Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lebron James' actions were entirely "human" before his decision to return "home"

What makes a person “human,” unfortunately, seems to be a complex mixture of emotion, desire and capability. When people use the word “human,” their intention is to reflect the better nature of people, like “compassion” and “caring” There are a few people in this world where these sentiments come naturally, but we know that even the so-called “better” of the race—or those who think they are—are rather in short supply of these commodities, regarding people not their own in need of “compassion” and “caring” in demeaning and discriminatory language. In others, in can seem to be remarkable self-serving in its application; once a person “has theirs,” suddenly can expunge any previous “guilt” and show people that they are “human,” after all.

Thus we find that NBA superstar Lebron James is “human” after all. Or so says his defenders in the media who grovel at his every footstep. Alright, I admit that I’m not a particularly interested fan in the NBA, at least not for the past decade or so, and I tend to see a lot of people who might otherwise be in the unemployment lines or engaging in the “informal” economy being paid outrageous amounts of money. James was, like Kobe Bryant, one of those super-studs straight out of high school who didn’t need any of that college-seasoning (or education) hokum to make the jump to the pros. James wasn’t anything really particularly special his first three years in the league, but his potential for greatness was always on everyone’s lips—and it has been confirmed, at least to the satisfaction of the “experts.”

But back to the original question. James graciously returned to his home city Cleveland Cavaliers after a four-year sabbatical with the Miami Heat, where he went to the NBA finals every year, winning two titles. Recall how he was regarded in something less than “human” terms when he without notice bolted from the Cavaliers, the team that drafted him and where he remained for seven years as the “face of the franchise.” But James wanted his championship, and he wanted it “now” to silence the critics who suggested he folded under pressure. Dwyane Wade, who was the star player for the Miami Heat and had already won a title with the team as the finals MVP. 

After leading the Cavaliers to just one NBA finals, where he garnered much criticism as Cleveland was swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs,  James apparently felt that he needed a new “scene,” one in which the burdens of responsibility—and blame—could be shared. This is a natural “human” response to adversity. He decided to join Wade, who wasn’t a swell-head or diva like some other players, and persuaded Chris Bosh—who dominated on an otherwise second-rate Toronto team, but was another player who was good, but not too “great” to be a “team” player—to sign with the Heat for less money than he was projected to make (fortunately for NBA players, there are only 12 on a squad, so there is a lot of money to overspend on salaries). 

The bald-faced piracy of the event shocked Cavalier fans and the media, and James was regarded with much scorn. His principle “human” qualities seemed to be greed, cowardice and unfaithfulness to his community. Still, he accomplished exactly what he sought out to do: He was a “champion,” at least on the basketball court. But James read the tea leaves; Bosh was just a “role” player in the James Gang, and Wade is getting older and unhealthier. The Heat had “peaked,” he had accomplished what he wanted to silence his critics, and it was time to move on. James is nothing if not cynical, and he has played the media for everything he’s got. His statement to the press proves as much.

Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today….

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy…

But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

Let’s analyze this statement. It seems that he is saying that after seven seasons in Cleveland he still had a lot of “growing up” to do. He had to win championships to become a “man.” Because he won a couple of championships, his achievements matched his ego and media expectations. Now he can hold his head up and tell Cavalier fans that it wasn’t his fault all those years ago without a hint of irony. Now he can “go home” and not be held in derision by fans who trusted him and put all their faith in him, and subsequently felt the deepest sense of betrayal. Now he’s “making it up” to fans by returning. Frankly, if I were a kid, I’d rather grow up in South Florida than Cleveland (I was born in Cleveland, but grew-up in Wisconsin). But he’ll still have a mansion to live in, so the winter weather and the smelly Cuyahoga River won’t matter much.

What is left for him to do now, but burnish his “image” with some dubious “sentiment”? What is not “human” about that?

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