An apology to LeBron
Last year I wrote a ghost story about you loosely based on Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” and somehow passed it off as a column unimaginatively titled “A LeBron James Ghost Story.” I’m not going to recapitulate exactly what it entailed, but just know that the phantasmagoric world that I limned in that column did not present a very flattering image of you, to say the least. I was a staunch critic of yours at that point, hovering around a seven on the “One-to-Skip Bayless” scale. Since that time, though, you have willed your team to an NBA title with an historic postseason performance and you are in the midst of one of the more incredible individual seasons I’ve ever seen. So, I say to you, LeBron, in writing, here today — I’m sorry, man.
I know that you may not know this, LeBron, but you and I have a complex relationship. You are almost solely responsible for my getting into this soul-draining industry that we call sports writing in the first place. It was the summer of 2010, the magical summer that all Knicks fans had been awaiting for years. The summer when we all truly believed you would come to the Big Apple and rescue our beloved, hapless, battered-beyond-recognition Knickerbockers from our pathetically mired existence at that time.
I had an internship at a hospital that summer and thus was well on my way to leading a respectable life until your “Decision” came along and changed things forever. For the rest of that summer I was so disturbed by your choice of Miami instead of New York that I spent all my nine-to-fives — when I was ostensibly conducting clinical research — surreptitiously penning a scathing diatribe about you. By the end of the summer, and the close of my internship, I had furtively written upward of 40 pages detailing how your cowardly decision would define your legacy. The following month, now back at school, I declared as an English major and began writing for this fine literary establishment. So, LeBron, you either saved me or doomed me — either way, we’re forever connected.
After that, I didn’t like you, LeBron, for a litany of different reasons — most selfish among them your coquettish treatment of my Knicks fan base in the years prior to your free agency while you covertly forged a “SuperTeam” in Miami. I constantly excoriated you for what seemed to be your inherent aversion to the so-called clutch moments and your obdurate refusal to augment your low-post game. I didn’t like all your dancing and preening and regal self-promoting, either. I rooted against you with fervor when you played Dallas in the 2011 Finals, adopting the Mavericks as my provisional favorite team and Dirk as my forever-favorite German. I cheered when you lost and could hardly contain my glee when Chris Bosh crumbled to the floor in tears. I truly thought, and lamented, that you simply would never get it.
Boy, oh boy, was I wrong on all accounts. Which brings me back to the reason I am writing this thing again in the first place. I’m sorry, man.
It has truly been an honor to watch you play the game of basketball for the last season and a half, and that takes a lot for me to say because I am writing this almost immediately after you eviscerated my Knicks this past Sunday. When you doggedly chased down J.R. Smith after turning the ball over in the final seconds of a poorly played first half, my disbelief reached a level that was close to when I saw the images of Dennis Rodman chumming it up with Kim Jong Un. Superstars are not supposed to make that quintessential hustle play, just as psychotic ex-NBA players who once publicly married themselves should probably not be serving as delegates to North Korea.
Everyone knows what the stats say about you this year, LeBron. They’re highlighted by your unfathomable streak of six straight 30-point games on 60 percent shooting. But the numbers don’t even begin to explain what we as fans are getting to see — the ineffable, intangible aspects to your basketball genius. You are so far and away the best player on the court at all times that your games are starting to resemble those middle school AAU tournaments when that one precociously developed, naturally gifted kid is just so much better than everyone else parents begin demanding to see birth certificates. That is not supposed to happen in the NBA.
I know that by evincing your true preternatural ability on the hardwood these last couple of years, LeBron, you have been able to allay some of your most strident critics and avoid the ubiquitous hatred that you had been accustomed to receiving. Yet, I still don’t believe that the majority of us fans are truly appreciating what a privilege it is to be able to witness you revolutionize the game of basketball, as evidenced by the recent ludicrous clamor for you to save the Dunk Contest.
I don’t even want to talk about your future right now, LeBron — partially because I’m coming dangerously close to my word limit and partially because it’s not even fathomable to me at this point in time. Just know two things.
One, there is no shame in walking away from the sport for a couple of years and trying out the NFL so that your friends Carmelo and KD can have their shots at the title.
And, two, again: I’m sorry, man.