The Summer of LeBron: Let’s just get this over with

Profile of a would-be billionaire

As someone who’s been following every move LeBron James has made since before he had a high school diploma, I’ve eagerly anticipated for years the most spectacular free agency in the history of sports. I thought it’d be a basketball Christmas in July.

But then his season ended, I was bombarded by news about it, and I was surprised to find myself nonplused by the whole thing – despite the fact that my beloved Knicks are one of the main contenders for his services.

I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but this isn’t it.

Because of the golden path LeBron had danced down on his way to stardom, you had to figure the Cavs were likely to at the very least make the Finals, and perhaps win an NBA title. In either scenario, the hoopla and pandemonium that would have ensued over LeBron’s free agency would have been perfectly logical.

His future is addressed in the second question

However, a relatively disastrous second-round exit, at least in part brought on by LeBron’s infamous elbow injury, left the ensuing dog and pony show feeling seedy and tiresome. Without the substance a deep playoff run would have offered, LeBronmania just has an empty feel to it.

This whole situation needed more urgency, and the less time we had to be inundated with it, the better. It would have been appropriate for the sale of LeBron on the free market to begin in mid-June, when people would have been bidding on a winner, and not mid-May.

This so-called master plan his “team” had concocted primarily began with him proclaiming immediately after his season ended that he had to weigh his options, that he had a big decision ahead of him, and so on. He went through with that, and it rang incredibly hollow to hear him say it directly after his team failed and we saw definitive cracks in his armor and temperament.

The expected media feeding frenzy really has been hard to stomach. Nobody knows where he’s going – except LeBron, I’m pretty sure he knows exactly what he’s going to do – but every chump with a laptop (ahem) has an opinion on the matter and can’t wait to bombard us with it. I was sick of it within an hour.

We’ve heard conspiracy theories that this “World Wide Wes” character will succeed in steering LeBron and hack coach John Calipari toward the Chicago Bulls in a package deal. (I’ve pondered their relationship, but not in this context) Forbes had some nonsense about LeBron buying stock in MSG and then signing with the Knicks to boost its value; never mind that it’s against NBA rules and he’d be better off buying Apple anyway. The Nets now have a Russian super-billionaire owner, and imagine the firestorm if they had won the lottery for John Wall, who LeBron seems to adore for some reason.

My favorite is the microanalysis of the revelation that LeBron inexplicably wants to work out with Eddy Curry. If anything, that casts even more doubt over the King’s judgment.

Stumbled across this and thought it was funny

In a Twitter-borne instant-information society, we analyze his every word for clues as if we’re trying to find Carmen Sandiego. At his MVP celebration, he said how much he loves Akron. “Well, Akron ain’t Cleveland!” scribes rushed to put out there. Give me a break.

While the media breathlessly speculates on who LeBron will play for next season – even to the point of recruiting him – it has also set its sights on tearing him down, because that sells papers too. You read stories questioning his character, wondering what he’s truly all about, whether he has the mindset of a champion.

This, obviously, is not how things are supposed to be.

But what did we all expect? From the beginning, in need of a new basketball celebrity with the original one retiring, LeBron has been fed to the masses as a golden paragon of money and success. He was groomed to be a fully formed Jordan right out of high school, and was carefully sheltered so we didn’t perceive any flaws.

As a public person, what is he exactly? LeBron probably doesn’t even know. Enabled by a celebrity-mad society, he spiraled upwards in terms of attention, skill and money. His objective was to keep advancing, keep growing, to become more ubiquitous. Of course LeBron James wants to win championships – that’s what he’s supposed to do. Plus, you know, it would build his brand. Global icon, and all that.

Wish list Meanwhile, he’s trying to build up his marketing company so his group of friends, whose only discernible talent is being LeBron’s friends, can have a reason for being, like Vinnie Chase’s boys on Entourage.

None of it means anything.

Underneath it all, I’m sure he’s still just a kid at heart, even at 25, especially having never been to college. But he hasn’t had the opportunity to show that in public the way Kevin Durant has. From the beginning, he’s been playing a grown man’s game, he’s had a grown man’s toys, money and friends, and he’s acted the part.

So after all this, where will he end up? I mean, if I’m him, I wouldn’t go back to Cleveland – not with the pallor of this season still hanging over the franchise. It’d be like the Mets bringing back Willie Randolph after 2007, or Jerry Manuel after 2008. The Cavs aren’t winning with this group.

I probably would come to New York if I’m LeBron. Considering the life he’s crafted to date, the City is perfect for the glitz and glamour his image demands. I’m sure the Knicks would be just as good as the Cavaliers if he were playing for them. He can stash his mom in Westchester or Greenwich for safekeeping, because apparently that’s a major factor. (That’s not even a Delonte West joke; it’s well-known that LeBron considers his mom’s safety to be paramount)

Regardless, I really just want it to be over at this point. The constant news cycle just reminds me that underneath it all, there’s the greatest high school ballplayer I’ve ever seen and ever will see – hidden behind a tedious collection of enablers, leeches and corporate greed. Even if he signs with the Knicks, I actually feel as if it’ll be anticlimactic for me.

With someone as pure a talent as he has, a basketball savant, I never thought I’d be sick of him. I even enjoyed his celebrity status for a while, living vicariously through his carefully cultivated coolness.

But at this point? July 1 can’t come soon enough, and for none of the reasons I originally thought.


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