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I know, and I get it…

The LeBron James column writing party (indirectly sponsored by Dan Gilbert) ended 72 hours ago.

Fortunately for me, this is L.A., where 6pm means tomorrow afternoon and I’ll touch base with you next week means I’ll most likely never call you again.

To be honest with you, I never wanted to write this column for two reasons:

(1) How much can you write about LeBron James that hasn’t already been written, re-written, recycled, re-recycled and re-tweeted 683,000 times? It’s like trying to make a joke about Anthony Weiner. We get it…

(2) See reason #1.

The only problem? When it comes to the striking mystery of LeBron James, I don’t think we really get it at all…

Since James’ quietly sat down at the humble pie banquet the Mavs held in his honor last week, 99.7% of the stories published in the 48-hours that followed resonated one singular focus: LeBron James, with the stage perfectly set up for him, crumbled under the pressure of the NBA Finals.

Is that true? Eh, maybe…

The problem with LeBron James has absolutely nothing to do with LeBron James. It has everything to do with our mostly unfounded expectations of who LeBron James is supposed to be.

We do this all the time.

When someone, or something, comes along that we don’t quite understand, we instantaneously try to mold that person, or thing, into something that makes sense to us. We psychologically eliminate the mystery around everything in our lives because, quite honestly, who wants to see or experience something that makes absolutely no sense?

Our entire learning system is built on this very concept. Why can we read the definition of a word and not understand what it means until we read the sample sentence?

LeBron James is that word, only there is no sentence provided for us to contextualize it in. So we made one up…

LeBron James is like Michael Jordan, only a better passer.
LeBron James is like Magic Johnson, only a better scorer.
LeBron James is like Kobe Bryant, only without the clutch gene.

On and on we go trying to solve the mystery by interjecting sample sentences that were never there to begin with. This is so hard for us to swallow because we have never seen an athlete like LeBron James before. It’s completely unprecedented.

We can’t comprehend why he isn’t putting up 30/30/30 games and forcing David Stern to completely change the NBA rulebook. We are dumbfounded when he swings the ball to Mario Chalmers like a fat kid who still can’t believe he made the JV team. We are offended when he refers to himself as the King, yet falls so enormously short of living up to that patronizing title.

We love him because we hate him, and we hate him because we feel like we’re watching a guy who inherited $100 million, only to see him turn around and lose it in a single card game in Vegas.

The only thing we really know for sure is that LeBron doesn’t fall into any already-precedented truth that takes away the mystery behind his persona.

He will never be Scottie Pippen.
He will never be Kobe Bryant.
He will never be Michael Jordan.

At this rate, he’ll never get to be LeBron James… and worst of all, if you were to ask him, I would guess that not even he knows who that is.

  • Anonymous

    he’s an idiot..he’s over rated..has no heart..every one hates him..he’s a choke up..makes excuses..always puts his six toe foot in his mouth..AND CAN NEVER EVER BE KOBE BRYANT :D 

    • EY

      Your right, he can never be like ball hogging self serving Kobe.  Yea LeBron!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    That’s a well thought out and very succinct article. It’s an angle I never considered very deeply. And it doesn’t change my perception of him in the least.
    Why? Because he has never put his own stamp on himself. He’s still trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations on their terms. And when he tries to be himself he overswings and ends up looking like a petulent child instead of a King.
    No, I can’t dredge up too much sympathy for the clown prince of basketball.

  • La4life

    Most well thought out article I have read so far about this. You should try and get it published in a paper.

    Lebron is like a square trying to fit in a circle hole. If he focused on finding who he is as a player and stopped worrying about trying to change that, he would do amazing things. Its ironic that his commercials ended on the sentence “Should I be who you want me to be?” because that is exactly what he is tying to do.

  • Perplexed and Impressed Reader

    The article looked initially set up as an immediate call of defense to one player to help justify the reasons why we shouldn’t be so judgmental of a player that didn’t do anything outside the law (only outside the unwritten ettiquete of letting EVERYONE find out on LIVE television, on where he would play) in order to give himself a better chance to, and help (emphasis on that word) a team win a couple of championships. 
         However, as it went on towards the middle, Riley slowly drifted towards backhanded compliments about LeBron, saying he HAS the ability, but he isn’t utilizing it effectively (if at all), and at the end, the bottom falls out and we might start to understand and accept that LeBron James might not be all that he’s cracked up to be, and possibly not be the best player of all time. And maybe won’t be able to be “himself”.      Jason Riley hit it perfectly, when he wrote up this article as it parallels LeBron’s own history concerning his public personality.   Both start off as completely different than the norm, then both start reach their peak, hoping for something extravagent and something we haven’t seen before (with small implications and foreshadowings that might point to the contrary), and they both end up with the sad reality bringing a shockwave that’s new and unprecented    That in itself, stings and cuts in lightly, yet deeply, since the article is so subtle and constructive that it doesn’t bring up uncalled-for insults, and instead states it in a matter-of-fact way, which stings more, since this is what’s clearly happening and there’s no way around it.

  • CarlosTheGreat25

    Ive always liked reading your stuff. But this is the best thing you’ve ever written.

  • Zupon

    LeBron isn’t the next Michael, Kobe, or Magic.  He’s the next Patrick Ewing. A player who’s phenomenal talent is overmatched by his overwhelming hype. The Knicks were going to win a dozen championships with Ewing at center, and we were all supposed to be “witnesses” to “the King” destroying every record in the book. We, the fans, did not make LeBron crown himself a combination of royalty and religious icon. That we are amused that he has fallen short of the overblown standard that he himself set of being Naismith’s gift to basketball is mere schadenfreude. If he had come out of high school like a Kobe or Garnett, without the “King” hype and had the exact same career to date, the public feeling toward him would be far different. 


    • ilikebasketball

      exactly. enough said. subject over.

  • In Flames

    I didn’t understand the point of this article here. As people care to express things about him, the thing is getting bigger. the whole discussion. Why don’t people discuss about Howard for example? He’s as good as Lebron, he’s a freak physically. Answer: There were never a hype about him to begin with. If I had to describe Lebron James with one word, that would be “Hype”. He and Carmelo were same thing to begin with. Carmelo won NCAA title and came to NBA with that winner epithet. He put up better numbers than Lebron in his rookie year, but he didn’t win the Rookie of the Year award. Why? Lebron was #1 in draft and people were riding on that… Ever since then, Melo faded into background and Lebron ascended into sky. Media worshipped him, called him King James in headlines.. People’s perceptions changed with that. As a player, to me, Lebron is no better than Iverson in terms of impact he had done so far. He lead his team to finals but fell short against a much superior team. It wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t win the title. He wasn’t that good to begin with. Then in 2009, eventhough Wade deserved to win it, he won the MVP with that hype.. Last year his statistics were really good and his team finished #1 so he deserved it truly.. anyway after that he quit in playoffs against Celtics and that awakened something within people.. They questioned whether he deserved the “King ” title to begin with.. and with that decision saga, people’s perceptions about Lebron changed to negative way, not even neutral… Lebron provided that mostly with that decision.. and media just added the fuel. People like Scottie Pippen are moron not to be taken seriously. ESPN put a poll about Rose if he’s better than Jordan or not.. “jokes”. When you’re living in a sports world like that, you need to adapt yourself not to follow those shits and just watch the damn game and make your own judgement.. When people are still bringing the rape case into Kobe discussions as a player, you cannot go further either.. It’s disappointing to see things like that.. but world is never fair in daily basis, it only delivers its justice in long term.. see how that Dallas team, players like Kidd, Dirk won the title for example.. there IS justice.

    • CRodriguez

      this guy gets it

    • CRodriguez

      this guy gets it

  • Luke Sucks

    This is a Laker fan site so why talk about LBJ?  The guy has been over-analysed and criticized to death.  But since he is not a Laker, who cares.

  • Ahmed

    Great article J Riley….. you hit everything on the head…. look I am Lakers fan and a die heart Kobe fan… and yes i don’t believe lebron is better than Kobe, and yes i believe he deserves alot of what he’s getting because he has put himself in the situation. However, we have to accept Lebron for who he is. He is not Kobe, Pippen, Magic, or Michael. He’s not Durant, Wade, Reggie, or Pierce. He is Lebron James, we need to stop comparing, especially when a comparison isn’t justified. Lebron has one 0 title… Kobe has 5, Jordan has 6. So of course he’s below them. Comparing comes when the players are retired. So lets back up the Lebron hate, and just focus on Lakers basketball, that is if there is a season. 

  • Wad3

    Great article, and as a long time Heat fan you nailed it. He doesn’t get it. He’s clueless, immature, and spoiled… and the rest of the NBA better hope he stays that way. See you guys in the Finals!

  • Olivergleenmarkegonio

     lebron james is a le chokers that is his new nick name in the NBA not a king.. all the people are saying that lebron james is the next jordan… will i tell you this your dumb ass never compare lebron james to michael jordan…. because lebron james he still doesn’t prove anything in the nba and that is to be a real champion… you can compare LEBRICK JAMES to  GREG OSTERTAG because they are both have similarities in their attitude.. the king should have a ring… i will tell you this guys the real king is KOBE BRYANT period… even lebroke james won the championship he have to still chase the 5 rings of kobe or 6 rings of michael in able to call himself as a king… and thats will not happen because he is a woman when it comes to pressure time his dick become pussy… i only got 3 quarters and i can’t give you 4 quarter for a trophy hahahahahaha i think lebron james should were T-BAK instead wearing brief becuase she is a gay hahahahaha…. he should go back and ask some help to his step father delonte west.. how it’s feel your ex teamate fucking your mom with 10 inch dick in her pussy… i think delonte west should fuck you up in your ass i think that is a good idea…..

    if there is question or suggestion to this comment feel free to contact me or email me…
    olivergleenmarkegonio@gmail .com
    or folow me to my facebook account

    proud to be a lakers fan, win or lose i will be a lakers fan forever

  • Anonymous

    Lebron is one thing. Stats. And he will never be more than that. Only if he finally lands on a team that carries him over the hump. And even then, it would still not be his achievement but that of other good players on his team who have more heart than he will ever have.

    He is a spoilt child that has gotten buttered up all his life with tons of friends who seem to be too scared to give it to him straight. He falters whenever there is pressure, because he never learned how to deal with it.