NBA

LeBron James Has Evolved By Expressing Himself Through Humility, Humor, and Politics

"King James" has matured and unlike Michael Jordan, isn't afraid to offend the sneaker-buying public.

|

King James reborn
Keith Allison/Flickr

The NBA Finals begin tonight with a rematch of last year's championship series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and defending champion Golden State Warriors, who won a single-season record 73 games this regular season.

It's not just a showdown between the NBA's two best teams, but also between (arguably, of course) the two best players of the current generation: LeBron James and Steph Curry.

Curry's the upstart, seemingly redefining what it takes to be dominant in the modern NBA, while James is the established veteran who has been the focal point of the NBA's marketing since he began his professional career in 2003. James has been the next big thing, the heir apparent, and then in 2010—after an obnoxious live TV special where he announced he was bolting Cleveland and "taking his talents to South Beach" — the game's great exalted villain.

But, I argue in a new article for The Week, "life has a way of maturing a man," and the evolution of King James' public image from narcissistic title-chaser to self-aware leader with great comic timing and a political conscience has been quite a thing to watch:

When James shocked the world by returning "home" in the summer of 2014, he did it with an inverse amount of pomp and circumstance than he exhibited with "The Decision," which he admits was a mistake, as was his decision to not inform Cavs owner Dan Gilbert of his intent to leave before announcing it on national TV.

The humility he displayed in an essay announcing his return to Cleveland helped him shed the villain tag he'd worn during his Miami run, and his self-deprecating comedic star turn in Amy Schumer's film Trainwreck also aided with his image rehabilitation.

When he staged a protest against a grand jury's decision to not indict the NYPD officer who used a banned chokehold on the late Eric Garner by wearing a shirt reading "I Can't Breathe" during pre-game warm-ups, James earned the respect of many by doing what Michael Jordan always refused to do: risk alienating the sneaker-buying public by taking a political stand.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: Watch Anthony L. Fisher on the Kennedy Party Panel Tonight at 8p ET

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Meh

    1. Well MJ is much smarter than LJ. James is an idiot who thinks he is philosophic and insightful.
      James actually said this year; and I quote:
      “I have so much more to give to the game” and “my basketball mind is so {para: vast and yet unexplored}.”

      Jordan on the other hand wore business suits that did not look like pimp outfits and Jordan, to my recollection, did not wear a fedora every night, blow smoke in the air, or rile up race baiters.

      Perhaps Jordan understand that alienating any shoe buyer is bad business. Jordan spoke much more proper English than almost all of today’s athletes and his perpetual endorsement deals for mundane crap will bear that out in huge paychecks far in excess of what LJ will get because he sounds like and is a moron.

      1. Except of course, this one:

        http://images.askmen.com/fashi…..e-icon.jpg

  2. So who is this guy?

    I don’t follow hockey.

    1. I think he plays soccer. He is the leftfield winger for FC Tootenham Bayern United I think.

      1. He looks kind of like a hobo.

  3. Lebron James is self-aware in the worst sort of way. This article is bad and you should feel bad, Anthony.

    1. Warriors! Come out and play-ay!

      My neighbor Steph Curry is going to make LeBron a loser once again.

      (Steph Curry really does live in our little suburb. I saw him at the town Chevron one day not long ago, pumping his own gas. I’ll bet LeBron never pumps his own gas.)

      1. Stephanie?

        1. Bubbles?

  4. Shoes? Hrrrmph, wait until he comes out with his own automobile, called LeCar

    1. Available black or LeBrown only, no white or grey.

  5. He also came out in support of the mob in Ferguson. Gee athlete comes out for a bunch of fashionable lefty causes and gets puff piece in reason. Let me get my surprised face.

    1. But did he ever make a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture? Because if he did, that’s how I can be sure he’s a bold, insightful political thinker!

  6. Is this late nite links? I’m always really really interested in the political views of celebrities.

    /derp

    1. Bernie is an idiot who is too stupid to do anymore than destroy the party. Hillary is full on evil and knows how government works. She is the worst possible choice.

  7. More interesting topic. Hilary is now up by only 6 points on the Berninator in CA. It might be worth mentioning that every single time this election she has been ahead by this margin or less, she has lost.

    1. They hate Bernie the democrats are not nominating him. But if Bernie wins California and they don’t give it to him, the Bernie bros are going to go nuts.

      They are so screwed

      1. He’s going to win unless it’s a dead heat and Hillary has a last minute miracle, which has happened in every such case. KY the most recent example. She was up by more than 20 points a month ago in CA.

        Hillary is up by 6 right now, to me that says Bernie beats her by at least 8 percentage points.

        Anyone can down play that all they want, but if Bernie wins CA, that is a huge blow to Clinton that she will likely never recover from. That would mean that Bernie has won something like 85% of the last 15 contests, including the most populous state in the nation. It very well could be a death blow to Hillary.

        1. Then they will give it to Biden. I don’t want the Dems to win. So I am so hoping she pulls it out. She is hopeless in the general.

          1. I don’t really have any possible pleasure in this election anymore, other than Clinton losing. She could lose to Satan and I’d enjoy it.

            1. I would rather see her lose to an unexpected step down and spend the rest of the season campaigning in a walker.

              1. She’d be even more evil from her wheelhchair of evil.

                1. She needs to end life as some kind of more machine than man evil psyborg.

                  1. She needs to end life as some kind of more machine than man evil psyborg convict

                    FIFY

        2. Maybe the Bern will win the nom and Hillary will run as an Independent. A five way race, French and Trump splitting the vote as well as Hillary and Bernie, leaving GayJo the winner.

          1. In some universe that will surely happen.

            1. Maybe that one where Superman is a zombie

            2. What difference, at this point, does it make?

      2. Bernie Bros and Hillary… womyn.

    2. Here’s my take, FWIW: I think Team Obama will drop the hammer on Hillary if she loses California — but it would have to result in Biden being the nominee with Elizabeth Warren as his VP. Bernie’s too insane and could get economic moderates to pull the lever for Trump. (I’d bet Mayor Bloomy would kick himself every day for not jumping into the race back in March.)

  8. James earned the respect of many by doing what Michael Jordan always refused to do: risk alienating the sneaker-buying public by taking a political stand.

    Call me when he has 6 championships.

    1. Call me when he has one three.

      1. one three.

        Amazing. phonetic misspelling! its like a new achievement.

        I used to be an NBA fan, then i took a break and realized i really don’t give a fuck.

        LeBron is unquestionably the most dominant single player in the nba of the last decade, but he’s just not that super-interesting to watch. Jordan, by contrast, was like Gretsky: he kept surprising you by reinventing what was possible. No one will remember LeBron after he’s gone as anything other than a bundle of good statistics.

        1. He is like Julius Irving.

        2. You and John are nuts. LeBron had a shitload to do with the game evolving from a low-post wrestling match to more of a finesse game. And yes, the playoff games often devolve into the old school bloodbaths but the regular season is more like what basketball should be.

          He’s also going to be one of the top 5 all time scorers and an all star every year of his career. He’s never going to be forgotten.

          -not a LeBron fan

          1. LeBron is the first player to go to 6 consecutive finals since a bevy of Celtics did in 1966.

            Last I checked, Jordan did not do that (let’s see if someone is stupid enough to cite Jordan’s baseball gambit as an excuse forgetting that he did come back in early March of 1995 only to have Shaq and Penny kick his ass in 6 games in the Eastern conference semi-finals).

            1. LeBron is the first player to go to 6 consecutive finals

              Players don’t make the finals. Teams do. That Miami team had no serious competition.

              even so you’re just validating my point about stats.

              re: Sloopy

              LeBron had a shitload to do with the game evolving from a low-post wrestling match to more of a finesse game. e.

              When exactly was this low-post wrestling-match era?

              He may have made the small forward position more interesting, but he certainly isn’t the first in that position with touch or finesse. Its not a more-interesting game to watch than the super-dynamic guards of the 90s, or even 2-man games like stockton-malone/payton-kemp/nash-nowitzki etc.

              that just my personal view about what’s ‘entertaining’ about pro-ball.

              And yes, the playoff games often devolve into the old school bloodbaths but the regular season is more like what basketball should be

              this is like the opposite of what it seems like most people have said over the last few decades. Conventional wisdom has always been that the regular-season is nothing but a slow-paced contest of largely-uncontested jumpshots, where only rookies actually play hard. “No one plays defense until the playoffs” has been a cliche i’ve heard my whole life. Its why many basketball fans hate the pros and prefer college.

              caveat = i still pretty much dont give a fuck and am not even watching the game.

              1. When exactly was this low-post wrestling-match era?

                The 80s and 90s were pretty fucking physical eras. I mean, people like Lambeer were playing in all star games instead of prison courtyards.

              2. “caveat = i still pretty much don’t give a fuck”

                – LOL –

                I understand why some fans and non-fans would not necessarily care for LeBron, but I don’t get the hate (not saying that you have it for at all) some otherwise knowledgeable fans have for him.

                IMHO, he is the most complete player I have ever seen. Not the best, but high up on the list.

                You mentioned guard play. How about GS?

                1. I don’t get the hate

                  Reread what i actually said

                  “” unquestionably the most dominant single player in the nba of the last decade, but he’s just not that super-interesting to watch””

                  What’s actually funny here is that you responded to that comment by citing stats.

            2. Ive watched the NBA for 55 years.

              Greatest players
              1 Bill Russell
              2 Oscar Robertson
              3 Michael Jordan
              4 LeBron James
              5 Larry bird.

              Curry is a revolutionary player. He and Thompson have made the three-point field-goal the most important part of the game. Kareem was revolutionary. Dr J was. Magic was.

              Last year’s performance by LeBron in the finals was the greatest ever. He carried a team of bench players to the brink of the championship.

              1. It’s hard to see a “greatest of” list without Wilt on it but I have a hard time arguing with you here.

                1. Wilt is the greatest fucking NBA player

              2. I have to agree IRT to last year’s finals. It was LeBron & the bench versus a historically good team. LeBron alone won two games, un-fucking-believable. If Irving, Love, & Co actually show up they Cavs MIGHT pull off a huge upset!

          2. LJ is an awesome athlete and definite hall of famer.

            He is no Jordan however, because MJ is a more likeable, smarter sounding, and better pitchman. LJ will never make the long lasting endorsement deals that Jordan made because LJ is a moron who thinks he is smart. MJ just sat back and took endorsements for being a good guy. He is either very smart or has a very good agent. LJ apparently is neither.

            And MJ so far was far more fun to watch because he did not have a shitty attitude when he was losing. He just got mad.

            1. And MJ didn’t lose in the finals,.

  9. Paul Ryan endorses Donald Trump. The National Review offices must be like Hitlers bunker this evening.

    1. Like he has a choice now. Ryan’s endorsement is meaningless, but I’m sure Ryan likes to imagine that it’s very important indeed. Eddie Munster important, look at me, duhhh.

      1. I agree but the people at NR are delusional and think otherwise

        1. Delusional is thinking the Chump in Chief will do anything to advance libertarian or conservative values.

          1. If you think those values begin and end with open borders and crony capitalist trade deals, sure.

            1. Trump is going to be Trump, whiff on the border, and trade amnesty for a mostly symbolic strengthening of border security.

        2. Almost all the political pundits and prognosticators this election have done nothing so much as to prove how delusional they are.

      2. Eddie Munster? You’ve got the wrong 60’s sitcom. National Review is pushing for Mr. French. He was the butler on “Family Affair”.

    2. Somebody make a Downfall parody and put it on youtube, quick!

      1. NEIN NEIN NEIN NEIN NEIN NEIN NEIN

  10. “James earned the respect of many by doing what Michael Jordan always refused to do: risk alienating the sneaker-buying public by taking a political stand.”

    And Jordan did the right thing. All told, in the end, it’s not those people who would have paid his bills. Some athletes like to mix it up in the political ring others simply do not. Live and let live.

    “Winning a ring in Cleveland, without the help of the superstars he had in Miami, would allow James the luxury of playing however many years he has left unconcerned about his legacy as an all-time winner.”

    Yeah Miami was a ‘big three’ (just like Boston’s big three that won a title) but, to me, it was James who brought the titles to Miami.

    1. Love Wade, but Bosh was over rated.

      1. Bosh was a soft little bitch. If he had any heart at all LeBron would still be in Miami and we’d be seeing two 68 to 70 game winners battle for the championship.

        Also, Delonte West.

        1. KG might have had less pure skill than Bosh, but he would mix it up with the bulkier big men. Bosh just abandoned the blocks.

          1. I may be wrong, but I think Pierce even as a small forward was more physical than Bosh.

            1. They both had more balls that Chris Bosh ever dreamed of having. (And don’t say “three”.)

              He was a gutless turd. Miami would have been better without him and with two more solid role players that could defend worth a shit as needed.

              1. I say ‘three’ because that’s how it was described as you know.

                More like the ‘big 2 1/2’.

        2. You are both kinda proving my point. Yay!

          I agree Bosh was a ‘star’ but no superstar. Wade won a title on his own but by the time James got there injuries and age were getting the better of him. So, James was the man.

          1. I bet you’re still pissed the Grizzlies left Vancouver.

            1. Meh.

          2. Ah, there was a fellow by the name of O’Neal on that 2006 Heat team.

            1. Yes but it was all Wade.

              Walker and O’Neal were there for support and the ride!

              1. It was all the refs.

                Wade had some kind of inviolate 3-foot personal space bubble that somehow counted as a foul on Dallas anytime someone stepped into it.

                /disgruntled Mavs fan

                1. I mean shit, it’s the series I hear mentioned most as “fixed” after 2002 Kings/Lakers.

                  1. That 2002 series was criminal!

                2. In game 3, yes, the Mavs had some bad calls.

                  But, THEY FUCKING BLEW IT. You are up 2-0 and have a double digit 4th quarter lead in game 3 – come on, you gotta close the deal.

                  1. Yeh for true. But the Mavs, to be fair, did get hosed on some calls.

                    But that’s the NBA for you. I can’t invest too much of time when it’s blatantly obvious there are ‘favored’ calls with great players.

                    1. Stephen A. Smith was on Mike & Mike last week (discussing OKC/Warriors series) saying that it is not only perfectly acceptable to have some players be “above” the rules, but that it is the way the game should be played and that officiating of that sort should be encouraged.

                      It’s somehow oppressing great men to hold them to the same standards as the less-skilled pawns.

                    2. You can say that for any sport.

                      And it’s retarded if you ask me.

                    3. In cases where ‘lesser’ players are flagrant or hack or bash or whatever against top players, just call it. In soccer, it’s well known defenders constantly hack at the ankles, shin and feet of superstars – do that for 90 minutes and lemme tell you it’s sore and painful as well as annoying. Because there was a perceived lack of protection from refs, this is where, in part, ’embellishment’ or diving was invented as a way of drawing attention.

              2. Shaq averaged 20 and 9 for the season. But, I will agree that Wade was the best player on tha team.

        3. Fuck Miami. They were screaming about LeBron being a traitor when he decided to go back to Cleveland. I guess 4 consecutive Finals appearances are good enough for the poseur city of the East coast.

  11. When he staged a protest against a grand jury’s decision to not indict the NYPD officer who used a banned chokehold on the late Eric Garner by wearing a shirt reading “I Can’t Breathe” during pre-game warm-ups, James earned the respect of many by doing what Michael Jordan always refused to do: risk alienating the sneaker-buying public by taking a political stand.

    Oh, bullshit. Michael Jordan gets tons of hate nowadays for daring to make his sneakers in — wait for it! — China. You just know that even lefty progs in the sports media resent MJ because those evil chinks get our Murikan dollars ’cause Michael is a greedy asshole who doesn’t want to pay higher taxes, labor/environmental costs, etc.

    And there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to piss off your customers, but MJ has donated to Dems in the past.

    1. TIL that, for the most part, shoes are now made in Vietnam and a few other, poorer countries. China only accounts for 6% of the market.

      Thanks, AM links.

    2. I don’t wear shoes. Feeling Mother Gaia on the soles of my feet is orgasmic.

      1. The hair on your feet match your shirt, pinko!

        1. Shirt? Or did you mean sweater?

          1. Thanks, asshole. That video was gay as shit.

  12. This may be in the article I didn’t read, but sportswriters, and people like wanted Jordan to speak out against Jesse Helms, and he didn’t because “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

    Now Jordan owns 90% of a sports franchise.

    1. LeBron James makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.

    2. I meant people like David Halberstam. Multitasking is hard.

  13. No player in NBA history did what LeBron did in 2012.

    What did he do? You want to know what did he do?

    Okay, I’m a gonna tell you what he did.

    He did this:

    1. The Heat were down, 2 games to 1, to Indy, with game 4 at Indianapolis. In a game the Heat had to have, LeBron puts up 40 points, grabs 18 rebounds and dishes out 9 assists. Heat go on to win series, 4-2.

    2. The Celtics held a 3-2 lead and were hosting game 6 at the TD Bank garden. Everybody was counting out the Heat and were expecting Miami and LeBron to bow out in Boston.

    In the most pivotal game of his career, on the road, what did LeBron do?

    45 FUCKING POINTS, 15 REBOUNDS, and 5 ASSISTS. He shot 19-26. The Heat then won game 7.

    3. The Heat lost Game 1 of the Finals to the Thunder at Oklahoma City. Thus, the Heat were down a game on the road in game 2. What did LeBron do?

    32 points, 8 rebounds. The Heat go on to win the next 3 games and take the series, 4-1.

    Nobody in NBA history ever lead his team to victory in three consecutive playoff series where the team was down a game in each of the three series and playing the next game on the road and doing so by leading his team in scoring in all three pivotal games and leading his team in rebounding in two of the games and by coming up with the single greatest clutch performance to chase the ghosts of choke away for eternity (Game 6 against the Celtics).

    1. Do you think he can do it against GSW? Most pundits (that I saw anyway) are picking GSW.

      1. Yes, but definitely hedging my bets. I hope its a 7 game series.

        What’s nice is when there is a series or game in which you have no hate for any of the teams involved – and no major hate for any of the players involved. This is one of those series for me.

        1. Draymond Green?

          1. He has a good heart.

            Overall, I think he is likeable. Sure, he can get nasty in the heat of battle and cross the line into dirty play.

            Of course, based on what he did in the OKC series, you can understand some people taking a dislike to him.

            1. I would love playing with Green.

              I would probably go insane playing against him.

              But hell, my team has Patrick Beverley, so I can appreciate those “love ’em or hate ’em” guys.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.