King James’ NBA “coronation” doesn’t gratify fans, says JP Pelosi. “We crave superstars in sports.”
LeBron James played well in Game 5 of pro basketball’s championship, and perhaps we can tip our hat to him—finally.
For a moment.
He drove and dished with abandon, finding teammates and involving them. He rebounded with might and poise, securing the ball amidst flailing arms and barging shoulders. He scored at will, and seemingly without effort. Yes, I’m afraid he was every bit the player we once expected him to be, and strangely hoped he would fall short of, following that decision. And now, he is both literally a champion and a self-proclaimed one. Hurrah.
Often in sports, the inevitable happens, because realistically there aren’t many alternatives. The Babe called his shot and lo and behold, he smacked the thing into folk lore. Jack Nicklaus overcame the great Arnold Palmer and then went onto win, well, everything —three times over! Mike Tyson knocked out 44 fighters. John Elway would not be denied a Super Bowl ring. And Anna Kournikova never won much, but for a time was the most searched for woman on the internet. None of these occurrences are surprising. Nor is the so-called crowning of King James.
But it wasn’t always in the cards that James would be so reviled by sports fans. Generally speaking, we crave superstars in sports, and we want them to wow us, to dream big, and win even bigger. If you don’t believe me, think about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and try form an argument as to why you’d rather have seen Ricky Pierce’s Bucks or Rolando Blackman’s Mavericks emerge victorious during those eighties title runs. Even if you don’t hail from Boston or Los Angeles there was an innate feeling that small town heroes Larry and Magic were meant to compete, excel, and entertain the world. It was their special time, and even if you rooted for those Bucks or Mavs, part of you rooted for the most spectacular basketball possible, too.
So did we root for the spectacular James this year? Those Suddenly Heat fans in unimposing white t-shirts at the American Airlines Arena certainly did, and maybe one or two South Beach bookies enjoyed some champagne late Thursday too. But for many of us, this win will always be tainted by its premeditation—despite the SportsCenters of the world now spinning the obvious redemption narrative. The disastrous decision was so flawed in its conception, and worse yet, in its contrived and egotistical delivery, that while forgivable, it’s hardly forgettable. In truth, King James forced his rule by building the most formidable army, one that would eventually seize control of its constructed destiny and then trumpet it as if they’d turned their designer rags into even greater riches.
Post crowning, James talked about “everything that he’d been through” to this point and how he was forced to change to quash every adversity. Come on, are we really buying this? I’m not questioning his effort or legitimacy as the sport’s most dominant athlete, but there’s no adversity here. There’s no impossible mountain or unwavering will. The story just didn’t rewrite itself because LeBron was intentionally lower key en route to his formulaic victory. The fact is he still boosted himself with two of the game’s most talented players, who as a unit, were certainly far too difficult to equal on most nights. What’s impressive about that, whether it took one year or two, or ten?
The Thunder were valiant. But the Heat were predictably and inevitably too strong. Their calculated glory, therefore, not surprisingly lacks the warmth and authenticity sports fans deserve.
—Photo credit: igraph/Flickr