Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Rise of Lebron James

Lebron James wakes up, sits on the edge of his bed, and gazes out his bedroom window at the Atlantic Ocean, right outside his Miami home.  Lebron James doesn't want to Michael Jordan. That's not fair, he thinks.  Nobody ever compared Michael Jordan to Michael Jordan. Why can't Lebron James be compared to Lebron James?  That's all Lebron James has ever wanted.  He takes a deep breath and walks to his dresser where he picks up his NBA 2012 Championship ring, places it on his middle finger and admires it. Then he slides his 2013 NBA Championship ring onto his ring finger and spends a few seconds more admiring it.  As a grin - no, a smirk - begins to form within his neatly trimmed, graying beard, he slides his 2014, and 2015 NBA Championship rings onto his pointer and pinky fingers.  He fully extends his arm and holds his hand out so the light from his floor-to-ceiling windows strikes the rings and makes them shine. Makes them sparkle. Then he takes them off, places each one carefully onto its plush stand, and admires them. Just another second or two. But that's enough for now. They'll be here when he gets home later. He gets dressed and heads downstairs to the gym.  First though, he rubs each of his two NBA Finals MVP trophies for good measure. For good luck? No. Lady Luck doesn't give out trophies.


Lebron James pulls up to American Airlines Arena. There's a small crowd of fans waiting for him, but the security guard won't let them close. Lebron James waves the guard off and motions for the fans to come over. They've got arm-fulls of things for him to sign. He takes a Sharpie from one fan and starts signing away.  He always takes care of the fans when he has the time. A few minutes later, he heads into the arena for shoot-around, but not before thanking his fans.


Lebron James sits at the table, leaning slightly over the microphone, waiting for his first question.  The younger reporters sit on the outskirts of the room, mesmerized by the hulk of man, wearing a perfectly tailored suit (no tie tonight), sitting at the front of the room smiling at the room full of men teeming with questions.  The questions are much easier than they used to be. They don't make Lebron James want to snap back. They don't make him want to flip the table onto the first row of fragile reporters. They don't leave the sting they used to. These days, the questions have a air of respect to them.  And Lebron James is happy to answer.

"Is this the best team you've ever played with?"
"How soon can you tell if it's going to be a high scoring night? First quarter? Second? Third?"
"How does Derrick Rose adjust to such stringent defense?"
"Who do you want to play in the Finals? Oklahoma City or Los Angeles? The Clippers, I mean." Lebron James sits back, smiles. "Let's just get past Chicago, first."

A young reporter is trying to make a name for himself.  "How many more rings can you and Wade get? Can you get five like Kobe? Do you ever worry about another collapse?" Lebron James just laughs the question off. He doesn't answer those questions anymore. He doesn't have to. Nobody cares. The young reporter will learn. They always do.


Lebron James is standing next to David Stern. His team is surrounding them, playfully pushing each other around. Nothing too crazy. Most of them have been here before, on this stage, at the center court of American Airlines Arena.  David Stern hands Lebron James his third Finals MVP trophy. Lebron James turns to Dwyane Wade, who is holding the Larry O'Brien trophy,  and they pose for photos with their teammates.  Then they take their trophies and hit the Miami clubs for a celebration most people would hope to experience it once in their lives. These men have done it four times before.


It's much easier now. Skip Bayless doesn't rip him apart on ESPN every morning. The fans in Cleveland have gotten over it for the most part, especially after the Indians won the 2013 World Series. That helped alot. ALOT.  He doesn't receive hate mail anymore and he doesn't battle the media.  He embraces his fans, in Miami and elsewhere.  He never really hated the fans, he just thought they hated him. They wanted him to fail right? No, that was just his imagination.

Lebron James doesn't try to remember his years before 2011. Those years were tough. Those years slow him down, wear him down, hurt his progress. The fans won't remember those days, right? The Hall of Fame voters certainly won't, right? The ESPN talking heads have forgotten, right? Right?

Most fans don't consider this Dwyane Wade's team anymore. It's THEIR team.  Lebron James is okay with that. He has his fifth championship. As many as Kobe Bryant, who's retired now.  Kobe Bryant texted Lebron James the day after championship number five to congratulate him on the achievement, noting that he still doesn't have more than Kobe Bryant does (Kobe Bryant is capable of joking with Lebron James on occasion). 

Lebron James has his fifth championship. One less than Michael Jordan. No. Not one less than Michael Jordan. The comparisons are unnecessary, remember? Lebron James has as many championships as Lebron James does. 

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