Photo Courtesy of NBA.com
It’s official. “The Decision, Part II” has passed though the wire, this time through the print medium. The biggest free agent in NBA history summed it up in three simple words: “I’m coming home.” Cleveland’s favorite son is returning to his roots. The return wasn’t exactly predestined, but the allure of a potential roster consisting of himself, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Dion Waiters and Andrew Wiggins was too enticing for James. Who could blame him? The King now has a court that is potentially even stronger than Miami’s.
The backlash and reverberations in Miami have already begun. First off, the Cleveland Cavaliers are relevant again, and have subsequently gained millions of new fans. One man alone has turned a low-end sports city into a top-ten market, and the new “witness the forgiveness” shirts are already in production. Fans have developed short-term memory loss about “the decision” and a few PR moves have non-verbally mended the fence between James and owner Dan Gilbert.
On the contrary, Heat fans aren’t burning their number 6 jerseys in effigy yet, but already have a symbolic depiction of how James literally defaced the franchise by covering up his face on a mural of the Heat roster that took years to make.
In wake of the news, the Twitter-verse exploded with an amalgam of memes and vehement diatribes, which shows that some angry Heat fans may have caught some retrograde amnesia regarding the two championship banners hanging in the raptors of American Airlines Arena. The move makes it look like James used the Heat to ensure he would win his first title, and then return to Cleveland. He confirmed this theory in his statements released on SI.com.
“I always believed I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when,” James said. The quote hinted that James used the Heat as a vacation spot, get his bling and make a hero’s return. However, fans welcomed him with open arms as if he never left.
James subliminally created a new genre of superstardom with his volatility, and that isn’t exactly a good thing. He carried the “bad guy” tag ever since he took his talents to south beach. James turned face with the move, and for the first time in his young career, he was the antagonist in 29 of the 30 NBA arenas.
His self-indulgent publicity move turned himself and the rest of his teammates into the most divisive team in that decade, even though it only just begun. His haters often cherry-picked on his failures in his first year in Miami, and after their crushing loss in the NBA finals, fans had much more to demean James about than his hairline.
James is scrutinized so heavily because with his skillset and pure ability are second-to none when compared to NBA greats. The association has never witnessed a player like James in its entire history. If Dr. James Naismith ever were to mold a perfect basketball player, it would be James, who is built like a Hummer, but runs like a Ferrari.
Despite five NBA finals appearances, two championships, four MVP trophies and two finals MVP’s, James somehow finds himself in the critic’s crosshairs every year. Despite his accomplishments, I have never seen someone take more condemnation than James this past season, which was the year after he won back-to-back championships nontheless.
The Jordan comparisons may be the pressure point that damages James mental stability. Who could blame him; holding the title “the chosen one” comes with a lot more pressure than many realize. However, James doesn’t even fit into the parameters of a player of Jordan’s stature.
He didn’t exactly embrace the label, and didn’t really ignore it either. He forgot that as the poster boy of your sport, you are in the sights of the press and paparazzi 24/7. The postgame press conference after the 2011 NBA finals loss was where his tolerance for inflammatory probes got the best of him.
The comparison is a heavy burden to carry, but in a sport like the NBA, a substantial emphasis is placed on individual achievements. That is the nature of the NBA. There is no other sport in the world that is boiled down so succinctly to one-on-one play. The weight of that label proved too much for James.
Unlike Jordan, James is a passive-aggressive player who lets his game talk. Sure Jordan made a living off of his talking, but he backed it up. James faces evisceration from media outlets based off of his potential alone. Many think he defers to his teammates and does not trust himself enough under two minutes. James somehow disappears during the closing seconds of games, and seems to lack trust in himself in the moments that make players legendary.
His most infamous stunt is when he suffered from somatization in his legs during the climax of game 1 of the 2014 NBA finals. Yes, I know about heat exhaustion and the effect it has on the leg muscles, but everyone else in that arena was sweating profusely. Maybe LeBron should have tried some of the Powerade he is paid millions of dollars in endorsements to use. Gatorade certainly thought they could have remedied his hindering limbs.
Jordan may have missed his fair share of late-game shots, but at least he attempted them. Wayne Gretzky famously said you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, right?
Jordan also wins in the competitive category as well. Losing precipitated an unfathomable pain for him, which pushed him harder than ever to take the reins and avoid that feeling as often as possible. Even nearing the age of 50, Jordan never backed down from a challenge. A prime example of this is when then-high school hotshot OJ Mayo challenged him to a game of one-on-one. Jordan shut down the entire camp and made it abundantly clear to Mayo that he may be the best high school player in the country, but he is “the greatest that ever lived.” Jordan is the paradigm of pure competitive embodiment, and will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise.
The ultimate deciding factor here is his off the court actions. Jordan spent his off-the court TV time in inspirational ads, while James spends a majority of his time on TMZ/Twitter blogosphere. I know James plays in a different era with the internet and social media, but his actions are still a personal choice.
James has also developed a habit of flip-flopping. As of now, he has jumped ship for the second time in five years to a team more conducive towards winning a championship. This is antithetical behavior of Jordan. He encountered his fair share of struggles early in his career, but he never fled to a more talented team as a shortcut to winning.
As the best player in the league, you don’t go join other players, other players come join you. The best player in the league should be a leader, and a leader doesn’t go flee to another team for the sake of winning an NBA title. That is the definition of a follower. Granted, James played for the Cavaliers before, but this year’s team is much more promising in comparison to the team he left in the summer of 2010.
LeBron James uses a very unconventional approach to success, and in turn, is the antichrist of the NBA, and possibly the sporting world as a whole. The Jordan comparisons only worsen the situation.
The Crown Jewel of the NBA is home, and it looks like he is there to stay. Time to break out your charcoal-covered number 23 jerseys. In order to avoid the pending disappointment of not living up to MJ’s success, LBJ must write his own hall of fame story. Instead of trying to be the next Jordan, he should become the first LeBron.