be a global icon, and he wants to be an all-time great. And he knows that regular season wins and MVPs are nice, but ultimately, he will be judged based on championships.
So, just like someone like Kardashian wants to be famous so she takes the easy route of becoming a reality TV star, James thinks he can take a shortcut to legendary status too. Kardashian did it with a certain video of herself, and James has now done it by leaving Cleveland and going to Miami.
Why work on improving his game when he can just stay the same and team with Wade and Bosh.
Why develop any low-post game when he can just sign in Miami?
Why dig deep within yourself to find a way to lead your team to a championship the way Michael did in Chicago and Kobe has done in L.A., when the Heat were giving him this easy option?
Obviously, no one told James there is no shortcut to basketball immortality. Winning five championships in Miami is what it may take to equal what one ring in Cleveland or New York would have meant to LeBron’s legacy.
James doesn’t care. He wants that ring, and it has been shown the last few years in Cleveland that he might not have what it takes to do it on his own.
Before anyone jumps in, I know no one does it on his own. But, when you want to be among the game’s all-time greats, and when you have shown the talent to potentially put your name on a list next to Magic and Bird and Kareem and Russell, and maybe even Jordan, you have to do it on your terms and as the unquestioned leader of the team.
As long as James is in Miami on Dwyane Wade’s team, that will never happen. Think A-Rod on the Yankees, as no matter what he does, the Yankees remain Derek Jeter's team.
If James doesn’t get this, his career will ultimately be a disappointment. In James, basketball fans saw someone with the potential to be right there among the handful of the game’s greatest. We all wanted to see him put a team on his shoulders and carry them to a championship.
We all felt he had it in him. But maybe, we were just wrong.
Let’s quickly look back. In 2007, James takes the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals at age 22 and along the way, he had one of those games that made us think we were seeing someone on the path to legendary status— the same way those watching had to feel watching Jordan score 63 points against the ’86 Celtics.
I am talking about his Game 5 performance against the defending Eastern Conference champs Detroit Pistons. James went for a memorable 48 points, including scoring his team’s final 25 points, as the Cavaliers took control of the series.
Unfortunately, looking back now, it may have been too much too soon.
James thought he had arrived, that his place among basketball’s elite had been secured.
The Cavs got swept by the Spurs in the Finals, and LeBron failed to win a championship in 2008 and then again in 2009. Then this past season, in the second round of the playoffs, with the series tied 2-2 against the Boston Celtics, James delivered a truly head-scratching performance.
In what is now his last game in Cleveland as a Cavalier, James saw his team blown out by 32 points, as he did nothing to help, shooting 3-14 for just 15 points. The numbers do not even come close to painting the entire picture of just how little effort James put forth in that game.
His numbers and his effort improved in the next game, but only marginally, as again his team lost, and again James’ body language was of someone who was not entirely committed to winning the game.
Whatever James goes on to do in his career, the record will always reflect that he went out a loser in Cleveland, losing his final three games by an average margin of 17 points to a team with eleven fewer regular season wins. In those final three games, James averaged a mere 21.3 points on 34-percent shooting from the floor (18-53) and 15-percent from three (2-13).
But to a reality TV star, failure and embarrassment does not matter. You just move on because nothing is ever your fault and you never really cared that much to begin with. Fame is all that matters. That is why it was easy for James to move on. He just wants the fame and the attention.
Having been upset in the playoffs the last two years, James did not like hearing the criticism that he has not won a title. In response, he went to Miami— the shortcut route to winning a championship, the same way so many reality stars take the shortcut to fame.
Reality stars have this narcissistic belief that what they are doing makes them worthy of all the attention. Similarly, James believes the attention he is receiving now, and the attention he will surely continue to receive, makes him worthy of being called the King and will make him worthy of being mentioned with the game’s true all-time greats.
Here is the thing though about reality stars like Kim Kardashian—they may be famous, they may be rich, they may be on TV all the time and in magazines every week. But no one takes them seriously.
That is what LeBron doesn’t seem to get. By making this move, and becoming just another person trying to take the shortcut to fame, how can he ever be taken seriously?