By Matt Nestor
Many things came out of the NBA Finals this year.
The Dallas Mavericks got past previous failures to win, and Dirk Nowitzki solidified his legacy. Meantime, the debate about LeBron James and his legacy continues to rage on.
The conversation about where James lies in the annals of basketball history is a good one, and one that is far from over. But that is not what I take out of the Finals.
In his post-game press conference after losing the Finals, James was asked about what he thought of all the people who were rooting against him everywhere.
It was an interesting phenomenon this season watching all the hatred the Miami Heat, and specifically James, were able to generate without having ever done anything all that bad.
“The Decision,” which aired on ESPN, was pompous, no doubt, and a big letdown for several cities. The celebration the next day was over the top, and a lot for a team that had not even played a game together. Countless interviews were odd and self-centered.
But when asked that question after losing the Finals, the response from James was shocking.
“At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, they have to wake up to the same life that they had when they woke up today,” he said. “They have the same personal problems that they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way that I want to live and do the things that I want to do. They can get a few days or a few months to be happy about myself not accomplishing that goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
That is unedited, and a full response to the question. Not taken out of context.
While there is some truth to that statement to a certain extent, to flaunt that and bite back like that is appalling.
It is James who has chosen to live his life in the spotlight. It is James who has dubbed himself “The King,” stated his team will win multiple titles.
Not only that, but it is the fans, those who like him and dislike him, who are the reason he has the life he has.
Ultimately, all James does is play basketball. He does it better than almost anyone alive today, but that is all he does.
He earns the money he makes because the money is there for him to be paid. But he does not have a college education. He has no other trade once he “retires” 25 years earlier than most people get to.
This is not to assume LeBron is not intelligent or has no other skills. I have never met him nor spoken with him. But because he is good at basketball and rich doesn’t make his life that much better than everyone else.
We all have to deal with real-world problems. The economy is down, jobs are scarce, prices are high. And yes, for many people, sports is a temporary relief from those problems.
But James, and many of these other young celebrities, are so distanced from those problems. And to taunt the people who have made you what you are with things they don’t have is horrible.
James may end up being a winner on the court, and he may even be a winner off the court. But at this rate, he will never again be a winner in the court of public opinion.
He has made clear it does not matter to him, nor should it in reality. But while making it clear that it doesn’t matter, it was nice of him to let us know how much better he is than everyone else.
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From the June 15-21, 2011 issue