>Friday Lunch: The LeBron Situation

Posted: November 5, 2010 in nba
Tags: , , ,

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By Nick Gallaudet

 

Everyone has an opinion about LeBron James, and if you’re like me, you’re probably tired of them and just want to see what the guy can do on the court; but regardless of what you think of “The Decision” and the way he treated Cleveland fans, there is something that deserves discussion. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is LeBron’s new Nike commercial (below), and I have to be honest, I love it.

This commercial seems like a 90-second long apology to basketball fans. He asks, “what should I do?” repeatedly and I think he really wants to know. LeBron was cast as a villain the second he made the infamous statement that he was going to “take his talents to South Beach,” and I think he genuinely wants to rectify that. LeBron undoubtedly recognizes that the way things unfolded did not go according to plan, and he’s asking for a second chance…does he deserve one?

 

LeBron’s journey is completely different from any other basketball player ever. The hype he garnered in high school was like nothing the sports world had ever seen before, and up to this point, he has exceeded everyone’s expectations. No one gets the hype he got and delivers, and as a result, he’s held to a higher standard. The not-so-subtle jab he takes at Charles Barkley is warranted. Barkley may have chosen not to be a role model (if one can even make that choice), but LeBron wasn’t afforded that luxury. From the day he entered the NBA, he’s been sold as the Golden Boy, and was really never given a chance to fail. His success was so quick and large, he was the face of the NBA before anybody knew what happened, and as a result, when he hit his first speed bump, he was already the most famous player in the league.

 

More was expected of LeBron than just playing basketball. He wasn’t a cold blooded assassin like Kobe Bryant. He was a fun-loving superstar who played the game with a child-like enthusiasm. In the commercial, he asks, “should I just sell shoes?,” and I couldn’t help but think about Michael Jordan. Jordan pioneered the branded basketball star, but he did it with an edge. Jordan definitely made an effort to bring in some humor to his identity (Space Jam, anyone?), but he wasn’t accessible the way LeBron was. I don’t remember Jordan dressing up as multiple personas for Sprite commercials or acting out silly pregame rituals like LeBron. Jordan was all business, and for MJ, the business was rings and shoes.

 

The commercial plays as a montage of what people are telling him to do and what he wants to do, and with each one, you see how hard the situation has been for him. As strange as this sounds, LeBron was not given the opportunities legends before him were. LeBron never had an elite teammate the way Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant had: He was on an island by himself in Cleveland. Every basketball player in the conversation for the best of all time have similar situations: elite teammates, hall of fame coaches, and rings, and up until this point, LeBron hasn’t had any. LeBron was a victim of circumstance: Everyone expected the world of him, but he couldn’t do it alone, and instead of having a team that could provide him with what he needed like Jordan and Johnson had, he had to go elsewhere to get it. In that journey to Miami, he hurt some feelings, made some unpopular decisions, but he also did what most people would do. He had the opportunity to play on a team that had the potential to be the greatest of all time, and those teammates happened to also be his friends.

 

This commercial addresses all the criticisms levied against LeBron and it also makes the viewer question how they would have handled the situation. There is no denying that “The Decision” was a little shady and a slap in the face to Cleveland fans, but I’ve always defended his motives. I don’t think you can blame a guy for trying to put himself in the best position to win championships in a sport where rings define a player more than any other major sport. I also think it’s unfair that LeBron is getting labeled a title-chaser while Dwyane Wade seems to attract little derision. Wade and Chris Bosh are afterthoughts in this discussion, and it’s unfair. Wade was also a free agent, and I genuinely feel that if the Cavaliers played in Miami, and Heat played in Cleveland, all three would be Cavaliers right now. The major difference between the three of them is the fact that LeBron made the mistake of ripping the hearts out of Cleveland fans on an hour long special.

 

LeBron deserves a second chance, although I understand how hard it will be to give him one. I don’t think his legacy is tarnished, but he can no longer be portrayed as the hometown hero leading his team to glory. He’s now a third of a formidable triumvirate and will be loved or hated, as most great teams are. I guess what I’m saying is this: don’t hate the guy for his actions off the court, hate him because he just wiped the floor with your team. I think a lot of this animosity is fueled by the media who completely blew this story out of proportion. LeBron should not be penalized for trying to win a championship, because in all honesty, if he had stayed in Cleveland and gone his entire career without winning a title, he would have been criticized for it and his legacy truly would have been tarnished. The bottom line is that LeBron had a tough choice to make, and the decision he made was a little selfish, but understandably so. He chose to play for a team that would give him the best chance at a title, in a great city, with his friends, and I think the commercial is LeBron’s way of showing that he hears everyone’s opinion, but he can’t please them all.

 

In the grand scheme of things, what LeBron did is nothing compared to cheating on your wife or gambling away millions of dollars, so I think the basketball world needs a little perspective. LeBron just needs to listen to Don Johnson, and “be patient. After a while the temperature drops and everything is free and easy.”

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