Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBron's decision: A tawdry departure

WELL, THE KING has abdicated.

Within moments after LeBron James revealed The Decision, it was old news not only in Cleveland but also London, Paris, Rome and wherever else modern technology can take you in an instant. Unlike the stuffier exit of King Edward VIII to satisfy his yearning for Wallis Simpson in 1936, King James, a.k.a. The Chosen One, chose ESPN to disclose that he would leave the Cavaliers after seven championship-free years to form a cartel-like buddy system with the Miami Heat.

At a minimum, the staging was a shamefully tawdry example of our hype-worn society - so excessively repugnant that Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik went on-line to accuse ESPN of "whored-out, dazed, confused and crass" behavior. As if the mere protagonist's imminent decision wasn't seductive enough for reeling in the viewers, the bit players - the panelists and hosts - could not resist reminding us that everyone in the world was "on pins and needles" - including our troops, I suppose, who put down their guns in Afghanistan. "Up next," a host declared, "LeBron James will tell the world where he will play next season." But first, a commercial break.

The production, with LeBron fresh out of swagger and seated rigidly on an elevated stage as if a classical artist was there to capture for posterity the throne's significance, lacked only a rousing Rossini overture to lead us into the moment of truth.

Did I say truth? Come now. Did you really buy into his explanation that he didn't arrive at his decision until he had talked to mommy that morning? Or that he hadn't closed the deal with his two superstar friends on the Heat - guys named Wade and Bosh - many weeks ago? All this from a pampered Midas -rich athlete who has literally been running the Cavaliers since his arrival as the owner and coaches acquiesced to his demands for the sort of comfort zone that he needed. It was to his benefit that a fawning, awe-struck media played along with his every move. (I should confess that I'm not a serious basketball fan and it wouldn't have mattered if he had declared that he would play on the Big Dipper next season.)

Well, as the entire front page of the Plain Dealer noted with a full figure LeBron with his back turned to the reader: Gone. *

That absence was obvious by his shabby performance in the playoffs against the Celtics. He was already gone. By the same token, Kobe Bryant was seen sweating and struggling for breath as he and his teammates fiercely nailed the championship in a brutal seven-game series. There was a hint of the difference between a guy with five championship rings and the former King, who has none.

Believe it, Cleveland, in your tearful nightmare. Maybe LeBron James wasn't the King that you thought he was. Not yet - and maybe never.

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