When I turned 23 years old last week, I only wanted three things. A nice little get together with the family, go watch The Hangover 2 (I had seen the first in theaters for my 21st birthday) and to have the Mavericks even the series 2-2 with the villains from South Beach. Thanks in large part to LeBron James once again failing to rise to the occasion, my birthday trifecta went off without a hitch and I couldn’t have been happier. I have loved rooting against this Miami team as much as anyone else not from Cleveland this year. If you weren't a Miami fan there was no way you could root for them after the Decision and the welcoming celebration that followed. But after watching LeBron and company come up short again and again and then the media latching on to his corpse I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.
LeBron is going to go down as one of the greatest players to ever grace on a basketball court. The question we are all waiting on an answer for though is how high up the list he will climb. Everyone is waiting on that answer it seems except for LeBron James and can you really blame the guy? The Jordan and Magic comparisons have been steady, but I don’t remember either of them gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated before they even entered their senior year in high school. He got the attention started when he petitioned for entry into the NBA draft after just his junior year. But even if someone like Moses or even Garnett attempted the same thing the media frenzy would not have been the same as the one that started surrounding “The Chosen One”.
LeBron is really the first basketball mega-star to grow up completely in the world of technology we have today. The internet boom has been huge since LeBron entered the league in 2003. Youtube came along in 2005, just in time for everyone with an internet connection to easily find clips of King James doing something that astounded them. He was a superstar on every level and was treated as such so things like a regular childhood and learning humility simply didn’t end up happening for him.
So what did he do after that senior season he was forced into having? He got to the NBA and everyone continued to anoint him the heir apparent to if not Jordan at least Kobe Bryant as the best player in the world. LeBron’s body continued to mature and thus became even better as he spent his off-seasons taking time to build his brand and spend his free time enjoying himself for what might have been the first time since his teens. But once he kept coming up short in the playoffs, things weren’t so much fun anymore. So what did he do? He made a decision.
That decision, as we all know, has permanently shaped the way LeBron will be remembered. He won’t ever be on the level of Jordan or Magic, but he’ll most certainly be in the top 5-10 wing players to have ever played the game. Obviously, that is good enough for him, so why can’t it be good enough for us? Greatness only comes around so often and when it does, it is something to tell your grandkids about. I’ll tell my little girl about the time I watched LeBron drop 48 points on the Pistons. I’ll tell her about watching him hit that 3 point shot to beat Orlando a few years ago. And whatever other moments of greatness he has I’m sure I’ll remember them fondly. With his decision though, he insured that the moments of greatness will be just that though, moments. And maybe we feel robbed that he hasn’t put on that superstar cape and attempted to save the NBA single handedly. We don’t like the idea he tried to take a short-cut to a ring because that’s not what a player in his prime does. He doesn’t care.
And in not caring, he ensures he won’t be revered like Jordan or Magic or Bird. He won’t become legendary like Wilt and Russell. He’s going to spend his prime playing in South Beach with two of his closest friends in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and he’s going to win at least one ring. Maybe he’ll even finally develop a post move or two now that Dirk and company have put those 7 championships on hold. He isn’t ever going to live up to what we had hoped for and as long as he is happy with that decision, I’m happy for him.