On the 6pm SportsCenter, Cindy Brunson introduced yet another Lebron segment by pointing out that LeBron’s decision on where he would be taking his talents also happened to be 234 years to the day that the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was read. Stupid moments like that one have been repeated all day with wall-to-wall coverage and interviews breaking down everything that has happened in the 365 days since. With the NBA and NFL locked out, and July baseball being easily the most significant sporting event that’s going on right now, it might be easy to dismiss this as being the product of a slow sports day. Instead, today has been nothing like that at all. The NFL lockout looks to be ending, Jeter is a couple of dribblers away from 3000 hits, the tragedy in Texas, the most popular NBA all-star of all-time Yao Ming is retiring, OSU’s problems and Team USA’s rematch with Brasil is a couple days away. Easily any of these stories should be getting more run then what we felt like a year ago today. Or, they could just go the old-fashioned route and like, you know, show highlights of sports that happened last night or earlier today.
You’ll certainly never confuse me with someone who has ever had much sympathy for LeBron. Being from Detroit, we’ve been hating on LeBron since before it was cool. But even for me, a person who often subscribes to batshit sports conspiracies and admittedly sees things only the way I want to see them… ESPN has been completely bipolar and sensationalized in their coverage of everything LeBron this past year. ESPN’s consistent coverage of his tweets and also having a reporter and microphone stationed in Cleveland seemingly at all times for the scorned fans of the Cavs to sound off on a national stage about anything LeBron might be doing is too much. The twitter reporting is especially over-the-top. Lebron says dumb things often. But, if you spend 5 minutes perusing the depths of professional athlete Twitter, you will be astounded at the stupidity these very public figures put out there. Athletes making booty calls, reacting to tragedies, and worst of all, planking is all out there for any fan to see. SportsCenter could have a field day cherry picking tweets of athletes and creating controversies and mostly providing incredible comedy if they felt like it. When it became obvious that fans were tiring of constant LeBron coverage, ESPN decided to treat him as almost a villainous character. Some athletes relish this “role,” but it became obvious that LeBron isn’t one of them. He wants to be liked, and the one-sided coverage of his flaws was kind of mean-spirited and mostly just an inaccurate representation of LeBron.
This is certainly not to dismiss LeBron or his actions of the last year. His decision to join up with stars in another city instead of stay with his own team that’s always been just a hair away will deservedly cause irreparable damage to his legacy. Many NBA greats have hammered Lebron for this decision and showing what they felt was a lack of competitiveness to be the best. And, speaking as someone that is a gigantic NBA fan, Lebron is easily the greatest physical talent I’ve ever seen. He’s a 6’8 battering ram of an athlete who also happens to be quicker and jump higher than pretty much everyone else in the league. Yet, you still won’t see him showcasing his insane athleticism in a dunk competition for the fans.
His problems are mental and always have been. This has been always the reason that Lebron is one of the most dominating regular season players of all-time but is completely different when the postseason begins. When the tough gets going, he simply doesn’t excel. From his phantom elbow injury, to the Boston series last year to the NBA Finals performance this year… it just doesn’t click with LeBron. Instead of expanding his game and creating an incredible mismatch in the post with an inside game, he often is seen at the one place that doesn’t take advantage of his incredible physical mismatch, the three-point line. No one could guard this guy in the post. He looks to have been injected with HGH since being in the womb and is quicker then any 7 footer that would try to match up with him on the block. I’m fairly certain if he ever develops this aspect of his game he’ll be shooting 20+ free throws a night while consistently fouling out the other team’s front line.
Every statistic that registers TV ratings will tell you that this was one of the most successful NBA seasons in years thanks in large part to the monstrosity that was LeBron and the Heat. To me, the entire NBA season felt very TMZ-ish. It was sleazy and overbearing in nature starting with “The Decision.” Topics such as what LeBron was wearing in postgame and unconfirmed rumors littered ESPN networks and the internet with “The Heat Index” leading the charge. If your team didn’t have Kobe or LeBron on it, you’d be lucky if you could find over a 20 second highlight of a game not featuring them. The amount of coverage the NBA Champions received this postseason pales in comparison to the runners up.
This year, more than ever, athletes were treated like celebrities. True, there’s always been a hazy line dividing the two, but this year it has been especially hard to tell the difference. Off the field issues received more coverage than ever before. It really feels like “The Decision” might be the single event that we remember as changing the fundamental way that sports are covered from now on.