We over here on this Great Little Nation of ours have much to be thankful to the United States of America for — cheap oversized Ralph Lauren sweaters from Woodbury Common for one — but, as January draws to a welcome climax and our sports-loving minds wander, we should look west to the Home of the Brave to be entertained, for every day is a soap opera.
LeBron James would be some man at the edge of the square. Granted, he’d want all the handy frees, and he’d be a great man for shouting at you to keep the head up after you kicked your fourth consecutive wide, but those concessions would be worth it.
His athleticism, handles, and dedication to his craft have seen him justifiably compared to the greatest basketballers of all time.
But, of all his assets, it’s his comical self-belief that makes him so extraordinary.
This Tuesday afternoon, with one Instagram post seen by his 35 million followers, he congratulated himself on a milestone he had not yet achieved in an impromptu letter written by himself, to himself, all in the third person. In one click of a button, he made Cristiano Ronaldo appear as humble as a Poor Clare nun.
“Wanna be one of the first to congratulate you,” wrote James to himself, “on this accomplishment/achievement you’ll reach...”
The milestone he spoke of was passing 30,000 career NBA points — which of course he fully expected himself to do and subsequently did in that night’s game at San Antonio, scoring 28 in another loss for his suffering Cleveland Cavaliers.
By any measure, the post was remarkable, even for the brightest star in the NBA galaxy, a galaxy where having an ego the size of an oil tanker is a prerequisite to survival. On planet LeBron, James is king, government, and nation.
Over a storied career, James has become one of the most powerful men in world sports and in doing so has become to basketball what Jay Z is to music.
He is the self-anointed King James; the kid who came home to save a city. He is a baller and a businessman. Unlike his predecessor Michael Jordan, LeBron doesn’t care if he offends the Republicans that may buy his sneakers — in a time of social entropy in America, he will speak his mind and represent as he sees fit.
Since Obama exited stage left, LeBron has arguably inherited the mantle of the most powerful African-American in the US.
In 2010, he choreographed a 75-minute TV special to announce his intention to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat,” he infamously declared.
Ten million people watched ‘The Decision’ on ESPN.
Since that episode of megalomania his use of social media to cryptically troll opponents and even teammates is as savvy as his on-court acumen. All of which makes LeBron’s ode to himself not the least bit surprising.
His Cavaliers are in a mid-season slump, losing 10 of their last 13 games thus making his self-love letter even more grotesque. Imagine the company you work for enduring a tough time while Tony from sales posts a “Dear Tony, you’re an incredible salesman” tribute on social media.
What it does speak to is how spoiled fans and press of American sports are when it comes to the access they have to their stars, and the willingness of the same stars to express their personalities.
Yesterday, LeBron’s latest ego trip was one of a dozen stories across the NBA and NFL that could’ve headlined any news bulletin.
Granted, much of this has to do with the American way of doing things — slightly over the top — but even allowing for that, you will never hear one utterance of “at the end of the day”, “all credit to”, “the boy’s come in and done well”.
What you will get is sports people speaking their minds, no matter how crazy their minds might be.
When LeBron’s right-hand-man, game closer and flat earth truther Kyrie Irving had the audacity to walk out on King James and Cleveland and head to the Boston Celtics last summer, he did what every sports star in the US does and went on live TV and stated his case.
Irving, by any standard, is media shy, but there he was on ESPN taking heavy hits from veteran broadcasters Stephan A Smith and Max Kellerman.
He calmly and respectfully laid out the metamorphosis of his decision, never deflecting their questions. I’m not saying it should always be this way, but it’s certainly more interesting when it is. Journalists getting to do their jobs, and customers getting what they pay for.
Of course, it is a double-edged sword. Greater access to players can mean more powerful vehicles for their own self-interests, but what’s so wrong with that? They are the very reason we watch and are so often inspired.
So, for LeBron James, his ego and his ego’s alter-ego, we should be thankful. Let’s hope he never changes. Let’s hope too, that he realises he would never make the Dublin senior football team with this carry-on.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate Colin Sheridan, on getting this article published, and on the incredible plaudits it will undoubtedly receive. Take a moment to enjoy it big man, you deserve it.