Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • COLUMN: In My Opinion

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  • LeBron James is the most powerful person in sports. There should be little debating that. He’s the best basketball player alive. He’s most recognizable and bankable athlete in terms of cache. And more simply, he’s the best at just getting us talking.
    When LeBron announced his decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers last Friday in a deft and poignant essay in Sports Illustrated, it marked the end of a wild, treacherous 10 day period where EVERYONE was speculating about where he would go, but no one had any substantive facts or information. But that didn’t stop the media and public from combing the Internet for clues and taking wild guesses as to what would happen. It was pretty exhausting, and in the end, only a few people actually knew where it would end.
    This time around, LeBron’s decision was notable for two reasons: first, how he did it and second, who he did it with. Back in 2010, you might recall, LeBron announced his decision to leave the Cavs and join the Miami Heat in a 1-hour televised special on ESPN. Everybody hated it. “Ego maniac!” everyone yelled. I mean, I guess. My only problem with that judgment, though, is that it wasn’t anymore egomaniacal than going on, say, some televised reality show where a lot of people try to sing, dance, or generally act like a fool for attention. That’s totally different, right? Another thing that kind of tore a hole in that whole argument was that the special raised $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Club. But enough about that. This time, LeBron was lauded and praised for his decision by most everyone. Rightfully so, as the personal essay was a nice touch and considered much less showy than an ESPN blown out special. The media praised his maturity and said that it was a sign that LeBron had finally grown up. Maybe he had. Maybe he had learned some lessons from the first time around. That would probably make a lot of people feel better. But I don’t think that’s why he did it. I think he chose to go home because he was tired of being painted as disloyal and greedy when he was the antithesis of these things. After a while, perception becomes reality.
    There are so many cool things about sports. There are many exasperating things, too. This LeBron story encapsulated both sides. On one hand, LeBron gets to go home again to a hero’s welcome. He gets to live and work in his hometown, and potentially will bring a championship to Cleveland for the first time in decades. In addition, he gained an enormous amount of power and leverage with his latest contract. But more than that, LeBron showed that no matter how badly you leave a place, you can always come back. On the other hand, it showed just how much we all love the soap opera aspect of sports. Where will this guy go? For how much? When? And if he doesn’t do or say what we want him to? Well then he’s a bum and will feel our wrath. It seems that we are increasingly more interested in debating the perception and legacy of the person, rather than their athletic achievements and merits, which is another column for another day. So, what’s the moral of the story? It’s that we want the sideshow. We want the gossip, the noise, and the story, whether there are facts or not. We want a chance to burn a jersey, and then turn right around and act like none of it happened. In making his decision, LeBron James showed us all of that, and now he’s back in the public’s good graces. The place he should have been, all along.
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