[Never gets old. via @bigeeej2]
Not that the world needs another article about LeBron James, but let me add my thoughts to the mix. First off, know that I don’t now, and never really have, hated the Miami Heat. I cheered for the Mavericks in the Finals, not because they were playing the Heat, but because I enjoyed watching their style of play. The Mavericks deserve massive amounts of praise for their ability throughout the entire playoff series. They deserved the title and more than a few words will and should be written about their team. However, in this space I want to write about LeBron.
I can’t get past the amount of criticism that LeBron has taken after this Finals. People have forgotten his outstanding play against Boston and Chicago. They don’t care that his advanced playoff stats show that he had more Win Shares than Wade or Bosh. He played poorly in the Finals, but how much of that should be attributed to him “choking” and how much of that is just plain poor luck? He played above his level against Chicago and below his level against Dallas. Maybe he was worn down, maybe he wasn’t clutch, but it seems clear the greatest crime committed by LeBron James was just being human.
We’ve witnessed the humanization of great stars before. Michael Jordan was an egomaniac with an incredible game and even better understanding of marketing. Those two skills helped convince the world that he was a great guy, and someone people should emulate. He was machiavellian and his single-minded desire to win at any cost bordered on sociopathic. In reality nobody really wants their child to “be like Mike.”
However, LeBron James isn’t like Michael Jordan. He isn’t now, and he probably will never be. The personality, the work ethic, the body type, the teammates – everything is different. Given similar circumstances and fame from an early age, I can’t say I wouldn’t be calling myself the Chosen One either. Or King Malphurs. If I were dominant in the NBA before I was legally able to drink, then I might also skip working out in the offseason on my jumper. If I were surrounded by a terrible collection of talent in Cleveland, then I also might have left to join my friends in Miami. If I felt that everybody who surrounded me was just using me for money, then I also might just make my closest friends my business partners.
LeBron James has done some really dumb things. The Decision and the Miami Heat introduction party were both terrible ideas. Also, he’s stuck his foot in his mouth a couple of times with quotes that didn’t come from the Bull Durham set of clichés. The real result of all the wrong moves LeBron has made? More proof that he is human. Despite the attempted deification by his Nike marketing campaign, James makes mistakes the same way the rest of us make mistakes. But most of us have the advantage of not having those mistakes replayed 100 times.
So what should he do? I hope he learns some humility, rather than fully embracing the heel role like he seems poised to do. Michael Rosenberg of cnnsi.com wrote about it in this article, and I agree with him. I don’t blame LeBron for not having much humility before this season. He was a spoiled athlete in a world full of them. However, now is the time for LeBron to show his humanity. Show some humility. Show some respect. Show some intelligence. I can only hope we’ll do the same as fans.