I don't follow pro basketball much, but I did catch Game 6 of the NBA finals, where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company capitulated to a bunch of geriatrics in long shorts.
Watching LeBron clank shots of the backboard while being referred to as the King didn't sit well in my stomach. In my sports lifetime, there has only been one King—Arnold Palmer.
For fun, let's compare these two "Kings" on a special top 10 "King" rubric. Here goes.
Arnie garnered more respect from his Army than Robert E. Lee.
LeBron doesn't enjoy the respect of his hometown Miami fans. He's like the Al Gore of pro basketball. In Cleveland, fans burned so many LeBron jerseys, the city had to issue wildfire warnings. Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich issued a proclamation declaring the Dallas Mavericks honorary Ohioans. Not good.
Arnie's Army demanded boldness. They expected he hit driver on short par-fours, that he make charges on the back nine, that he win majors in dramatic fashion. He embraced their expectations.
LeBron's subjects begged him to shoot the ball more in the finals, to be more productive in the fourth quarter. His response: keep on passing the rock, keep on pushing responsibility for success onto his teammates. Lame. Arnie never had his caddy strike a putt to win a major.
Arnie won 62 times on the PGA Tour, including seven majors. Those are Big League, Hall of Fame and King-like numbers.
LeBron has won a few high school rings.
Arnie hitched up his pants and stalked around the course like a lion chasing an antelope. He also had a bad ass crouched putting stance and a fierce follow through that showed he meant business. His demeanor demanded attention.
LeBron sulks quite a bit and has lots of tattoos.
Royalty chews on royal things, like cigars and cigarettes and caviar. Arnie looked like James Dean dragging on his cigarette. Jack Nicklaus knew that if he got too close Arnie might burn his retina.
LeBron chomps on his mouth guard like it's a piece of Big League Chew. Maybe he soaked the thing in bourbon before Game 6. How else do you explain the poor shooting? Too often it dangles from his mouth like a fish hook.
The Arnold Palmer: half lemonade, half iced tea, to be drunk after a hard-fought battle. Even got an ESPN commercial of it.
LeBron? Maybe they could melt down his mouth guards. The LeBron Slobber Slushie.
Team play in professional golf is The Ryder Cup. Arnie holds the record for most matches won by a U.S. player. You think the captain ever left him in the clubhouse?
LeBron, however, was so deep in Erik Spoelstra's doghouse during Game 6 he rode the bench in the beginning of the fourth quarter. I think I saw him thumb wrestling Erick Dampier to stay loose.
Arnie relished being a King. He embraced people with smiles and handshakes and genuine respect for the position of being a leader and a role model. Arnie made golf accessible. And cool.
Since leaving Cleveland, LeBron seems to hate his profession. He's looked ridiculous and out of place in Heat promotional commercials, and I could've sworn he would rather have been playing golf than basketball the other night. After the game he took cheap shots at all the fans who have to wake up the next morning and go back to their real lives. That's a big chip to carry on your shoulder.
Being a great leader means admitting when you've made a mistake. Arnie was never a perfect golfer; in fact, he went out of his way not to be perfect (like Phil Mickelson), and his Army loved him for it. No one wants an infallable King; how can the average man relate to someone who's perfect?
LeBron can't seem to accept his shortcomings, can't seem to understand why he's been vilified for The Decision. It's going to eat away at him until there's nothing left to guard but his mouth guard.
Nicklaus may have surpassed Arnie on the golf course, but Arnie never deferred to him. And Jack never commanded the same attention as Arnie. Arnie's Army wouldn't have stomped Jack's Pack and buried them in a bunker.
Once upon a time LeBron was the leading man in Cleveland. Now he's just a sidekick to Dwyane Wade. He's Robin to Batman, Andy Richter to Conan, Silent Bob to Jay, Woodstock to Snoopy, Ethel to Lucy, Sam to Frodo, Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan, Tattoo to Mr. Roark.
On second thought, LeBron may be third on the totem pole behind Wade and Chris Bosh. That makes him Ron to Hermoine and Harry Potter, or Donny to Walter and the Dude.