Admit it, you forgot that I was writing a blog. Honestly, so did I. Between the 89-step college application process, vacation planning and Facebook, my computer quota has been maxed out (though I can easily admit that none of these excuses validated my inconsistency.) I should blame myself – or at least my fishing pole – for my prolonged procrastination, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll just blame LeBron James.
About the time that my World Cup buzz was wearing off, the culmination of the biggest off-season in NBA history was upon us. Day after day, I’d obsessively watch the media frenzy analyzing LeBron’s free agency. With each passing day a new scenario would arise, followed by a new set of predictions about where LeBron would end up. For almost a month, the NBA’s off-season free agency was bigger than almost every other sports story. Stories that actually involved…SPORTS.
Finally on July 8th, LeBron announced his decision to play for the Miami Heat in a one-hour television special dubbed “the decision.” Immediately, the media began ripping LeBron apart from every angle. In Cleveland, shrieks of pain and agony echoed through the smoky streets as piles of James jerseys burned on every street corner (I may be embellishing just a bit.)
Since then, each day has presented a new opinion on LeBron and his decision. He has been called Narcissistic. Cold Blooded. The same people that once considered him their savior now claim he has stabbed an entire city in the back.
As compelling as the story was for me, I couldn’t figure out how I felt about it. I kept changing my mind. Furthermore, as the mountain of media coverage continued to grow, it became more and more difficult to come up with an opinion that seemed original. I took a step back, and just tried to absorb the LeBron story from every angle. Today, just over a month since James announced he was “taking his talents to south beach,” I have to say I feel kind of bad for the guy. As bad as you can feel for someone who’s worth $270 million, anyway?
Consider this. Since he was 15 years old, LeBron has lived under the microscope of media scrutiny. And in the realm of “all the things pro athletes do to F*** up,” what has LeBron done wrong. He has never been accused of rape. He’s never been linked to an underground dog-fighting ring. He’s never possessed controlled substances or concealed weapons, and he’s never been convicted of perjury or assault (though Kevin Harlan claims he has no regard for human life.) Its safe to say that the worst thing LeBron has ever done is produce an unnecessary and frightfully boring one-hour television special. In this case, how come we aren’t giving MTV Exec’s the LeBron treatment for the hour-after-hour tourture they subject us to daily.
Now, here’s what LeBron HAS done. He’s taken care of his family. He’s surrounded himself with his closest friends. He’s become one of professional sports most philanthropic athletes, stretching far beyond the standard monetary donations and scholarship funds. For example, in 2007 LeBron treated 800 Cleveland residents (mostly homeless) to a Thanksgiving dinner. And while LeBron is not the first professional athlete to participate in this tradition, he did far more than just deliver turkeys. Instead, he hosted an 800-person family-style dinner inside Quicken Loans Arena. After dinner, the holiday congregation received a pre-screening of an unreleased Hollywood blockbuster. Finally at the end of the evening, LeBron thanked each of the 800 individuals personally, and provided them all with gift cards for groceries and city transportation. While I’m not out to make him seem like a saint, this is just one of many examples that leads me to believe that the kid cares.
And for the masses in Cleveland who say he’s abandoned his home, here’s the reality. Cleveland is not his home. Akron is. No one can really even prove that LeBron ever actually wanted to play for Cleveland. He had no choice, drafted as the number one overall pick to what was at the time the NBA’s most abysmal franchise. It was essentially an arranged marriage, where the most talented athlete in decades was forced into a relationship with arguablely the most cursed sports city in the country. Furthermore, just compare Cleveland to Miami. If you were 25 years old and making hundreds of millions of dollars, would you want to live in Ohio or Florida? Take a couple second to think about that (that’s all it should really take.)
From this day forward, sports pundants will debate LeBron’s level of greatness based on this decision. Regardless of how many championships he wins (or doesn’t win), arguments for him being one of the greatest basketball players of all time will be undermined by the fact that he couldn’t win a championship without help.
And while I’m sure LeBron considers how he will be remembered along-side the greatest players of all time, I believe he has a greater concern for how he is remembered as a person. As an extremely wealthy high-profile member of society, he has the opportunity to have a positive impact on so many people. It may be through philanthropic contributions, or as role model for young men and women who grow up in less fortunate circumstances much like he did. LeBron understands this.
So while everyone is out to make LeBron either a hero or a villan, lets try and maintain some perspective. He’s a young man. A young man who plays a game for a living. He was given a choice, and has chosen to play this game with his friends. He gets to play a GAME with his FRIENDS in SOUTH BEACH.
Makes sense to me.