The question’s been running about in my noggin ever since the final, series-clinching buzzer went off in Miami.
And it’s interesting, because now every time I look at a picture of LeBron, something’s different, even in pictures I see of him before the Heat won it all.
My perspective of The King has completely changed.
I kinda like him now.
And I’m not sure if I like that. Although I’ve been known to change my opinion just because it feels like I should change my opinion (working on that), I have no idea what to do in this situation besides try to explain.
Because now that he’s done what we’ve all wanted him to do, which was show us a version of basketball that was left for our daydreams, dancing and spinning through an obstacle course donning dragons spitting white hot fire and black knights on horses launching spears through thick air, all while coming out the other end unscathed and waiting for his “And-one!” (belts Breen!) attempt, well, ever since then, I’ve decided to accept him.
Yes, there’s that saying, “winning cures everything.”
But I can’t think of another team that I’ve hated on so much whose flipped me around so quickly.
After winning a Super Bowl, I didn’t start liking the Packers. Never will.
After winning the NBA title, I didn’t start liking the Celtics. Never will.
There are teams that I’ve definitely enjoyed more after (versus before) they won, like the NY Football Giants or the Dallas Mavericks, but that was easy, because they were playing against the vilest of scum in the Patriots and Heat. And that enjoyment faded away pretty quickly.
So why all the sudden did a villain's victory bring me to be happy for them, turning around my feelings about a team I couldn’t feel any more hatred for just a week ago?
And the only being I need to ask this about, is the truest (now ex-) villain himself, Mr. James.
And the sole, glaring context clue I’m centering this whole this column about, is his unmatched joy, post-win.
Because that joy and that win lifted the pain off his shoulders. You could literally see him shed a layer of crap off his back, like a gorilla had just said, “Alright, LeBron, your shoulder have been great to hang on, but you’ve learned your lesson.”
And it’s funny, because I think it simultaneously lifted the sports-hatred off my shoulders as well, because as soon as I saw his face, I realized how hard it was for him to get there.
LeBron went straight from high school to the Pros. Do you know who else used to do that?
Because they had to. Life was f$&%ing hard, and they needed to money, or they died or their siblings died or their parents died. Someone died.
And there are plenty of people who make this transition nowadays too, but there’s so much more emphasis today on going to college, changing your major three times, taking a break, Euro-tripping, bar-tending, waitressing, “I’m still young, I’m not sure what I want to do, how about professional dog-walking?” etc., etc., that people now don’t really get into their actual career until their mid-twenties or late twenties or thirties or never or whenever.
Present times are about learning who you are before you make that decision to be who you are.
Well LeBron didn’t get the chance or the freedom to do all those awesome, care-free, spending-a-summer-in-Barcelona type things, for two reasons...
A) He is God’s gift to basketball.
B) The whole universe expects him to be God’s gift to basketball.
And it’s a gigantic but.
He DID have to attack his problem in the same way we do:
He had to find himself.
Like we’ve all had to do or are doing or are going to do or may never do.
We get to dabble in all sorts of things and fail and fail and fail until we get it right.
Even though it looked different on the outside, LeBron had to do the same.
He dabbled and dabbled in different styles of basketball, failure upon failure upon failure, until he finally found out what worked.
And it’s not like he’s just found one thing that works. He’s found plenty. His post game is ridiculous. His transition game is unmatched. Nobody can stop him from getting to the rim. He defends every single position on the court at an elite level.
Within the last month or two, everything clicked.
And I think that’s why I like him.
Before Game 5 finished, he wasn’t like me, because he had millions of dollars and the whole world knew his name and he screwed over all of Cleveland in seven dirty little words: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”
But now I see that LeBron is just like me. He’s like all of us.
We all wanted to Be Like Mike. In reality, we couldn’t. He was above all, with no 24-hour media to chop him down to normalcy.
But now we’ve all found out exactly what it’s like to be Just Like LeBron. We harp on him because he’s some unidentifiable superstar, but my argument is this:
When has there ever been a superstar we could identify more with?
We fail and f*%^ up and piss people off and do dumb shit just like he. Sure, he made a whole city cry, and us little people obviously haven’t. But I can’t say that I wouldn’t, because I’ve definitely made people near and dear to me cry. I’ve let people down. I’ve made horrible decisions.
Our lives just aren’t projected to the world. His is. But all the voices that he hears on a daily basis from millions and millions of people, telling him what to do, are just like the millions and millions of little voices inside and outside each one of our own heads, telling us what to do. The voices come in different packages, but we all know that anybody in pain feels as though their pain is The Worst Pain.
So to see how much electric happiness was on his face the night the Heat won, that in the moment feeling, that only happens on The Best Day of Your Life, it made me realize that he’s just like the rest of us.
He was just trying to find himself.
And it just so happens that he did.
(And oh by the way, Welcome to LeBron’s NBA now. It’s his to do with what he pleases).