Could LeBron James Be Human?: What His Defeat Means for the NBA

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJune 2, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after a play against the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, 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 Elsa/Getty Images)

Let's face it, LeBron James is everything we have come to want in a superstar.

He doesn't roll with thugs, beat up his girlfriend, or have any vices that could jeopardize his marketability.

(Of course, you could add the words "as far as we know" to each of the things in the previous sentence.)

The closest thing to controversy that Bron Bron has been involved in is wearing a Yankee cap to an Indians-Yankee game in Cleveland. Even that didn't bother me though, because at least he was standing for something.

Hell, LeBron has created such a vacuum of controversy that he creates controversy by staying away from it.

In 2007, while the Cavs were en route to the Finals, Ira Newble passed around a petition in protest of China's actions in Darfur, another move which doesn't bother me, because he doesn't need to be getting into that mess if he doesn't want to.

The hype LeBron generates isn't his fault, unless you consider working miracles on the hardwood his fault.

It's not his fault that he's dominating the headlines, even after his team is gone.

Well, that's only partially true.

What is his fault is the way he reacted after being ousted again.

You know one of the main reasons why I like LeBron?

Because after the Cavs were swept in the 2007 Finals, (a team that had absolutely no business in the Finals) there LeBron was in the Spurs locker room—the first guy to congratulate Tim Duncan on the Finals victory.

The cynical part of me thought that this was merely a show for the camera, but most of me thought that this was a genuine display of sportsmanship.

And since then, everything LeBron has done shows that, while he has the talent to go against anyone, he seems to view it all with a light-heartedness that is a refreshing change from the cold-bloodedness of MJ or Kobe, and not as self-absorbed as Shaq. 

LeBron is an interesting figure in this modern sports world of ours he's almost too perfect, and that's what makes some people distrust him.

Everything he does seems to be done for the sake of making him more marketable, or at least not taking anything away from him.

Think about what we really know about LeBron.

He's got two kids with his high school sweetheart who he is apparently still in a relationship with.

No strippers have come forth with lurid tales about LeBron in a hotel room on the road. He doesn't seem to get trashed and drive home.

The only blemish he has is a few speeding tickets, and what 24-year old doesn't have speeding tickets?

While some people distrust his all-around good nature, it's much better than the alternative.

Some people have doubts that he can, in fact, be that talented and that nice of a guy. Even Dwight Howard and D-Wade, some of the most outspokenly religious guys in the NBA, have blemishes.

Howard has a kid out of wedlock, there are rumors of weed-fueled orgies, and alienated children on D-Wade's side.

LeBron seems to be smart enough to stay above it all in a way that Alex Rodriguez would probably give half his paycheck to achieve.

And this year was a turning point for LBJ.

Every test up to this point he has passed with flying colors.

His first NBA game?

25 points, nine assists, six rebounds, four steals, and 60 percent from the floor.

His second year?

He led the Cavs to their first winning season in six years.

His third year?

A playoff berth and a triple double in his first playoff game to boot.

His fourth year, a year when everyone accused him of mailing in the regular season?

A final's berth with a crappy team, punctuated with a breathtaking 48 performance that ranks as one of the most amazing games I have ever watched unfold live.

In his fifth season, the Cavs brought some talent in.

They tried to solidify the low-post with the addition of Ben Wallace who figured to be a perfect complement to the jump shooting Ilgauskas.

Delonte West provided a young speedster at guard, and Sczerbiak was the sharpshooting wing who would get open looks when LeBron penetrated.

However, destiny had another plan for King James as the Celtics were destined to return to the top of the NBA heap, defeating the Cavs in seven, then defeating the Lakers in the Finals.

This year, nothing was in the way.

The addition of Mo Williams gave them yet another shooter, and Joe Smith was just another low-post presence.

Kevin Garnett went down with an injury, paving the way for the Cavs and LeBron to have a date with Kobe. A regular season MVP and the best record in the NBA followed by two four-game series, and the Cavs were poised to dominate the rest of the way.

But basketball is a funny thing, and the Cavs ran up against the one team who was perfectly equipped to take them out.

Add in a bulletin-board guarantee from Williams and the disappearance of the Cavs' shooters...it's just another disappointing season for the King. 

And it was then and only then that we started to see LeBron as a human emerge.

Gone was the guy who was laughing, even with a loss, cheering his teammates up.

Gone is the guy who would congratulate a superior opponent for handing his team a beat down.

What do we have left?

Well, you strip the emotion from someone and you've got MJ.

You've got Kobe.

You've got a cold-blooded killer—the one thing we never thought LeBron would be.

MJ was tempered by losses to the Pistons and once he got to the top of the mountain, he destroyed everyone who tried to get him off.

For Kobe, he was made harder by the realization that he couldn't be the best player on a championship team. So he grew colder, and some might say dead inside.

Now, it's time to see what LeBron is made of.

We've already seen him blow off congratulating the other team and the media, which is his bread and butter.

When asked why, LeBron said:

"It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them," he said.

"I'm a winner. It's not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you're not going to congratulate them. That doesn't make sense to me. I'm a competitor. That's what I do. It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand."

Sure, that sounds like the whining of a poor loser. Sure, LeBron kind of sounds like a bitch, to be perfectly honest.

But part of me is glad to hear it.

Part of me is very glad that the player, who made everything seem so effortless, finally has tasted a defeat where he should be savoring victory.

And now, here comes the real fun part.

Is LeBron going to use this season's end as a motivator and bust his butt even more in the offseason?

Will he come into next season as a cold-blooded killer, not content with defeating teams, instead ripping their hearts out a la Kevin Garnett?

Because, as someone who's not a particular fan of the Cavs, a pissed off LeBron scares the crap out of me.

And as a hardcore NBA fan, I can't wait to see what LeBron has in store for us all next season.


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