Such is life in the offseason where one man, and his capacity for collusion, corruption, and calumny have become, yes, bigger than the NBA itself. John Lennon caught hell for saying that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus; LeBron James would, too, if he said what we've all made possible.
James is more popular than the Association right now, and not in a "Michael Jordan owns this sport" kind of way. He's a sideshow, a diversion when the only other thing going is USA Basketball and whatever crazy plot David Kahn hatches next.
Thus, in between "The Decision" and The Cover-Up, there was, simply, The Mistake. It makes for far less juicy copy, and no one can fling around morality like its 1745. Really, though, this story never should have happened.
I say this with all due respect to Arash Markazi; he's a great writer, and plus, we once shared a cut-rate limo ride to the Thomas & Mack Center. Arash wrote the story he set out to write: this is how LeBron and friends ball out. He could have mentioned that the ladies in the hot tub are in fact a staple of Tao, as are the zany waiters. Otherwise, it was pretty much what you would expect. Unless you're ridiculously naive. More on that later.
Giving Arash this kind of access, to this kind of night out, practically guaranteed this kind of story (which can still be read in its entirety at Deadspin). With the summer James is having, someone should have known better. No, LeBron shouldn't stay at home knitting until he wins a championship. Or lay low, like he just robbed a bank. It's simple: don't invite the reporter inside.
Even more than "The Decision," this is bush league on the part of Maverick Carter and the other Horsemen. This depiction of LeBron simply reinforces everything nasty said about him this summer. By extension, those comments are starting to infect the way the league is discussed, so it's fitting that other notables like Chris Paul and Lamar Odom put in appearances.
I found the piece tremendously entertaining, and revealing. But I'm not on a personal vendetta against LeBron James. While I may be the audience for this column, I could have waited. For the other half of the country, maybe even more, it's like throwing red meat onto a bloodbath.
This story should never have happened. But why did it have to go away? Because no matter who made the call (literally or figuratively), the second this went up, anyone in the world could have told you it was a terrible idea. LeBron James' management should be several steps ahead of publication; ESPN should realize that, in this climate, Arash's piece was bound to come off as salacious, even inflammatory, and stand their ground accordingly.
Of course, they never would have gotten this access had the goal been to antagonize, or expose, LeBron.
How many times can I say this? This article never should have happened, much less been published. We would all have been better off that way.
What, does that bother you? Would you prefer we talk about James and all the evil he represents, now and forever? Guess what: the rich and famous like to party and have a good time, especially on their vacation. Especially in Vegas. Why? Because they can. It's an uncomfortable, maybe inconvenient, truth. But it's there. Always has been.
I don't really see exactly what's so bad about James' recreational activities, or demeanor. He's not piss-drunk, or violent, or compulsively gambling. Maybe he's an attention hog, and sort of full of himself. Seriously, though, you were expecting Mother Theresa?
The social contract here is simple: athletes let us in when they want to, or when they do something so egregious that it becomes news. Apparently, LeBron wanted this coverage, but he shouldn't have.
Actually, James is doing exactly what he should be. Letting off steam after a tumultuous, and presumably stressful, summer. You think he should be crying in a dark room and thinking about what he did wrong? I'm sure a large percentage of the people reading this enjoy getting rowdy with their friends, maybe even seeing the flesh of strangers and acting the fool. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, or should. Boys will be boys. Hang the red lantern high.
Next time, just don't tell us about it unless you're ready for the backlash. Just because it's unfair, doesn't mean things will ever change.