A Daily Babble Production
Looks like we've got yet another item to add to the interminable list of reasons meaningful NBA basketball needs to return as expediently as possible: It might just allow us to table discussions about LeBron James' habits as a sports fan.
Of all the criticisms leveled at professional athletes, the ongoing saga of obsession over the fact that LeBron holds allegiances outside of Cleveland leaves me completely befuddled.
The hubbub started back in the autumn of 2007 when LeBron punctuated his appearance at an Indians game at the Jake with a cap adorned with that ever-detestable Yankees logo. It went to a new level earlier this week after LeBron was seen hanging out on the Dallas Cowboys' sideline during the Browns' season opener at the Dawg Pound.
I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.
LeBron James makes a living playing one sport: basketball. He is employed by a basketball organization, and so far as the National Basketball Association is concerned, it is his responsibility to maintain his loyalty to the franchise that provides him gainful employment - just like any other professional in any other industry.
So far as I understand it, LeBron has never done anything but show every possible bit of loyalty to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He came to town in 2003 and reinvigorated the organization and its fan base. He established himself almost immediately as one of the game's top five players, and that's an intentionally less than flattering estimate for a player of Bron's caliber. James carried the franchise on his back to the 2007 NBA Finals, and he turned in one of the best seasons in the history of the game with his 30 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game in 2007-08. There is a high likelihood that this guy will be the league's best player for the next decade and beyond. That's what he has done for the team that employs him, which happens to be in Cleveland.
As for the sports outside of basketball, LeBron James has no more obligations than does any other spectator. He isn't paid by the Cavs to be some ambassador of all things Cleveland. He is paid by the Cleveland Cavaliers to play basketball. He does that. With that employment comes the expectation that he will conduct himself respectably. That means obeying the law and serving as a role model in the way he conducts his public affairs. It doesn't mean rooting for the home teams.
In fact, it doesn't mean anything close. Save for one well-publicized speeding ticket over the past year, this is a guy who has virtually a completely clean record in the legal system. He is polite and charismatic in his public speaking appearances, and he for the most part conducts himself with class on the basketball court (though he could conceivably flop on the deck a bit less, the fact that he gets a lot of respect from the referees is largely not his fault). Sure, he has a bit of an ego and a love for attention, but so would most 22-year-olds who happen to be some of the best people in the world at their professions and multi-millionaires to boot. If that's his major flaw, he's not doing too terribly for himself.
Some say James loves New York and will jump at the chance to play for the Knicks or possibly relocated Nets in 2010. That's when he will become a free agent and thus no longer an employee of the Cleveland Cavaliers, in which case it's hard to see any problem with that course of action. For now, all he is guilty of is doing his job unbelievably well and maintaining a friendship with Jay-Z, who happens to own another NBA franchise. Can't prosecute for that.
This is a great player and law-abiding dude who seems to be a good enough guy on and off the floor.
The obsession with who LeBron James roots for away from the basketball court is only further sad evidence that some folks will always look to be critical to a point of nonsensical negativity. Being among the best in one's profession will only make those critics search harder for a flaw, no matter its relevance. Or lack thereof.