This is the reason you’re alone, this is the rise and the fall
Just watched the LeBron commercial. Almost makes ya wanna like him.
—the Official Roommate of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun. Cleveland native, Cavaliers fan, former Witness.
As we all probably could have expected, Nike has a LeBron James–centered commercial to kick off the NBA season and the start of the next era in King James’s career. It’s called “Rise.” Here it is.
Let’s get a few things out of the way. The Decision was a dick move. But it wasn’t a dick move because of the spectacle, or because it represents everything wrong about sports in the ESPN era, or because LeBron James is an egomaniac. It was a dick move because it prevented the Cleveland front office from pursuing alternate free agent strategies, and because it ripped the hearts out of Cavaliers fans’ chests. But it didn’t rip fans’ hearts out because LeBron James owed them his loyalty; he just just owed them the courtesy of not being an asshole. So yeah, I wasn’t a big fan of The Decision. I wasn’t a big fan of last week’s “Hater Day,” either, when LeBron re-posted some of the more vitriolic and nasty Twitter messages he’s gotten. LeBron may have some unpleasant stuff cross his path on a daily basis, but a multi-millionaire that plays a kids’ game for a living is going to have a hard time gaining sympathy from a nation of plebs already predisposed to dislike him. It’s just a losing strategy.
One of the more resonant critiques of LeBron has been that he just doesn’t get it. How could he not have known that The Decision would be poorly received? How could he possibly expect us to feel bad for him that he gets some nasty messages on Twitter? Why doesn’t he get it? This attitude is pervasive, especially among the sports commentariat, so it’s no surprise that some writers (like NESN’s Mike Cole) would think that the new Nike commercial is just part of a pattern. Writers like Cole would have you believe that everything you think about LeBron James is valid, and he’s coming after you again. Simple as that.
Problem is, that’s not what this commercial is doing. LeBron’s not settling any scores here. He’s not trying to portray how betrayed he feels. He’s saying “Look in the mirror.”
(A caveat: Cleveland fans need not look in the mirror. Their hatred is justified. If Cleveland wants to hate LeBron forever, they should. I would never begrudge a fan base a valid uh, grudge. I mean, Cliff Lee didn’t treat New York nearly as bad as LeBron treated Cleveland, but I still hate that guy’s guts!)
As Lisa Simpson said, you can’t create a monster and then whine when it stomps on a few buildings. We’re all complicit in the LeBron James hype machine. We can complain about The Decision, but I certainly watched. So did a lot of people. We can complain about ESPN’s non-stop coverage of LeBron James’s free agency over the past two years, but we all watched. And every time there was a Michael Jordan comparison, every time LeBron was referred to as the savior of a star-crossed city, more of our own expectations and projections were heaped onto him. LeBron James looked like a good guy, so he became a good guy. We wanted LeBron James to lift Cleveland out of sports purgatory, so he became the guy that would lift Cleveland out of sports purgatory. The franchise down the road from his hometown was awful enough to win the draft lottery the season before he entered the NBA, so LeBron became the hometown hero.
LeBron James isn’t a hero. LeBron James isn’t a villain. And, like he says in the ad, LeBron James isn’t a role model. I’ve gotten into this a tad before on the blog. I just don’t think we should be holding athletes up as role models. Of course, it’s nice when star athletes are also great people. And of course, we shouldn’t tolerate star athletes behaving like savages. But we also shouldn’t hold them to standards of morality and goodness that we would have a hard time living up to ourselves, simply because they’re on TV more. These are guys that are just like us, except better at sports.
The Decision was a mistake. We all make mistakes. LeBron has a large ego. It’s exceedingly difficult to get ahead in the world of professional sports without one. LeBron appears to have turned his back on his hometown team. I’m sorry that Cleveland’s teams haven’t won a title in half a century. I’m sorry that for seven seasons, the best the Cavaliers could do to play with LeBron were guys like Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao. I’m sorry that the Browns have had some heartbreaking seasons, and have seen teams like the Rams, the Buccaneers, and the Saints win Super Bowls. I’m sorry that Jose Mesa couldn’t close out Game 7. Had any of a number of things far outside of LeBron’s control occurred over the years, it wouldn’t be such a big deal that LeBron left Cleveland, let alone the manner that he left.
I guess all of this is to say, I’m over being mad at LeBron. The most effective image in that whole ad, and one that I think should be the main takeaway for all of us, is LeBron tearing up the gym with a front loader. I think we should clear the decks and start over. I don’t mean looking past The Decision; that’s part of LeBron’s legacy forever. I mean start over in terms of our expectations and perceptions. LeBron James isn’t a savior. He isn’t a hero, and he isn’t a villain. He’s neither a goat nor the GOAT. He’s just a basketball player.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 at 11:30 pm and is filed under Culture, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.