Picking Splinters: LeBron’s ‘Real World’

LeBron James wasted little time responding to his critics in the wake of the Miami Heat’s Game 6 defeat at the hands of the underdog Dallas Mavericks.

“Because at the end of the day, 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 after he and the Heat bowed out on their home court. “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.”

Thanks for the reminder, LeBron.

If you’re looking for a single quote that can explain why the best player in the NBA doesn’t have a title to his name, this one is a pretty good place to start. If you read these lines you’ll see that LeBron James just doesn’t know how to win.

Put aside for a second the undertones that the realm of King James is vastly superior to the squalor of his detractors. And to be fair, James clarified his comments on Tuesday, saying he didn’t intend to make it sound like he was putting himself above anyone else. (I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t buy that, and forgive me also my belief that James received a little counseling from his agent or marketing rep before his clarification.) Still, break it down and you’ll see the trap into which James has put himself.

On one hand, he wants the one thing he doesn’t have – a title. And now that a second one has eluded him, and this one coming with all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side, there are serious doubts that James has what it takes to win a title. But on the other hand, King James needs to maintain his aura of magnificence, his air of infallibility, and not let his critics see him suffer. So he says, in so many words, that he likes his life just fine and he’ll sleep quite well after losing to the Mavs.

If I’m Heat owner Micky Arison, I’m a little miffed that James is happy with his life sans championship. I want a player who is going to burn inside over that missed opportunity. Who will tip his cap to the opponent, then hit the gym to work on his missing jumper the next morning. That’s the kind of hunger that fuels champions. So yeah, I’m a little bothered that LeBron is okay returning to the “real world” in which the Heat’s title shot has fallen short.

And James’ apathetic sentiment was magnified when he Tweeted that God simply didn’t want him to win a championship yet, writing “The Greater Man know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.”

Way to man up and take responsibility there, ‘Bron. Sorry, folks, nothing I could do. The Almighty kept my jumper from splashing through the net.

I wonder if God kept LeBron on the perimeter, settling for contested jumpers rather than driving the lane. I wonder if some prophecy decreed, “Thou shalt defer to Dwyane Wade.”
What James conveys with his statements and his actions on the court, is that he wants it both ways. He wants respect. He wants glory. He wants praise for being the man taking the big shots … but he also wants to pass to his playing partners instead of shouldering the responsibility. He doesn’t want to hear anything negative. He doesn’t want to appear weak. So when he lets another title shot slip through his fingers, it’s due to the Almighty and he feels perfectly fine about that. Riiight…

I admit, athletes are often criticized unfairly. And it’s virtually impossible to please the media, even when things are going well. Sometimes it must seem like it’s a no-win situation. But ironically, there’s only one way to come out on top: Win.

If James truly wants to be treated as a king, he’s going to need a crown.