Allow me to begin by being up-front about something: I am not a LeBron James fan. Born and raised in the Indianapolis area, I grew up idolizing Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Dale Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, et cetera. As the game of basketball evolved, the names and people I rooted for changed, but the team did not. There were many years when LeBron James almost single-handedly delivered the fatal blows to my Indiana Pacers’ championship ambitions. His years of dominance in the Eastern Conference are thankfully over, and I confess I did not feel a single moment of sadness at watching him depart for Los Angeles.
One important take-away from this disclosure is that I have a reason to be biased AGAINST LeBron James. On my blog, I have at times been critical of the perceptions of the man and his abilities on the court. Believe me, it is with some trepidation and anxiety that I award this gentleman my praise.
The controversial president of the United States recently used his apparently endless supply of free time to embark on a puerile rant against one of the most decorated, celebrated basketball players in the history of the sport. LeBron James may even be THE preeminent figure in Naismith’s game. And he did so in a way that, while it may energize many in his base, seems so obviously foolish and adolescent that it borders on the comical.
If one ever needed a reminder that life can provide more fodder for the imagination than novels, check Twitter. Somewhere out there is a president of a nuclear superpower insulting popular sports celebrities over social media. Because that seems to merit priority over trade wars, national debt crises, police abuses, political scandals, ISIS, environmental issues, etc. Even if LeBron James WERE an idiot, which is something I do not believe, it seems that a rich basketball player might be a bit less important than the increasingly imminent demise of decency in the modern age.
A spate of memes pointing to some grammatical missteps on the part of LeBron have made the rounds on social media, often used in a feeble attempt to reinforce the mistaken hectoring of the President. Why someone like me should have to point out that intelligence is broad and dynamic is a tad confusing, but, then again, so, too, are a lot of things. Such as why the leader of the free world is harassing prominent members of society who could potentially be advocates instead of adversaries.
Moving on, let’s address the claims. The proposition seems relatively easy to examine. It’s a simple binary, with two answers. Either LeBron James is dumb, or he isn’t. One prominent man says he is. I say he is not.
After Game One of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James exhibited his extraordinary intellect by recalling in minute detail long spans of a game he’d just played in. He did this on national television, in front of numerous reporters, and the event proved so noteworthy, it became a news story in and of itself. This was followed by a subsequent retelling of events after Game three, with LeBron again surprising journalists with his keen insights and amazing memory.
While at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, LeBron steadily increased his GPA As a senior, he reportedly held a respectable 3.0 grade point average. This may not be the best, but it is certainly far from failing. LeBron James excelled at a Catholic school known for its rigorous academic demands, all while Shaq attended his nationally televised basketball games and he was touted on magazine covers as the “king.” LeBron James had more publicity as a teenager than most of us will ever receive, even if we were reincarnated twelve times. LeBron’s teachers seem to overwhelmingly support and reiterate the narrative that he performed well scholastically.
The two above examples belie the reality that kinesthetics is one proposed branch of intelligence. As early as 1983, developmental psychologists introduced reasoned theories that claimed that there are different types of intelligence. Some people are good with music (I am not), others are good with language. Some are good with math. Some can find exciting ways to put a ball through a hoop. The things that LeBron has done are often viewed as unparalleled. The fact that LeBron did it while taking a few close friends with him to the top, all while creating a global brand that exceeds a billion dollars, should testify to the man’s greatness.
In addition to all of the above, which barely scratches the surface of the man’s meteoric and significant rise to prominence among the pantheon of American historical figures, LeBron James started a school. For crying out loud, politicians should never, EVER publicly ridicule the intelligence of rich people who build schools for inner-city youth. He found a way to do something one of the greatest governments on Earth apparently could not, and he doesn’t have the benefit of being able to print money on demand. LeBron James is famous for his philanthropic endeavors.
So, not only is LeBron smart, but he’s a decent guy, to boot.
As a lifelong Indiana Pacers fan and avid LeBron-basher, it pains me to have to rush to his defense.
But, the better question might be, is it LeBron people are defending?
LeBron James is one of the richest, most powerful people on the planet. He doesn’t need Michael Jordan’s tepid support, much less mine.
So, then, what is it that we achieve by supporting LeBron James?
LeBron James may be a lot of things. In my own opinion, he is not the greatest basketball player of all time, not by a long stretch. I can find many faults in the man’s game, and have long felt he gained certain advantages because of his intelligence. He was instrumental in helping get Draymond Green ejected from a crucial game in the NBA Finals. He may not always speak in perfect Queen’s English or have the modern vernacular down pat, but he knows how to win basketball games.
One thing LeBron James is NOT is an idiot. The man is not dumb. By supporting him, perhaps we are defending decency and civility in discourse. Perhaps we are accepting the counter-claim that sports can be a positive unifying force for disparate communities.
Supporting LeBron in this instance is almost the same as rejecting the preposterous and questionable claims lodged against him.
Perhaps supporting LeBron is the same as rejecting a descent into petty name-calling by elected leaders.
Whatever the case may be, the Los Angeles Lakers have received an artist, and he might just be able to paint over a near-decade of obscurity and ignominy with his masterful strokes of genius on the court.