LeBron James is weird.
Not ‘owns a pet parrot’ weird or ‘damp handshake’ weird, but, just, weird. And it has everything to do with expectations.
“Jordan/Bird/Magic/Kareem/Wilt/Russell never did this” could be said at nearly every pivotal juncture of LeBron’s career — and it’d be wholly accurate. Because James has more in common with Don Draper than any of the aforementioned basketball hierarchy.
While most kids grow up wanting to be and have what LeBron James is and has, you get the sense LeBron still envies the marketing savvy of his childhood best friend Maverick Carter. Instead he got stuck in a ridiculously athletic and nearly genetically impossible body.
C’est la vie.
“He just wants attention.” “Typical spoiled King.” “LeBron ain’t loyal.”
Sure, you can piece together a justification for each sentiment above if you take James’ many (ugh, forgive me) decisions at face value. But really all LeBron James is doing is making business decisions. He’s a contract employee who everyone wants to hire full-time: in the job market of whatever industry you work, you wouldn’t want that? Billionaires clamber over each other to show their empire offers the most. Best part? Any glory attained after you’ve given your signature is strictly yours.
Precedents supposedly set by past athletes, and the expectation for current athletes to follow, are what’s behind the hollow outrage toward LeBron James. He’s more like you than he is Michael Jordan, and we can’t seem to get beyond that. Mainly because idolizing sports figures is a national pastime. They’re supposed to be better than us. They’re supposed to always do (what we consider) the right thing. They’re supposed to provide us a parenting cheat sheet.
It’s time to acquiesce to evolution.
Jordan relied on Nike and a borderline unhealthy dependence on competition. Magic transformed into a businessman after his career was abruptly ended by HIV. LeBron’s working two jobs.
I admit, it is a bit weird to see — but I also admit that I love it. James is probably just as dominant in a boardroom as he is on the court and I support the shit out of that. For a kid who has never had to make any decisions about college or a career afterwards, I appreciate that he probably has an archive of pro/con lists, 1-3-5 year goal plans, and at least 3 flowcharts. LeBron’s not just building a hall of fame basketball career, he’s building a résumé.
But that doesn’t fit what we want to believe about athletes. Especially the ones who are so talented we simplify their lives by assuming they should be so consumed by a game that they’re free from the stresses of an average life. Reminders of real life have no place within the forum in which popular culture and opinion view sports.
Disparaging LeBron for approaching the business side of his career as intensely as he approaches the basketball side is a symptom of an archaic worldview. It’s 2014: Amazon wants to send you toothpaste via drone, Apple bought headphones invented by a mediocre rapper, and LeBron can probably nail a PowerPoint presentation better than you.
Get over it.