Is LeBron James the man? It seems a silly question that has no actual consequences. No, he is not the man in the same way Michael Jordan was. He is not Michael Jordan. He was never Michael Jordan. He will never be Michael Jordan. So what? How many people are (besides Kobe)?
Michael Jordan was unique. He was old-school, although at the time he was just one of many in mindset. He was a man in the same way Don Draper was a man; unquestionably flawed, but obviously talented.
LeBron James isn’t that. He is from another era, one which favors cooperation instead of solo endeavors. Why is this surprising in the rebirth of “it takes a village” mentality? He was always the man who was willing to defer, perhaps preferring to defer, even on his AAU and high school squads.
He is a new man. He is the same type of man who wears a pink shirt proudly displaying the message that “real men wear pink”. He is a man concerned with both marketability and happiness, not that those two cannot coincide given proper mixture. LeBron clearly isn’t afraid of criticism, although how much he expected cannot be close to the real amount. He isn’t afraid to play second fiddle. He isn’t afraid to change scenery (even if it is into a $50 million home).
Sometimes, men can be defined as much by their eagerness to go it alone as they can by realizing the bigger man doesn’t always need to take charge. Isn’t it the case that many claim that the bigger man should walk away instead of inviting confrontation? This sounds too much like an excuse, which it isn’t. But the notion of the man as we used to know it, the definition we long for now, may well be dying. Kobe seems like the last of his kind at this point, unless Kevin Durant is more determined to be selfish than all signs point to.
Even J0rdan suggested that in these new times, maybe the mindset of men should evolve. Not that he would agree with it, or Magic or Larry. Or Charles, who went it alone and came out okay, but not as well as he could have. Even he went to Houston to try to capture championship glory alongside Hakeem late in his career.
Maybe it was the timing of it all. I suppose we prefer the greats to waste their youth and greatness chasing wasn’t isn’t guaranteed by themselves. Had LeBron waited another four or five years, the reaction would not have been as explosive, I would presume. What is easy to forget is that not all great players win championships solely because of their greatness. Usually they have another great beside them.
I can’t reasonably argue that LeBron should have stayed if that isn’t what he wanted to do, and now that Miami is filling out the roster with players that certainly aren’t “scrubs”, it seems a fairly good choice. Maybe he didn’t want the responsibility of leading a team that depended solely on his good fortune for victories and championship opportunities. Maybe he was afraid of the consequences if he failed on a loaded Chicago team or failed to bring New York back to meaningful life. Maybe, or maybe he felt like experiencing the most pressure he could have, now that he joined up with his good friends and great basketball players in South Beach, and trying to give all the haters something to boo at.
I don’t sympathize with the mentality that just because you are great, you have to try to win by yourself. If you can pull it off, which is what Michael and Kobe did (I understand that they were far from by themselves, but it wasn’t a stacked team like Magic or Bird had, although Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman are routinely underrated), the sky is the limit. But if you don’t, you will never be what you could have otherwise. From Dan Marino to Charles Barkley, those players are never respected for the talents that they were just because they don’t have rings to go along with the other hardware they earned.
Sure, LeBron could have stayed, like MJ and Draper did, but temptation was too great to resist. LeBron may be defining the man for the next couple of decades the same way MJ, Magic, and Larry did and Russell before them. This new man is concerned less with statistics and more with victories. MVP’s and scoring titles play second fiddle to postseason glory.