Monday, May 3, 2010

On LeBron and Home

Chris Broussard--whom I worked alongside at a once-proud newspaper in Akron, many lifetimes ago--has written an insightful piece for today about LeBron's decision to accept the MVP trophy in his hometown, and what that might mean. Broussard's take: LeBron is staying. I tend to agree. I tend to think that outwardly, more than any major sports star in recent memory, LeBron is something of an unmitigated goofball; whereas Jordan generally embraced showmanship when it contributed toward his cold and mercenary aims, LeBron--perhaps even moreso than Magic--is willing to embrace showmanship purely for the sake of narrative tension. (That's why no one would be truly surprised if LeBron's elbow injury is, in fact, a ruse to render this postseason more interesting.) LeBron is one of the first megastars of the reality television era, and I tend to think this whole free-agency gimmick is a way to build up the narrative stakes. I tend to believe that LeBron wants, in his heart, to re-sign with Cleveland; I tend to believe that the only way he signs somewhere else is if Cleveland somehow (idiotically) forces his hand or otherwise "disrespects" him*, and he has no choice but to go elsewhere in order to maintain his dignity.

Honestly, I lived in Akron for five years and I heard only one other person speak about Akron the way LeBron did in his press conference. That person is my friend David (who wrote this excellent book), and David has lived his whole life in Akron, and at this point, I can't imagine him ever leaving. If LeBron stays, even if he never wins a championship, he immediately becomes the most beloved athlete in the history of one of the most storied sports towns in America, a place where sporting success really does subsume everything. In New York, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, he becomes another cog in the machine. And in LeBron's head, I don't think that narrative is nearly as compelling.**

*What exactly I mean by this, I'm not sure. I just know contract negotiations are odd things.
**Disclaimer: Just in case you're reading this in November 2010, and LeBron is playing in a backcourt with Derrick Rose, let me state: I could be competely wrong about all of this.

(Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)


WarningTrack said...

I agree, I think he's staying. What's fun is speculating as to the ways this might (or might not) happen. For example, is he more or less likely to leave if he wins a championship this year? I say more likely, but it's hard to say.

Harder still: would that be a reasonable trade for Cavs fans? They get LeBron for awhile, win it all, then lose him. This sounds like a pretty good deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'll bet an overwhelming majority of their fan base would rather lose again this year and hang onto him for the long-term. Guy's probably got a few championships in him going forward anyway.

I'd like to see Drew Magary's fantasy come to life: however the season ends, if it does so at home, LeBron should have a contract extension ready to go so he can hold it up right there on the court and sign it in front of everyone. It'd instantly become of the most memorable moments in basketball history, and it's one of those ways in which a person can be showy without coming off as incredibly self-centered. Also, the entire crowd would simultaneously pass-out like they were reeenacting the pilot for "FlashForward."

Your escalator operator said...

Oh, please let him be playing in a backcourt with D-Rose in Chicago. Please.

Michael Weinreb said...

I thought every one of Drew Magary's fantasies involved prostitutes and airport bathrooms. But yes, that ending would be much better than "FlashForward."