Sometimes even nice people are so self-serving that they deserve a blog of their own. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is not a very interesting character for me to write about normally. But tonight, he will announce to a breathless world where he will be playing basketball for the next five or six years. Since the announcement consists of one word (probably “Miami” or “Cleveland”), it seems a little over-the-top to schedule a one-hour special with a full slate of commercials. That is, of course, unless you see yourself as an industry rather than a person.
Of course, some of the money from selling the advertising will reportedly go to the Boys and Girls Clubs, a very worthwhile charity, and one that James faithfully supports. I have seen the kind of difference they make in our community, and I am hesitant to be critical of any effort that benefits them, even if the whole thing smacks of self-promotion.
But the self-worship that characterizes the NBA nowadays makes it difficult for me to be objective in evaluating motives. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify stars with at least significant vestiges of humility any more. I lived in San Antonio for the prime of Tim Duncan’s career, and I watched him willingly share the limelight with teammates like David Robinson, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. In fact, he was always the person speaking to the press about the exploits of those who were rarely lauded—Bruce Bowen or Steve Kerr or Malik Rose. And he won four championships, none of which the San Antonio Spurs would have won without him.
Now NBA players seek their own cult following. Dwayne Wade, the Miami Heat star who is trying to lure James to his team, was on TV today wearing a t-shirt that said Miami-Wade County, a take-off on Dade County, Miami’s home. This is not a t-shirt you wear YOURSELF; you leave it to all those people-worshippers who pour their money out to sustain money-producing machines like the NBA. But there he was, wearing this “worship me” shirt on national television, completely unaware that there might be an issue in doing so.
This might make Miami the perfect fit for James. Certainly, Shaquille O’Neal found his last professional relevance there, in a place where he was as famous for his house as for anything he did on the court. What better place than South Beach to operate as a stratosphere of stars who really enjoy looking in the mirror?
Since Miami is also planning to sign Toronto Raptors star forward Chris Bosh, they will have to trade Michael Beasley, one of their two remaining players, and the only one making any real money. That will mean, under NBA salary cap rules, that Miami will have to sign eleven other players to minimum contracts. It will be a roster of misfits, used-to-be’s and never-wases, and they will probably win two or three NBA titles. Bring back Stephon Marbury and Latrell Sprewell! They will carry the water, literally, for the three stars. Start working on your jump shot, because you are a candidate. And you can’t wipe the smile off NBA commissioner David Stern’s face.
Because he knows that self-serving sells tickets. It also sells business deals, and gets you CEO jobs and key government appointments. This is, unfortunately, because we are a nation of people worshippers—politicians and corporate leaders as much as athletes. We tune in to await the latest wisdom and to validate ourselves in identifying with them. Nothing can deter us—lying executives, politicians without consciences, athletes in every sport from baseball to cycling using performance enhancing drugs. Because performance is all that matters—not character, not conscience, not substance.
And tonight, America will tune in for the latest performance.
As I sat with my sister at lunch today, the TV blared incessantly about LeBron and all the conjecture of what team he would choose and why. It is unfortunate that so many team players – NBA, NFL, MLB, etc – forget the word TEAM and the fact it doesn’t have an “I” in it. They are all about the “I” and little about the TEAM. What’s really unfortunate is these are the people who are revered and idolized. Give me a Tim Duncan type of a guy any day!
Good words Dr. Shaub. As one who previously enjoyed watching “King James” destroy any and all defenders on the court, this whole thing has really turned me off to his brand. I am personally tired of seeing months of coverage, and am truly relieved this will be resolved and I can watch sportscenter in peace without being bombarded with the latest Lebron news. The only thing worse than this spectacle may be NFL rookie holdouts trying for more money before even taking a snap, and who knows what they will be worth (cough cough Jamarcus Russell).
To be really honest here…I do not like the Lebron James industry he has made for himself. And although some of the proceeds did go the the Boys and Girls Club an hour to say the word Miami was…how do I say this nicely…a little over the top. I in particular am not a fan of basketball but Lebron like Michael Phelps are people you happen to know just on news alone. It is quite interesting though as the his first season winds to a close, the dream team as ESPN put it, is not what it seems to be as you have, yes, three extremely good players on the same team, they are all three giant egoist and focus soley on themselves being the star which worked well on their three distinct teams, but here in Miami they all seem to be vying for that number one super star spot. Honestly, I am over it, I prefer teams to win who play like a team and who are a team. I guess we will see in about a month if they can really pull it off, or if their egos will just get in the way.
Frankly, I’m impressed that you pretty much predicted exactly what happened. In the last few years, I feel like this self-serving attitude is all that sports has become. And it’s caught up with many of these athletes like Tiger Woods and Lebron James. I believe that their true colors have been shown, and everyone knows it. This sad part is everyone will continue to watch their coverage, feeding their big headed attitudes, and I have to admit that I am one of the culprits. But no matter how much we keep feeding them, I believe that they are dealing with their own issues harder than we think. It has clearly affected Tiger Woods’s game and personal life. I dont disagree with Lebron’s decision to go to Miami, because for one, I don’t care, and for two, I honestly think the game of basketball has been more exciting this year because of it. I know I’ve been watching it more than I ever have been in the past. What I disagree with is the way he made his cocky little “coming out party” to the public when deciding on the Heat. It will be interesting to see what happens this year in the playoffs though, especially for me. I have 50 bucks that Miami wins it all.
The idea of a personal industry in sports is a difficult reality to accept. There have always been “personalities” who make the sports entertaining to watch in addition to the rivalries, competition, and talent. But when an athlete responds to fame and fortune in such a fashion as LeBron has, the results can be more than a little annoying to the sports purist. This is the point where an entertaining personality turns into outright arrogance. Even worse than the arrogance is the fact that people encourage athletes to continue acting this way by contributing to his or her revenue.
In light of the NFL draft last week, it is interesting to see the personality contrast in rookie athletes. In interviews leading up to the draft, sportscasters try to get athletes to reveal what team they would prefer to play with. Most players respond by saying they would be happy to play for anybody. While these may seem like empty words, if you watched any part of the actual NFL draft, it’s difficult to deny the pure happiness in players’ faces when they are selected. These young men are truly grateful just to be given the opportunity to play as a professional athlete.
Somewhere in between being drafted and creating a personal industry, athletes like LeBron lose touch with that sense of pride in participating in professional sports. The pride turns into arrogance, and the arrogance turns into an ego. And yet, I too will tune in to watch the NBArrogant playoffs in the hope that Chicago can serve up a deep dish of humility in the East.
I am a huge fan of basketball, but I have never been a big fan of Lebron James. While I have a huge amount of respect for his abilities as an individual basketball player, I have never had much respect for Lebron as a person. He has always seemed so arrogant and smug. His media campaign promoting his departure to Miami simply reinforced my opinion of him. He is the antithesis of humility. There is just no need to put on an hour long television program just to announce that you will be joining a new team. While it is great that some of the proceeds of the show went to the Boys and Girls Club, I doubt that charity was Lebron’s motivation for putting on the show. Given his obvious self-promotional nature, I think that he really just wanted to be looked at and desired. Furthermore, I don’t see why everyone was so intrigued. I hate to sound like a know-it-all, but wasn’t it painfully obvious that he was going to go to Miami? Lebron, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh were known to be getting all “buddy-buddy” for months. The “Big Three” were clearly trying to set up a super team, and Miami was simply the place where this was most reasonable. Throughout his career in Cleveland, Lebron was constantly pushing for acquisitions/trades that he thought would help him get a ring asap. Wouldn’t it make sense that when he got the chance he would jump at the opportunity to join forces with other superstars to achieve the closest thing to instant gratification that he could get? Furthermore, doesn’t Miami just seem like the perfect environment for Lebron. It’s a city stereotyped for encouraging flare and self-promotional behavior. I think that he knew he was going to go to Miami all along, and that he just wanted to get as much attention and promotion out of it as he could. Unfortunately, it seems that a little humility is just too much to ask for from today’s star athletes.
On a different note, Tim Duncan may not be as humble as you think. When I was in High School, he came into a restaurant that I worked at and demanded free food because of his star status. We gave it to him and then he didn’t even leave a single cent for a tip! Perhaps he just acts humble in front of the camera so that we will all think he is a great guy.
This is a classic example of what can happen to a kid when he is hyped in the media as early as high school. Since then he has heard from everyone how great he will be and how comparable he is to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. For a kid that didn’t have a lot of money growing up and a lack of guidance around him, he was put in a difficult situation. While I do find that one hour special self-serving, I think we need to look at what caused him to be like that. I remember at least 2 of his high school games being televised on ESPN. I think back to my senior year in high school; I would have had an enormous ego too at that age considering what was happening. I do think him going to Miami is a sign that he doesn’t think he can carry a team to an NBA championship. Jordan or Kobe would never have done that. I think it is fair to blame LeBron for his actions but don’t forget how much the media contributed to it.
It’s funny looking back at this post and remembering the uproar of people all around the country complaining about The Decision. I remember distinctly all the journalists saying this would mean LeBron would never be considered as great as Kobe or Jordan, but here we are just three years later and those comparisons are more common than ever. Heck, I would venture to say that now every bandwagon NBA fan in the country has a Miami Heat jersey. I like Chad’s comparison of this situation to Tiger Woods because it holds true to my thoughts here two years later. Watching the Masters this year, I think it is safe to say Tiger’s following is as big as ever. While this speaks a lot to the forgiving culture we live in today, I’d like to beg the question: is this self-serving behavior really what we want our children’s role models to display?