So, I spent my morning attempting to channel the raging river — seriously: there is a lot rage — of LeBron-related content into a coherent and comprehensible 800-word package for the Daily Fix. (You tell me). “Content” is not really the right word, here. There are several right words to describe all the LeBron-related words out there, but I guess fulmination, advising, scolding and contextualization would be the four main rubrics, with “reporting” — most notably Alan Hahn’s spoilerrific scoop in Newsday revealing that LeBron is leaning towards joining the Heat — I guess falling under the fourth category heading.
Even online, writing for the Journal is different than writing for anyplace that is not the Journal. It’s not so much that I’m trying to cater what I write to the WSJ audience — Daily Fix commenters have basically no patience for the NBA and its “millionaire thugs,” so I’d be linking to Gregg Doyel all day/e’ry day if I did. (And, as I wrote at great length yesterday, I’m not playing into that particular troll trap) But the best and most honest writing about this whole sordid deal is both harder to classify and harder to find.
The constant, understandably, is that everyone hates the stupid LeBron ESPN special and is sick of the hype and so on. While the Artist Formerly Known (to one ranting guy) as Big Daddy Balls relentless and artless repetition of “cocksucker” in his Deadspin rant on James provides a reasonable idea of what this line of argument’s basement looks like, he’s not the only one super-incensed by this totally predictable and totally predictably over-the-top and distasteful thing that’s happening. Just because no one foresaw the depths to which the WWL was willing to go to secure what promises to be an excruciating 60 minutes of television doesn’t mean that the dumb ugliness of all this caught anyone by surprise. It’s the extent that’s surprising, which leads me to believe that there’s something maybe a little disingenuous about, say, Adrian Wojnarowski’s Cleaned-Up Magary routine at Yahoo Sports. A bitter taste:
The Championship of Me comes crashing into a primetime cable infomercial that LeBron James and his cronies have been working to make happen for months, a slow, cynical churning of manufactured drama that sports has never witnessed. As historic monuments go, this is the Rushmore of basketball hubris and narcissism. The vacuous star for our vacuous times. All about ˜Bron and all about nothing.
James is throwing a few foosball tables at Boys & Girls Clubs, an empty gesture out of the empty superstar. He™s turned free agency into the title of our times, a preening pageant of fawning, begging and pleading. Hard-working people are dragged into municipalities and told to hold signs, chant scripted slogans and beg a diva who doesn™t care about them to accept a $100 million contract.
Which, first of all: this isn’t a freaking tea party, dude, so you can probably cut that righteous dudgeon back by about 80 percent. Obviously this whole thing was going to get dumb, and obviously it has gotten dumb. Obviously LeBron was going to sign a huge contract and leverage his brand (barf, by the way) for maximum revenue, because he has always done that, and obviously he is doing that. Getting Hulk-smash angry at the fact that these totally predictable things are happening strikes me as kind of a waste of energy and virtual ink. Also: of course the very serious and very easily outraged Doyel basically rewrote Woj’s column over at his own feces-strewn perch at CBS Sports, and of course it’s far worse and far more strident. (It’s also not nearly as eloquent a statement as setting up a Twitter feed for LeBron’s ego)
Which is not to say that there’s nothing to feel bad about or get angry about, here. But given that only the grandiosity of the tastelessness is the surprise, I think that Dave D’Alessandro’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone is a much better look. It’s also especially welcome — if not surprising, given that D’Alessandro is basically the best guy writing about basketball in a newspaper right now — that his piece gets at something more significant than his own disgust; namely, the bleak tastelessness of LeBron quite possibly dumping the already struggling city of Cleveland in a live-TV celebration of himself. I won’t excerpt it, because one Daily Fix per day is enough, but it’s definitely worth reading.
I will excerpt the priceless dissection of the myriad and multiple wrongnesses of LeBron going to Miami from Joey’s merciless examination at Straight Bangin’, which GC has already given it its richly deserved due. Joey’s piece, I think, represents the third and most interesting strain of LeBron writing I’ve seen on the internet — namely, that of a serious basketball fan with a minor stake in LeBron continuing to be an uncommonly sympathetic and interesting superstar, and who hates to see him blowing it. Leaving aside the basketball considerations of how LeBron would fare in Miami with Bosh, Wade and whatever vet-minimum dudes they fill out their roster with — Basketball Reference runs the expected W/L, which is pretty good given that they’d be starting Brian Skinner and Kevin Ollie alongside that notional Big Three — there’s a legitimate sadness in Joey’s examination of how LeBron seems to be preparing to blow it. If you have to cover this big dumb thing — and I’m living proof that you have to do it twice — this seems like the response that makes the most sense. Here’s some:
Grow, motherfucker! Grow!… Be the man you claim you want to be. Which icons with respected brands–because that’s your shit, right, Bron Bron?–tried a little, failed, quit on the struggle, and then piggybacked onto something else?
And which basketball deities throw up their hands and jump on the most convenient path to success? Help is one thing, shortcuts are another. Michael needed not just Scottie, but also Horace and Dennis and even Stacy King and Brian Williams. Hakeem needed Kenny and Sam and Robert and Otis and Mario. Those teams were built, though. They were drafted, crafted, aged, cultivated. They weren’t sold prepackaged out of a Wal-Mart. Earn something, don’t just buy it because you can!
…No ne smart will be duped into thinking that this unholy union in Miami is on par with the truly legendary teams. Because part of being a legend is putting in work, not staging a protracted play date.
It’s easy to do some clownish, outsized pantomime of surprise or outrage over the prospect of LeBron in Miami, or the corny spectacle of the LeBron ESPN special. But just about the only authentic response I can think of to the prospect of James dumping Cleveland on live TV so he can go be on a fantasy team in Miami — and making the next NBA season that much duller in the process — is bummery disappointment, not venomous disgust. The whole thing is a letdown much more than it’s an offense to national honor or whatever, obviously. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that, if LeBron’s corny choreography does indeed end with him in Miami tonight, it would indeed be a letdown.