Regardless of what you think about LeBron James, pre and post Decision, you have to admit — LeBron makes excellent material for sporting discourse.
Subscribing to the theory that all publicity is good publicity, anything and everything LeBron says becomes constant fodder for anyone and everyone following sports.
Let’s be honest. The Decision deserved a spot on film critics’ Top 10 movie lists. It was a summer blockbuster. Obviously, it wasn’t as nicely executed or artistic as, say, Toy Story 3, but it struck a nerve in viewers, prompting epic water cooler debates. “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” became a euphemism for a number of actions. Just look at Urban Dictionary.
Basketball’s walking soundbite, the occasionally senile Sir Charles Barkley, remarked, “I thought them dancing around on the stage was a punk move,” in response to the ESPN-aired, Miami Heat welcome party thrown for the newly formed trio of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Of course, Barkley wasn’t the only one critical of LeBron’s Cleveland exit. “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic, and said, ‘Hey look, let’s get together and play on one team,’” said Michael Jordan.
LeBron responded, opening a Twitter account under the highness handle “KingJames” and tweeting to his online minions: “Don’t think for one min that I haven’t been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone!”
Eventually, the 2010-2011 NBA season started. Pre-season prognostication finally became actual play. And the Miami Heat was looking more like the Miami Hype 17 games into the season, posting a mediocre 9-8 record.
Following their eighth loss on November 27 at Dallas, media attention zeroed in on LeBron’s (accidental or intentional) bumping into his coach, Erik Spoelstra, on the way to the bench. Over the weekend, the “Bumpgate” clip went viral. However, the main storyline borne out of the Dallas loss was the impromptu players-only meeting held by the Heat “where everybody had a chance to get off whatever they had on their chest or in their head about us figuring things out,” according to LeBron.
It’s safe to the say the meeting was a success. The Miami Heat switched modes from underachieving to unreal, going 15-1 in the month of December, while also becoming the first team in NBA history to go 10-0 on the road in a single month.
On January 3, after the Miami Heat’s walloping of the declawed Charlotte Bobcats, LeBron commented on the fanfare and spectacle surrounding Miami’s road appearances, saying, “It’s a hostile environment, they always want their home team to win, but we call ourselves ‘The Heatles’ and bring our show on the road.”
Granted, LeBron wasn’t the creator of “The Heatles” nickname, as the credit for this goes to Miami sportswriter and radio commentator Dan Le Batard. But, what does it say when LeBron not only accepts the nickname, but employs it as post-game propaganda?
Simple. Implicit in LeBron’s use of the absurd comparison to the singular rock group, The Beatles, is a concession that any attempt on his part at silencing, responding to, or “taking mental notes” of his detractors proves ultimately futile. So why not revel in the ridiculous, subsist on superlatives, and fully embrace the role of the Megalomaniac of Miami?
LeBron can’t be a member of “The Heatles,” if leaving Cleveland proved he couldn’t “Carry that Weight,” evidencing his dependence on chasing rings “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Truthfully, the 2010-2011 Miami Heat are the closest thing we have today to a ’90s boy band. Not The Beatles. Like the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync, the Miami Heat is a manufactured group of young, talented men. Like the Backstreet Boys, LeBron is “Larger than Life” and left Clevelanders singing “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” (or, if you’re an ’N Sync fan, “Bye Bye Bye”). If the Miami Heat find themselves celebrating an NBA Title in June, let’s just hope they correct their welcome-party woes and enlist the services of a professional choreographer. •
Rudy Gayby covers the Spurs along with Manuel Solis at Spuriosity (blogs.sacurrent.com).