Once again here we are. Here we are in the early days of July, a season of perspiring weather and velvety breezes. Here we are in forced paralysis as another chapter of a familiar script is forced upon us without our permission. In a nutshell the most dynamic player in the NBA, Lebron James, has a league holding their collective breath while he decides upon his future and is oblivious to the rest of the world around him. It is, for sure, self-absorption at its worst. It is, for sure, a dramatization that has turned into a horror film that has turned into a personal home movie for the Lebron James archives.
Because he can, Lebron James has taken a 60+ year basketball league and interrupted all of its free agent business. He has shut down communication and made practically everyone wait on him. Careers are in a holding pattern, families have to wait, children cannot enroll in school.
Not to state the obvious: he and his camp need sensitivity training. Someone is going to get hurt. A city will mourn and burn jerseys in tribal gatherings, fans sorrow will reek from the cracks in the sidewalk, a large population will be weepy. Bars will be the repository for all the grief when people will get drunk to mask their sense of betrayal. People will get mad at Lebron. Again.
Team Lebron took a romantic story, Lebron going back to Cleveland, they took a character story- Lebron toughing it out in Miami- and turned it into a panic story: Lebron hijacking the system.
ESPN writer, Jason Whitlock once wrote of Lebron’s advisors, “They don’t know what they don’t know.” But it was supposed to be different this time. When you are educated the hard way you are educated the important way. The fact is Lebron James will be 30 years old in December. He is a two time champion who is more mature, more composed, more…everything than four years ago, like a college graduate instead of a high school senior. Team Lebron was supposed to have learned the difference between anticipation and annoyance.
The interviews Rich Paul conducted with teams like the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers were a charade, no different than four years ago when the interviews were contrived in some office suite, on some storyboard. It was a spectacle on purpose, strategized over for full effect. Cameras continuously rolled as the reality show had its cinematic debut. Cars pulled in front of a downtown Cleveland office building. NBA executives emerged with a game plan tucked in their shoulder bags, stoic faced as if they believed this was something they could pull off when it was just an illusion, a marketing hoax.
This much is true four years later. Powerful and gifted as a basketball player, Lebron James is at a disadvantage when it comes to having a pulse on the public’s tolerance of him. He turned an entire league against him four years ago because of a stupid television show he tried to craft as goodwill for children. Some of that animus directed towards him Lebron was able to turn around with his excellence on the court, with his championships and poise and basketball intelligence.
And now he has reminded everyone why they despised him in the first place. He has done the impossible. He has crossed the same river twice.
He’s that lover who strings you along. He can’t say yes and he can’t say no even though he knows he’s not coming back, there’s someone else. He won’t say he’s leaving you until the very last moment when your heart is truly broken.
There are a lot of theories on the public’s view of Lebron. Some of the theories reflect on a racial paradigm. Others are entrenched in how he treated the fans who had a religious attachment to him. Others cite pure selfishness, an inability to look outside his very own private world and see the rest of it. Others critique the idealized world of the wealthy. Many cite the underdog, the ones Lebron James is always fleeing in a hurry because he has no affection for them.
But this is true in the short term. It is day 11 of free agency. Most of the second tier free agents are forced to sit around and wait for Lebron to once again make a decision. He is, as has been consistently reported, the most powerful man in the NBA; he has stopped the free agent signing period cold. But remember this one sterling truth about power.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”