Ten years ago NBA Nation anointed a fifteen year old boy named Lebron James, their King. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t won a college, or NBA Championship. He still was given the keys to the kingdom as the Chosen One. Last night’s Game 6, 94-85 Boston Celtics win dethroned King James and destroyed the city of Cleveland.
Only days after the worshiping their King, NBA Nation is busy crucifying him for failing to bring Cleveland an NBA Championship. Just a week ago, TV analyst Mark Jackson suggested parents of new-born babies choose the name Lebron. Every flexion of muscle, garnishes oohs and ahhs, as his royalty could do no wrong. That is until he failed.
The prince of basketball barely escaped middle school before expectations, hype, fame and fortune was his. NBA Nation overlooked the controversy of the then 17 year old given the keys to an $80,000 chariot. According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines, “no amateur may accept any gift valued over $100 as a reward for athletic performance.”
In his Junior year of High School Lebron James averaged 29 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. According to Wikipedia he was named “Mr. Basketball of Ohio” three times, was selected All-American USA First Team, and was named the 2001-2002 Boys Basketball “Gatorade National Player of the Year.” It was at this time that he earned the title of “King James.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeBron_James#High_school)
With his title secured, the King petitioned the NBA to change the draft eligibility rules and allow him to drop out of High School as a Junior and play in the NBA. The Nation of the NBA would have to wait for their King one more year.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would officially crown their King in the 2003 NBA Draft. “King James became the youngest player in league history to score at least 40 points in a game. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game for the season, and was named 2003-2004 NBA Rookie of the Year. He became the first Cavalier and youngest NBA player to ever receive the award, and he joined Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in their rookie season.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeBron_James#High_school) King James’ throne was now the driving power of the NBA Nation.
King James, the greatest of all time? He hadn’t slain a dragon or conquered any significant battles and already the predictions of the greatness of his ruling began. The NBA which is still losing millions of dollars every year needed a savior. What better person than a King. In recent NBA history we have seen talented players projected to be the greatest player ever, only to see them fade, Ralph Sampson, Pistol Pete Maravich, Dominique Wilkins. After Michael Jordan retired, the NBA Nation quickly sought a replacement. Penny Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Grant Hill, Vince Carter, Joe Smith, were all dubbed to be the next air-apparent Michael Jordan basketball god. It wasn’t enough that these players would become all-stars and possible Hall-of-Famers, the NBA nation had to elect them to the highest honor, only to see them fail to meet expectations.
We have seen the rise and fall of other Kings in our culture, unable to balance reality with the fairytale, insecurity with significance, and expectation with accomplishment. The concern is that the King of the Court may end up like the King of Pop, defiled by his own fortune and fame. It won’t be enough for the King to be great. He must be thegreatest, or he has failed his people. Perhaps we should let Lebron be Lebron, a talented player who if he is lucky enough to have other future-hall-of-famers around him, he might win the elusive championship. Let Lebron James be an all-star player without having to be the greatest player.
Watching King James quit in the fifth battle, and then lay down his Cavs sword (Jersey) just seconds after leaving the sixth battle field, left little doubt that the King is leaving the castle in Cleveland.
While NBA Nation mourns the early playoffs departure of its King, there is a silver lining in this fairytale. The proven Boston Celtics and LA Lakers Dynasty’s will rise to yet another epic war, and give breath to a desperate NBA Nation.
Unfortunately, for the next several weeks we have to endure the countless monologues of where the decapitated King will resurrect his power next. The fairytale will not end. For certain, King James will reemerge with a new army of teammates, and a new fortress of followers, ready to continue the quest of conquering the NBA Nation.
Lebron James’ next team Prediction: The Nets will offer their palace to his Majesty. And we will all be forced to be witnesses, yet again.