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The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to LeBron

June 12, 2011


Nothing is more polarizing than a popular kid. To be popular, according to the dictionary, means to be perceived fondly and discussed in terms of general approval, but I'm not so sure that's always the case, because to be popular is also to be exposed, to jealousy, to contempt, to ridicule, to unreasonable standards, solely because people praised you in the first place. Not only can popularity unleash the negativity of the masses onto an individual, but popularity, just like its counterpoint, can uproot the individual from reality altogether.



The unpopular kid senses the lowly state of his existence and attacks it, with passive silence or angry gunfire; imaginative anime or Columbine tragedy unleashing the fists of fantasy and violence upon the world. Something is done, and the loser either accepts or rejects the marginalization of society. Case closed for the individual, while the general population sorts through the nonsense of Yu-Gi-Oh cards or diaries full of hate wondering what went wrong. Why did my kid think that defeating animated dragons was a real accomplishment? Or, why did my kid believe it was okay to set the world on fire? When the answer to both questions is relatively the same: the child knew this world was not for him and went about creating a new one.

The popular kid never reaches such conclusions. The popular kids goes on believing that his popularity was an end unto itself and that this world belongs to him, but popularity alone does not win anything. If it did, then Vince Carter and Allen Iverson would have performed their own renditions of Michael Jordan's 1991 embracing of the Larry O'Brien Trophy. 


Even when the world has started to criticize the handsome smile and endless charm of last year's Homecoming King, wondering if such crowns were ever real to begin with, the Homecoming King lives life as if his greatness is a forgone conclusion. It's not. The King was elected, but there's a world beyond high school that shrinks the accomplishments of adolescents in proportion to the time that has passed since Homecoming, since the last football game, since Prom night, and even graduation. At the end of the day, the pep rallies are but a whisper, and the same can be said of the NBA. 

The number one draft picks come in as unlimited potential, and we are mesmerized by their talents, to the point that after they have only played a handful of games we already start to chart where in the game's great Pantheon they will rank, and then we discuss their potential to such great lengths that we begin to accept it as accomplishment, which results in outlandish questions like "is LeBron James as good as Michael Jordan." Such questions are almost always asked too soon; we're a species prone to getting carried away.  But, admittedly, it was hard not to buy into the young man's greatness when he was elbowing us in homeroom everyday, nodding towards the board, winking vote for me with those thunderous dunks and last second threes.

We wanted him to be good, to conquer the world, earn scholarships, cure cancer, be President, win a Nobel Prize. The only problem is that being Homecoming King doesn't really prepare a person for any of those things. Being Homecoming King only prepares a person to smile and wave, maybe wear a sash and to dance the night away. LeBron James, for all his gifts, is clearly limited, and the best thing that could happen to him is for the Dallas Mavericks to win Game 6 tonight and put his inflated ego out of its own inflated misery, forcing the King to go back to the drawing board, to find something real.

That's right, at this point in the two-time MVPs career, the only thing that can make him better is losing. 

If LeBron James and the Heat win tonight and then go on to win Game 7, then the rest of LeBron James' career will be him riding around a high school track, on Porsche rented by Dwyane Wade, completely useless, completely marginalized, collecting crowns as if they were Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

In other words, if LeBron's potential is ever to be realized, he needs to start seeing the dance from a perspective other than the Homecoming court. He needs to realize that being popular is just as disenfranchising as being unpopular. He needs to be relegated to the center, where work actually matters and emotions other than entitlement, imagination, and rage exist. Hard work has to become a value, and if he wins anything in the future, let him have actually earned it, being assertive at the end of games, relying on a go-to post game, moving without the ball, and not mocking players who are clearly out playing him

After all, it's what every other champion has had to do (Jordan's three trials were being cut in high school, Dean Smith's system, and the Detroit Pistons), and it's time LeBron's coaches, teachers, principals, parents, friends, and teammates quit letting him get by on just a smile and about time he learned a life lesson: that no one is born a King, that crowns are shaped from blood, sweat, and tears, and that every King needs a mentor and a past that humbles him. 


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