The sporting world has been turned upside its head in recent years with the ascension of me-first athletes and a degenerate society that has found a breeding ground via the social web. The building blocks of traditional ethical grounds are hastily eroding away and what’s left in the ruins is something far removed from what we would have, until recently, labeled a success.
The concepts of home, loyalty, professionalism, hard-work, and paying your dues are starting to mean very little to a generation who have grown up witnessing MNC’s ship jobs abroad, businesses fire long-time workers, one percenters making millions off taxpayers’ dime. The lottery of making it big using one’s own merit through new-age tools like YouTube are the shining beacon that keeps desperation from taking a firm hold of today’s youth.
It’s no surprise then, that the fabrication of such a desperate, flash-in-the-pan, materialistic and morally corrupt society would also rear its ugly head into the world of sports.
When LeBron James made “The Decision” to break his home’s heart on national television in a deliberate act of showmanship, a paradigm shift occurred in which the world of professional basketball would forever be changed. A clear message had been sent from King James in which he openly proclaimed his wish to conquer the sport in his own way, rather than chase glory in an honorable way as a loyal knight.
It’s not fair to place all the blame on one man, but at different times throughout history, certain visionaries have risen to the forefront of their domain, and for better or for worse, cultivated a revolution that only needed a single drop to burst open the flood gates of that way of thinking. Players are now jumping ship at the first signs of trouble like treacherous pirates, teams are relocating to new cities like backpackers looking for the next thrill, news reports have turned to TMZ level gossip with Twitter taking over the news-breaking function. Even the NBA has brought scrutiny onto itself and its motives by foolishly taking over an NBA team, allowing an extended lockout, meddling in NBA trades, selling its team after earning the number 1 draft pick, and now trying to make changes to Olympic basketball for its own profit deriving interests.
In 1992 it was another star calling the shots league-wide, but Michael Jordan used his power to punish Isiah who had disrespected the meritocracy of the All-Star game, and demanded he be left off the Dream Team. LeBron’s influence on the game seems to be, ‘to each his own, f**k everybody else’.
I wrote nearly 5 years ago that the NBA was turning from a sports into pure entertainment. It turned out I was slightly off, the NBA is turning more into a modern day business rather than anything else. Gone are the camaraderie of the old days and the sense of team, as everyone is just a Tweet away from laying the groundwork to bolt out of town. Fans now find themselves less connected to their ‘home’ team with the ‘face of the franchise’ and even team jerseys changing every few years in an attempt to conceal the vicious cycle of failure facing the majority of the league’s small market teams. Without a sense of TEAM for neither players nor fans – we are getting to the point where we might as well just simulate the next season through NBA 2K13.
We are too far along to halt the momentum of this new way of life – LeBron has conquered basketball, is firmly in charge, and doesn’t show signs of letting go his tight grip on the throne. The ring he earned over the claws of the Durantulla will protect him to the end and holds as much value to him as it did to Gollum in “Lord of the Rings”. This is our new reality now and the King’s footsteps are deeply entrenched on the psyche of young adults who are embarking upon the road to sports stardom before being able to make the simple differentiation between ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Pear Shakes’. Perhaps we can’t change it, but there’s no reason that we should encourage it. So in this new reality we find ourselves in, isn’t it about time we change the barometer of what success in sports really means?
Everything else in the sport has changed, so why should the ideal of success remain stationery? Perhaps once upon a time, when stars showed loyalty to their home teams and battled it out till the end with the soldiers put alongside them, it was enough just to be a champion. But in today’s league where a superstar can join their rivals and handpick their teammates and act as general manager of the club – shouldn’t the premise of achieving ultimate success change in some form?
There have been players and teams in the past who have tried to take the shortcut to ultimate success (Barkley’s Rockets in 1996, Malone’s Lakers’ in 2003, Shaq’s Heat in 2006, Garnett’s Celtics in 2008) but all of those players were well past their prime and none took as deliberate an approach as LeBron James’ Miami Heat. So if we can for one moment step back from the emotions sparked from King James and Durantula’s Marvel-esque NBA Finals clash, and analyze the latest volatile arc in LeBron James’ life under the premise of this article – the degree of his accomplishment becomes easier to evaluate.
At the end of the day, success is no fixed thing, it is simply what we as a society believe it to be at any given time. So at this point we need to re-evaluate whether – someone who pretty much destroyed every fabric of what made sports special, what made a earning a championship a dream come true – should be treated with the same type of approach in his times of success as he mistreated failure in his times of trouble. Is it fair to skip a majority of the parts that makes earning a championship tough, and expect the same type of praise as someone who took the tougher road? Let me phrase it in a simpler way – do we really want our kids to look up to their sports stars, and see betrayal and taking the short-cut as the model for success?
King James might have conquered the sport, but in this day and age, we the people still have power to determine his legacy.