LeBron James is a[n in]famous basketball player. He left his home team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in a poorly-handled PR stunt that burnt away almost all of his goodwill amongst sports fans. I imagine that this, mostly, was the fault of his famously non-professional management team.
His new team just won the NBA championship, which means LeBron — who is 27 — won a championship earlier in his life than Mike Jordan, who was 28. Here’s a fun infographic via Lauren O’Nizzle:
Now, I’m usually the first to roll my eyes at sports statistics: counting “triple-doubles” gives me bile-rage (hooray! the base of our counting system has been reached!). I’m sure all of those figures can be argued. I’d rather talk about their context.
LeBron is hated for how he left the Cavs, which, granted, was a bungled PR move. People blow it out of proportion, perhaps, criticizing him for not getting his ring the same way MJ did — by building his team — as all newfound success is criticized by conservative oldsters.
“He didn’t do it the way I expected based on precedent! Boo hoo!”
That argument, of course, totally ignores the terrific impact of Phil Jackson’s coaching on the Jordan Bulls (Sacred Hoops is a great book on spirituality in sport). Competent management could have saved the situation for Cleveland, certainly, and management post-LeBron seems to have done nothing for the fans and team except revel publicly in negative feelings.
So, sans leadership like Jackson’s, I’m not surprised — in fact I’m impressed — that LeBron took his destiny into his own hands. To me, that makes him a worthy sports hero for the new century: an anarchist superstar with great fashion sense.
The current crop of elites seem to have forgotten, for decades, that they rule with the consent and cooperation of the people; that organizations are composed of individuals trying to further their own and each other’s goals. Organizations need to look after all of their stakeholders. If they don’t, there are consequences — the logic is simple, but mostly true, given time.
Requiring that LeBron be faithful to an organization which was not being faithful to him is a type of status-quo boosterism that needs to be expurgated from our culture. The elites have to play ball, not just launch pseudo-patriotic media attacks against the ballers.
The link above criticizes the idea that LeBron was courageous to strike out from the Cavs and seek his own fortune by saying it would have been more courageous to stick it out with the Cavs. That’s fundamentally nonsense: inaction-while-hoping is not the same thing as direct action, however poorly executed. The Leaderless Revolution makes the point: everyone complains about Darfur, but no one actually goes to Sudan to stop the maniacs by force (cf. The Loyalist International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War).
The Cavs’ record post-LeBron is a disaster. They’re near-bottom of the league, scraping around to secure early-round draft picks: small wins for small minds dreaming small dreams. Prompt, correct action on their part would have been to support James in his ambitions, not to punish him for having them.
LeBron James was right to leave, and his success speaks for itself.