Heat Is on LeBron: King James Nothing More Than Court Jester

Steve Auger@@Corner_CubeAnalyst IIJune 14, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat answers questions after the Heat were defeated 105-95 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Now that we plebeians have had a chance to migrate back to our simpleton lives that lack the flare and mystique of the self-anointed King James, we have plenty of time to ponder one simple question.

Will LeBron James ever get it?

And no, I’m not referring to that elusive NBA championship he feels he so richly deserves.

By “it” I mean the fact that James has permanently sullied his former stellar reputation with not only a large section of sports fans but a huge chunk of the general population, given his status as not just an NBA player but a pop culture figure.

The truly stunning aspect of his downfall is he might not be aware of the monster that he’s created.

James casts the type of shadow that draws eyes, even from those uninterested in the NBA or sports for that matter, to the TV set.

And you can be certain a large number of those Nielsen Ratings points tuned in Sunday night hoping to see the King unceremoniously dumped from his throne. Christmas came early for some.

By now it’s been well documented that LeBron’s decision to air his self-serving, ego-boosting, back-patting prime-time special known as the The Decision was a colossal blunder. If The Decision ever runs in syndication, it should be renamed The Disaster.

In an effort to continue the globalization of his “brand,” James unintentionally vaulted himself into the rarefied air belonging to such teams as the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Notre Dame football, Duke basketball, Los Angeles Lakers, and New England Patriots (the newbie of the bunch but well deserving of their spot on the list if one is sick to death of hearing about “the Patriot way”).

You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. There’s no middle ground. No gray area. Only black and white.

How many of you watch a game involving any of those teams simply hoping to see them go down in flames? Yup, that’s what I thought. And I admit, guilty as charged.

Congratulations, Miami. LeBron has managed to carve out a spot for you on the list!

Look, no one is saying LeBron is a bad guy.

When compared to his fellow “professionals” in the sports world, James is a Boy Scout.

To date, LeBron has never been hauled into court on sexual assault charges (Kobe).

He’s never been a participant in a street fight in which two people died (Ray Lewis).

He hasn’t been on trial for perjury after having his name dragged through the PED mud for years (Barry Bonds).

He’s yet to wag his finger in the face of Congress only to be later exposed as a steroid cheat (Rafael Palmeiro).

And while I have no idea whether LeBron has a dog or not, I’m pretty sure that if he does, he treats the pup better than Michael Vick did in past years.

In America we love a success story. We build up our stars to unsustainable, epic heights and then we tear them down at the first sign of being human.

But make no mistake about James. He is in this position solely because of decisions (there’s that word again) he made based on what he wanted.

No one should fault him for going to Miami. He played fair and square under the rules of NBA free agency. 

Ask yourself this: If a company in your line of work offered you a job out of state that paid you handsomely, provided you a better chance at career advancement and was in a part of the country with a desirable climate, wouldn’t you pack your bags and move if it were feasible for you to do so?

Sure you would. That’s all LeBron did.

The same goes for the Heat. Credit Miami for clearing enough salary cap space to land not only James but also Chris Bosh in order to position them with Dwyane Wade.

Two years earlier, the Celtics ended a twenty-two year championship drought after trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to supplement the talents of Paul Pierce. The New Big Three managed to put their egos aside and accept their roles for the bigger picture.

Boston’s season culminated with a 39-point pounding of their long time rival the Los Angeles Lakers to clinch banner No. 17. Mission accomplished. Precedent set.

So you can’t blame the Heat or James & Co. for deciding to join forces.

Fans like to theorize that Hall of Famers such as MJ, Magic and Larry would never have signed up to play with one of their rivals. Easy to talk tough when your list of teammates included Scottie Pippen, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson.

So if you’re still hacked about James leaving his hometown team for Miami, you need to get over it.

Feel free to continue to trash him for the way he left (which included taking a giant steamer on a fan base that blindly worshipped the ground he walked on).

But therein lies the problem.

James has been coddled and worshipped since he was a teenage. He’s never had a coach like Bobby Knight get in his face simply to knock him down a peg or twenty.

Would he wind up at Ohio State, Duke, North Carolina or some other college basketball blue blood, or would he “take his talents” directly to the League?

Consider that he was drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, the freshman phenom who carried Syracuse to the NCAA championship that year. But when it came time for Cleveland to make the pick, it was a no-brainer. James was that talented and that good.

James has built up a tremendous arsenal of ill will in the past year. Arrogance has that effect on people.

Would anyone really be shocked if James actually owns the oversized throne Scott Van Pelt swiped from him in the ESPN commercial and sits in it with some degree of regularity?

Do you think James comprehends the message sent by Kevin Durant when he announced his extension with the Thunder via Twitter? No press conference, no prime-time special, no amendment to the Oklahoma state constitution. Instead, just a short message delivered to his fans in this age of social networking that simply said, “I want to be here so we can make a run at a title.”

Sunday night he could’ve wiped it all away by acknowledging that the Mavericks are deserving champions, that he didn’t play well in the series (especially in the fourth quarter of games) and that he and his teammates have plenty of work to do in the off-season to hopefully someday be fortunate enough to win and earn a championship.

Instead, he refused to accept responsibility, ratcheted up the attitude meter and reminded us that not only was he going to take his ball and go home, but he could afford to buy more balls than the rest of us.

Last July, LeBron James made certain to inform all of us that he was “taking his talents to South Beach.”

Perhaps he should have made room in his bags to pack some humility, too.


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