It was August of 2002 and I was in London, England. I walked passed a newspaper stand and among the many football soccer magazines and tabloid newspapers I saw it. It was nothing new; my older brother had a nice collection of them. He kept them in the top drawer of his dresser, I am sure trying to hide them so I could not get my hands on them. He did not know but I would flip through them when he wasn’t home, in fact I bought one every once in awhile when the cover showed a photo of one of my favorites. It was this issue though that stood out to me more than others I had seen, because on the cover stood two young men who looked to be in high school. The cover read “The Take Over” and it was the first time Lebron James (with Sebastian Telfair) graced the cover a SLAM magazine.
At that moment, I had no idea who LeBron James was, and to be honest, I still don’t think I know who he is.
I do know, however, who I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be the guy that would one day take over after Kobe finished dominating the game of basketball. I wanted it to be the guy that no matter how far he was behind in a game, as long as there was time on the clock you knew it wasn’t over. I wanted it to be the guy that would enter a Slam Dunk Contest and you KNEW that you would see something you had never seen before. Most importantly though, I wanted him to be the guy that would have the same impact on the game that Jordan once had, and I secretly want to be a “Witness” to those things.
It has been a few weeks now since Lebron took off the top hat that he wore while he was the ringleader of the free agency circus and announced that he would be joining the Miami Heat. It was at that moment that Lebron went from literally, “The Chosen One” to “The Hated One”. Depending on whom you ask about the story on how he made that transformation may vary. Like many other fans the choice to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers did not bother me, or the fact that he joined two other All-Stars. He had every right to do what he did and he owes the city of Cleveland nothing. He played harder then any person on that team while he was under contract, winning two MVP awards, and taking a team from a low position in the Eastern conference to +60 wins, two seasons in a row.
My problem was in the false persona he displayed while being interviewed when making his decision. I did not like it when he said that he had made the decision that morning when the other pieces of the “Miami Heat All-Stars” agreed to deals days before. Also, the fact that the exact deal was leaked from a source to Stephen A. Smith two weeks earlier didn’t sit well either. I did not like that he did not have the courtesy to tell the teams involved in his decision until he was on live television. Doing this wasted precious days prior, that teams could have been working on other deals to prepare for the up coming season.
It was on the next Sunday morning following The Decision, however, that I fired up the computer and saw that Lebron had finally spoken about the scathing letter written to him by the owner of the Cleveland Cavilers. This interview by Rachel Nichols was aired on ESPN’s “Sunday Conversation”. When asked if he had called his former team of 7 years to let them know he would be leaving he said, “I didn’t talk to anyone personally because… I got to a point the last day, I heard so much through out the whole process. The last day I wanted it to be about me…”. It is at these moments, like many others, that I expected someone to pull Lebron aside and tell him, “What the hell are you thinking? You are coming across as the biggest ego-maniac in the entire NBA UNIVERSE!” But no one did…
Lebron has encircled himself with a select few friends that have been with him since high school. These are the few that serve as his “advisors”, they are there to give him their two cents and I’m sure keep their ear to the streets. It is in these types of friends, the ones that knew you before the hype, before the money, before the fame, that you would expect to be 100 percent honest. These are the friends that you want to step in when they see the clouds gather and tell you what to do so that you don’t get soaked with rain. Some would ask however where these friends were at different stages lately in Lebron’s career.
Where were they during the “LeBron Gets Dunked On By High School Student” fiasco? Where were they when he decided that no one should wear number 23 to honor six time champion Michael Jordan, and that he would don number 6 which happened to belong to ELEVEN time champion Bill Russell? Where were they when he decided to not so much call Dan Gilbert and thank him for allowing him to start the foundation of what could be an amazing career so close to home and say goodbye? Where were they when the idea of an hour long special putting him on display in front of the nation, in what many looked at as a lose/lose situation? Then again maybe they were there warning him every step of the way but the “Chosen One” wanted it to be about him.
I guess in the end it was not a false persona he displayed when being interviewed on “The Decision”. It was his true persona; it was the real Lebron James. It was the stereotypical athlete we see everyday. It was the kid I had seen eight years ago on the cover of a magazine on a street in London England, only now I do not know if I want him to be the person I once did.
Mike Anderson is a frequent guest writer for The Forest Lab. You can follow him on twitter here.