His previous bombastic prophecies about winning untold championships vanished with his fourth quarter disappearances, so he turned to someone who he thought really knew the future, “The Greater Man upstairs.”
LeBron tweeted, "The Greater Man Upstairs knows when it's my time. Right now isn't my time." LeBron then started watching and tweeting support for a player in another sport, one who is renowned for a close connection to that omniscient deity.
People made quite a lot out of LeBron’s first tweet about Tim Tebow; many assumed that it was veiled self-defense, a plea for his own support via a vigorous defense of another maligned athlete.
On the surface, of course, Tim Tebow was maligned for reasons far removed from LeBron’s courting of disdain. Tebow has been insulted for his inaccurate arm; LeBron, for his unassailable ego.
Both, though, have drawn ire because of their ubiquitous presence in the media—a prominence that they are personally responsible for only in part.
As the NBA lockout dragged, LeBron must have recognized this similarity because he continued to watch Tebow and savor his victories as if they were his own.
Now, finally, LeBron gets to do his own thing again; fittingly, he gets to do it when Christians celebrate a paradox: according to that faith, Christmas commemorates a day when the immense, vast and immeasurable force of divinity was introduced on earth in a humble heap of straw.
King James hasn’t changed his royal twitter handle, but his ego is chastened; he is humbled by his own defeats and inspired by another’s victories.
Let’s make a mashup, then, and imagine what a Tebow-influenced LeBron could look like on the basketball court in this 2011-2012 season. This should be fun, which brings us to the No. 4 spot on our Te-Bron chart.
It would be fascinating to hear LeBron James mic’d up in a game. Does he cuss when he trash talks? What are his momma jokes like? Does he ever hum Kid and Play songs to himself (he has the dance moves down)? We can only speculate.
But not with Tebow: we know what he is thinking, praying and singing.
It was evident during the Tebow wire against the Bears that he loves playing football. Listen to those sounds and you will understand why Tebow seems impervious to criticism: he can’t hear naysayers over his own incessantly cheery chatter.
LeBron has heralded a new King James ethos that is reminiscent of Tebow’s demeanor: LeBron wants to have fun again; If this seems trivial, it is—which is the point. Basketball is a game, and one that James makes millions playing.
Some people were incensed when LeBron pointed out that after the Heat lost to the Mavs, LeBron-haters would have to get back to their own lives; some thought he was subtly suggesting that people who make much less money than he does would no longer have a distraction from the daily grind of eking out a living.
But maybe LeBron was having an epiphany of sorts, even in the midst of his own exasperation: LeBron James makes millions of dollars to play a game which—fourth-quarter troubles notwithstanding—he plays spectacularly. After doing so, he gets to go home to his family.
A thought like that could put a smile on a curmudgeon’s face. LeBron must have wondered why it hadn’t been doing that for him for awhile.
Opponents beware this year if you see him flashing some pearly whites with sincere enjoyment because he will play better that way; after all, he has admitted that he doesn’t play well angry, which brings us to a double negative at point No. 3.
Tebow is affable but not nice. If it would please the court, I present exhibit A: Darrelle Revis.
Revis got creative in his pregame trash talk before the Jets took on the Broncos. He claimed that Tebow’s play was soporific. Revis wondered out loud how he would manage to stay awake while defending receivers with this no-passing running back at the quarterback slot.
Tebow showed Revis that he had grounds to worry about getting sleepy because Revis looked downright comatose when Tebow blew by him on arguably the most pivotal play of “The Drive” in the Broncos comeback victory.
Since I am a converted LeBron fan, I worried a little bit when I heard all this talk about LeBron not playing angry anymore. Um, did you see James’ first game against the Cavs?
LeBron was searing through smiles and he torched his former team—a kind of tit-for-tat perhaps for the burnings of his former jersey in Cleveland. Anger, it would seem then, does not always enervate his level of play; at least on some occasions, it raises it.
But if LeBron’s anger produces a quick early charge, it also led to some burnout by the end of the season.
If LeBron can decide to simultaneously have fun and be vigorously aggressive, he doesn’t need a fit of anger to produce results; watch out for any defenders who assume that their biggest challenge in fourth-quarter defense against LeBron will be to not fall asleep; they will quickly awake to a LeBron-delivered Spalding alarm on their heads.
LeBron should use his jumper to set up his drives, just as Tebow’s passes are precursors to the run.
In fourth-quarter playoff play last year, LeBron looked like he was allergic to the key. He settled for a lot of jumpers that drew little iron and much Maverick gratitude.
LeBron can shoot, but he is nearly unstoppable when he uses his jumper sparingly, keeping defenders on their toes, so that he can pass them like Tebow breaking a tackle.
When Tebow is pressured, his tendency is to tuck the ball and run for his life. That, of course, does not always look pretty, and sometimes he runs backward into the defense in the process, but it is better than laying up a duck for hungry cornerbacks to devour. In other words, Tebow has often erred on the side of the run when it matters.
Even if LeBron picks up a few charges in the process, he needs to develop an instinct to rush the rim under pressure, rather than hanging back and launching weak-willed jumpers.
LeBron dealt with crushing defeat last year by putting things in providential perspective.
He doesn't need to become an overtly religious athlete like Tebow to summon confidence and courage on the court, but he will do well to continue to keep his own life in some broader perspective.
Many observers of a variety of religious and non-religious perspectives recognize that Tebow's faith has helped him on the field. Tebow has an unwavering belief that God has a plan for his life, and this steadies him for both the triumphs and travails on the field.
As LeBron and the Heat face the inevitable ups and downs of this regular season, they will need balance, passion and patience, and those virtues are not built only on the court.
It is on the court, though, where LeBron hopes to get his first title this year: it will be entertaining to watch his fun, aggressive pursuit of that goal.
Whether LeBron actually pays homage to Tebow at some point this season, through a prayerful pose on one knee, expect to see shades of that comeback quarterback as LeBron becomes a composed closer.