Unless you spent this summer living under a rock, or you just come here for the coupon codes, you probably have pretty firm opinions about Lebron’s “Decision”. I went on the record as against the move to Miami. In retrospect, that seems quite foolish. As a sophisticated fan, I should recognize, that all things being equal, quality of life trumps all non-financial considerations. Instead, I chastised James for taking the easy way out. Such is the power of the Jordan myth.
Central to the Jordan myth is the trail of ringless superstars he left in his wake. It’s what separates him from other larger-than-life sports icons. Jordan, the denier was the alpha, and Barkley, Ewing, Miller, Malone et al. the betas. Sure, Magic was great, but he let Bird get a chip and vice versa. In our quest to crown someone, anyone the next Jordan, we’ve had a number of pretenders; some worthy, some laughable. Shaq and Duncan are disqualified from the discussion because everyone knows the next Jordan has to play on the wing. Kobe can’t because he lost the PR battle with Shaq…and then there was that whole Eagle business. That leaves one heir, Lebron James.
To fulfill our expectations of next-Jordaness, all James had to do was lead a team, without another true superstar to multiple titles, all the while making it hard for the rest of the league to eat (never mind the fact that Pippen was certainly a top-ten player). What we failed to realize, was that a) James doesn’t work for us, and b) a title is a title. Is Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize worth less than Obama’s because he had to share it with de Klerk (I dare you to find a worse analogy)? Who amongst us, if given the chance to do the thing we love at the highest level, with our friends for a ton of money, and live in some people’s version of paradise, would insist on doing it on his own…in the snow? No one. James made the smart choice. It just didn’t fit our preconceived narrative.
Fast forward through four months of bitter editorials, admonitions from legends, and endless sports talk radio chatter about “The Decision”, cowardice, tarnished legacies and even the ill-advised introduction of race into the discussion and we get this:
Maybe I should have slept on this before posting. Maybe I’m not its intended audience, but I just don’t see how this helps. I can’t be alone in reading this as a giant fuck-you (hi, Chuck). James doesn’t seem like the outspoken type, so this can’t be an attempt at neo-Barkleyism. On a Bill Simmons podcast, Chuck Klosterman suggested that Lebron subscribes to a Tupacian “Only God can judge me” philosophy. I’ve always hated that line of thinking because, well, I’m mad judgmental. Whatever the reason, it’s got me talking. And thinking. Good job, Nike.