When you're 25 years old, the best basketball player on the planet, and have a massive entourage constantly reminding you that you're the best basketball player on the planet, chances are you're going to have a pretty high opinion of yourself.
But as we're finding out more and more this summer, there's a limit to the number of enablers that a person can surround himself with before losing his attachment to reality.
LeBron James appears to have passed the tipping point.
In the September edition of GQ, J.R. Moehringer elicited LeBron's most damning post-Decision interview yet. Moehringer had a chance to interview LeBron three times during the summer—twice before the Decision, once after—and what he uncovered suggests a man who's fully absorbed in his own world, completely oblivious to his surroundings.
Maybe this doesn't come as a huge surprise, given the narcissistic nature of The Decision.
Maybe, after seven years of rehearsed answers, choreographed pregame introductions, and James' affinity for referring to himself in the third person, we should have realized that King James lived in a world of sunshine and lollipops that the rest of us just don't see on a day-to-day basis.
But the extent to which James' detachment from reality has reached is simply extraordinary.
Should LeBron's handlers stop him from talking to the press...immediately?
Moehringer's interview leads off with the following quote from James: "If there was an opportunity for me to return [to Cleveland]...and those fans welcome me back, that'd be a great story."
These are the same fans that burned your jersey in the streets, the same fans that spent time devising situations more likely than retiring your jersey, or creative ways to "welcome" you back to Cleveland, right?
Something tells me that even if James did return to Cleveland one day, he'd never fully repair the relationship he had with the city and its fans. James returning to Cleveland is akin to Tiger Woods running back to Elin and saying he didn't mean to sleep with all of those other women.
James? That Cleveland dream is dead. You killed it when you went on national TV and broke the heart of every Cleveland basketball fan. Moving on.
In regards to Charles Barkley, who's been one of James' most vocal critics this summer, LBJ told Moehringer: "Charles was probably trying to be funny. It wasn't funny to me."
Now, LeBron, we know you're taking mental notes of who's taking shots at you (crap, am I now on that list?), but Barkley, a former NBA MVP himself, is more than entitled to having his own opinion. They're called opinions for a reason, King.
If you don't like what he's saying, go discuss it with him, face-to-face. Be a man. Or prove him wrong on the court.
But to say Charles Barkley isn't funny? I mean…come on. That's like saying Chappelle's Show wasn't funny. That's like saying The Hangover wasn't funny. Just because it's at your expense doesn't mean it's not funny.
What about his thoughts on Cleveland?
"[Cleveland's] not far [from Akron, James' hometown], but it is far," James told GQ. "And Clevelanders, because they were the bigger-city kids when we were growing up, looked down on us...So we didn't actually like Cleveland. We hated Cleveland growing up. There's a lot of people in Cleveland we still hate to this day."
Yup. That's the exact thing you should say after mentioning that you might want to return there, someday.
The most elucidating piece of evidence, beyond any of the ridiculous comments James has made this summer, comes from the writer of the interview himself. GQ interviewed Moehringer for the September issue, and one of his comments hits home when you're considering LeBron's detachment from reality:
"All famous people have entourages and inner circles, but this struck me as something larger, even more protective, and harder to break through. I got the sense also that it might've been what kept him from gauging the mood in the real world as people waited for his decision. He really did seem to be at the center of an enormous group of handlers, helpers, and managers—and I'm sure that makes him feel good on a day-to-day basis, but there's a downside to that, too."
In other words, LeBron has so many enablers surrounding him that he's never going to be told, "No."
Like it or not, that's just not how the world works. You get rejected sometimes. You lose sometimes. You fail sometimes.
What you do with that failure determines what kind of person you are.
From the sound of Moehringer's interview, LeBron has done everything in his power to shield himself from failure. He's surrounded himself with so many yes-men that he could kick a puppy in the face and they'd start spinning it positively. (Really, was The Decision that much better of a PR move than kicking a puppy?)
For LeBron's sake, here's hoping Pat Riley can finally step in and be the authority figure in LBJ's life that he needs to snap back to reality.
Otherwise, God help the Heat if they don't win a championship in the next two years. Because in LBJ's mind, it's only going to be everyone else's fault—not his own.
And he'll have plenty of people chirping in his ears, reinforcing that delusional twist on reality.