LeBron James: Anti-Sportsman of the Year
Have you received your Christmas card yet from LeBron James? I'm not certain, but I think it's a panorama of reindeer relieving themselves over the Cleveland skyline while Santa sits in his sleigh getting a pedicure from Jim Gray.
It would be the perfect reminder why James is the Anti-Sportsman of the Year.
Anti-Sportsman of the Year doesn't do LeBron justice. He transcended sports in 2010 and stands beside Glenn Beck, Julian Assange, Nancy Pelosi and any TSA agent as the year's most resented earthling.
And to think that all he did was switch basketball teams, which isn't quite as big a threat to national security as Sarah Palin. It was the heartless way LeBron took his talents to South Beach that got to people.
The antipathy was so severe it became a discussion point among psychologists. Years from now, colleges will be offering LeBron 2010 as a course in how to destroy a brand name.
It turns out that nobody likes a conniving, ungrateful narcissist who surrounds himself with yes men. We expect such behavior out of Randy Moss, but James had a fairly admirable public persona until "The Decision." All his flaws were manifested in what turned out to be the most criticized 60 minutes in television history not involving Tori Spelling.
First, there was his lack of cojones. I never cared if LeBron's teams won three or 82 games. I just liked watching such a great hoop artist at work. Same with Dwyane Wade.
They are at their best when they work alone, or with four guys with names like Zydrunas. Now they're sharing the same canvas, and there's no telling how many basketball masterpieces will never be created.
It's also a gutless way to go for a title.
"Such intentional efforts to assemble unstoppable talent is antithetical to what makes sports fun and compelling: the lack of predictability," Allen McConnell wrote in Psychology Today. "No one wants to see sports teams that are pre-ordained or irrepressible; fans watch games for the drama of the unknown to play out (literally)."
McConnell's a psychology professor at Miami of Ohio. But you don't need a shrink to tell you James took the easy way out.
"This is a business," he kept saying on "The Decision."
He said all he cared about was titles, and what's so bad about that? Some people might have bought that at first. Who wouldn't take South Beach over Lake Erie? Then it became obvious James cared mainly about himself.
LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh were angling for Miami all along. The free-agency drama was mainly a charade to feed King James' ego.
Cleveland gave him seven years of unconditional love. The Cavs indulged his every desire. Couldn't he at least have pretended to be grateful on the way out?
When ESPN scheduled "The Decision," poor pitiful Cleveland had its hopes up. Surely LeBron wouldn't go on national TV with all those cameras poised in sports bars around Ohio, and publicly humiliate those who admired him the most.
That never occurred to LeBron, who was too busy telling Gray what to ask him. He didn't even thank Cleveland for the memories. But then why get all emotional over business decisions?
After 27 minutes of contrived buildup on "The Decision," James set Cleveland back 50 years. He didn't realize it then, but he also sent his reputation to a purgatory it will never escape.
So what if the Heat win this year's title, or the next and the next? James will still be getting booed in places like Memphis.
Memphis. As if he were ever going to join the Grizzlies.
If they hate him in Tennessee, imagine the feeling in New York and Chicago. Even if the animosity fades to indifference, James will never be the superhero he was.
Then there will always be Cleveland, where James initial homecoming will become the norm. He had 38 points, there were 14 security officers around the Heat bench, four fans were ejected, 36 anti-LeBron T-shirts and signs were confiscated for being too nasty, and one angry lout threw a battery.
"I understand their frustration," James said. "It's nothing personal with myself or these fans."
Maybe it's not with him. But fans in Cleveland and almost everywhere else have made their own decision.
They want LeBron to take his talents somewhere much further south than South Beach.
Nothing personal, of course.