Last month, Miami Heat’s LeBron James started to show a little self-awareness by apologizing for how “The Decision” went down.
“I knew I had to go through Boston at some point. I went through a lot signing to be here and the way it panned out. I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew that this opportunity was once in a lifetime.”
At that point, LeBron and his Miami Heat had just beaten the Boston Celtics, a hurdle that has tripped LeBron up in the past. It seemed that success cleansed him. His failures of the past were washed away by dispatching an arch-nemesis with a barrage of fourth-quarter heroics. Suddenly the jokes (did you hear the one where if you gave LeBron a dollar, he’d give you back 75 cents because he won’t give you the fourth quarter?) were put away. The Chicago Bulls series seemed to be the end of the sentence and the NBA Finals was going to the exclamation point at the end.
But then LeBron reverted back to the LeBron of last year. Whether it was something the Dallas Mavericks did or something inside LeBron’s own head, what we saw was a lot of standing around. We saw what appeared to be confusion, or passiveness, or whatever else you want to call that look on his face. It didn’t happen throughout the entire series. I don’t want this to turn into revisionist history where LeBron did nothing at all in the Finals. But when it mattered most, LeBron was almost invisible. Dallas won the title.
It happens. Hell, I didn’t think Miami would get this close this year. As talented as they were, they didn’t have enough time to really get a fluid offense together or the right supporting pieces. It was always going to take some time. So when LeBron sat in front of reporters last night, he had a ready-made formula for repairing his image:
- Congratulate Dallas (“That’s a helluva team over there. They deserved it, we didn’t… end of story”)
- Accept blame (“A lot is expected of me and I didn’t get it done. I accept that I need to do more. I’ll work this offseason with my teammates and coaches to figure out how I can do that”)
- Diffuse critics by reminding them this is only year one and the team has learned a lot (“I’m proud of this group of guys for getting to this point. We fell short, but people forget this is just year one. We will learn from this and get better next year”)
Any deviation from that plan and you’re asking for trouble. So what does LeBron say?
“All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.
“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
Ahhh, LeBron went the “my life is better than yours, so suck it, fans” route.
Here’s a word of advice to Mr. James and the folks at LRMR Marketing (a.k.a. the company built by LeBron’s buddies that mooches off his stardom): attacking the fans after losing in the NBA Finals is a poor strategy. Sitting up there and basically flaunting that you get to fly off to the South of France or some tropical island you bought just before stepping onto the stage while Joe Fan has to wake up for work at 7 AM isn’t going to win any hearts and minds.
Hey LeBron, you know what else is back in the “real world”? Your products. The things you sell with your face on them. The people with the “same personal problems” that you so flippantly dismiss? They like to escape those personal problems by buying nice things for themselves. Like, maybe, a pair of your Nikes.
LeBron James still doesn’t get it. But its too late now. LeBron had a chance to stay humble, say the right things, and move on. Instead, he chose to complete his turn to the dark side. If he wasn’t the bad guy before, he is now. And, like Darth Vader, the only thing that will open his eyes is when the rest of his world falls apart. Only then will he see how he’s been wrong all this time.