Updated Jun 11, 2012 - 8:15 am
James won; we lost
So rarely does society produce an athlete that loves his sport and allows us into his joy for the game like Brett Favre. Yet we find out later that Favre can't survive without trying to dominate our minds and thoughts so he throws his name back in the ring at every opportunity.
Give us a star that plays with an unrelenting desire to win like Tiger Woods. Then we discover he has no class on the golf course and actually pays people to help him deceive his wife.
We want someone that our kids can look up to. Unfortunately the "greats" are so driven to conquer everything they can't turn their drive off. The same drive to conquer Augusta is the same drive to conquer Perkins waitresses. It's not completely true that nice guys finish last, but the vast majority do and that's sad.
I thought of these desires all of us have for the humble yet average to rise to great or the great to change to humble watching LeBron James.
Did we tear down a man and make him better or did we just tear him down? I'm guilty. I've said it before. I think James is the greatest 46-minute player in the history of basketball and I think he's a choke machine. He has all the talent to be a great closer, but shies away from the final moment.
The Michaels and Birds were always double -- and sometimes triple -- teamed to force the ball out of their hands. If you've noticed the last few years, James doesn't draw late double-teams. Sure there's help defense but no flying- doubles. No coach is going to force the ball out of James' hand because they know he'll get rid of it anyway.
For the last two games, we've seen a new James. Determined. Feared. Angry. The smiling LeBron is gone. He is no longer a happy king celebrating with his subjects as if they were equals sharing in the riches of the kingdom. This is a king that doesn't like his small kingdom and wants more territory.
Did the king do this or did his subjects make demands? Is King James doing this for himself or to quiet his angry serfs?
He is everything we wished other athletes were. Never arrested. Never listed in the Mitchell report. Never tested positive, suspended but allowed to return only because the UPS store was closed. He's the only athlete ever to be ridiculed for being too self-LESS.
Imagine every day you go to work, you're the best to ever do your job except for two minutes every day. You're the firefighter who saves babies but didn't get the sterling silverware. The soldier who runs through the cross-fire to save a fallen comrade but failed to fill out the proper report after the raid. It's those two minutes that determine how the world views you and you never get away from it. The serfs will overthrow you if you don't become what they demand.
I don't apologize for anything I've said about LeBron in the past. It was my opinion at the time. LeBron is the one who said he was going to win seven championships. LeBron is the one that thought Cleveland was for losers but hasn't won since he left due to his disappearing act against Dallas.
In our demands for more James, we lost what we liked about him. Why can't Randy Johnson be nice? Why can't Ian Kennedy be the greatest of all time since he's the type of guy we can all want to succeed? Why can't Shane Doan lift the Stanley Cup? Why is it that Steve Nash is checked into the boards and Grant Hill loses years from his career due to injury but Michael Irvin is a three-time champion?
Watching the end of the Eastern Conference Finals made me respect Peyton and Eli more than I did before. The most impossible job in America is being the greatest in your sport while being "one of us" throughout the whole thing.