If I was LeBron James

by Bryan

If I was LeBron James. If I was Dwyane Wade. If I was Chris Bosh. If I was Amar’e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer. If I was Joe Johnson. If I was Rudy Gay. If I was Ray Allen. If I was J.J. Redick.

If I was 6’8″. If I grew up in Akron, Ohio. If I had been assigned for greatness by the age of 12. If my high school basketball games had been on ESPN, my tattoos covered by bandages because tattoos were a no-no. If I had watched the results of the lottery, knowing that Cleveland had the best chances at pulling the number one overall pick, and knowing that should they obtain it, even I might begin to believe that the fairy tale. If I had seen, in the aftermath of the lottery, the owner of the Cavaliers hold up a jersey with my name on it.

If I was forever known as the player picked one spot before Darko Milicic (just kidding). If I inspired hundreds of thousands to watch my first pro game, against the Kings, where I gamely tossed a pass to Ricky Davis on a fast break, showing the world that I knew what it meant to be deferential. If I had followed that up with a thunderous dunk of my own, a small peak behind the curtain of the breadth of my abilities.

If I had heard the criticism of my shooting at age 19. If I had been told that I could learn. If I spent much of the next seven years practicing a shooting motion with which I could live, reliant on the slightest flick of the wrist from the top of my elevated Sears Tower-like frame, brambles on brambles of muscle like the skyscraper’s buildings resting upon buildings. If I learned to do it with with my arms bent as awkwardly as frog legs, an imperfection related solely to my massive stature, a nagging imperfection like a fly bounding against an elephant.

If I had watched my team improve to the point it was the best in the league, at least during the regular season, over the last two years. If I had heard the whispers about how it meant nothing about a title. If I had fallen short in the playoffs, only after submitting a handful of the few greatest games in the playoffs. If I had heard the whispers about how I was distracted by the thought of July 1st, 2010. If I had only wanted to get to July 1st, 2010, without hurting anybody, including myself. If I had heard the whispers about how I had failed my hometown, already, by not committing to them already.

If I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, and had a chance to take his place. If I dreamed of having the chance to live in Chicago since far before the moment I saw him swat Bryon Russell aside. If I wanted to outshine Kanye West. If the President of the United States had, in a moment of honesty, told the world what I already knew: that I would look great in a Bulls uniform.

If I loved Jay-Z and vice versa, and listened to his pitch: Brooklyn, a new team, new name, new tradition… B, why don’t you tell him? If I was suddenly staring down the eyes of Beyoncé. If I was watching them, daring me to be the first person to tell them no.

If I had—at some point in my life—a dream of resurrecting the Knicks, bringing them to the front of the New York sports scene for the first time in almost 40 years. If I had watched the Willis Reed tape dozens of times, imagining that it was me, only I went for 40 points and sent Kobe packing. If I could replace Derek Jeter as the chairman of the Canyon of Heroes. If I wanted to feel tickertape in my skull.

If I had heard the shouting that I wouldn’t be anything unless I won more often than Kobe. If my life was defined, to some degree, by someone else’s, despite everything I had done. If I hadn’t made Kobe realize that the missing element of his game was teamwork, just as he made me realize that real work was the missing element of mine. If I we had corrected our results at the same rate, but he got a better rate of return. If I thought about why that was…

If I had a chance to change everything, to write my own story. If I had a chance to start it all over again someplace else, or bring a title to the only hometown I’ve ever known in a way of my choosing. If I heard the pleas from my friends, neighbors, the mayor, that it was the only right thing to do. If I thought: They don’t need to tell me what’s special about this place; I already know. If I thought: This is what will happen if I leave, and saw the images of crying children, adults, grandparents, a deserted Quicken Loans Arena. If I was prepared to be hated for making a choice that is ostensibly mine. If anyone is prepared for something like that, ever.

If I had to make a choice anyway, and I was LeBron James, what would I choose?

I don’t know. But if I was advising LeBron James, here’s what I’d do: I’d put the contract offers in front of him, in a row, and give him a pen. I’d wait for him to sign one of them, and when he did, I would look him in the eye and tell him that if I was LeBron James, I would never look back.

•••

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Food Court Lunch’s excellent imagined conversation between LeBron and Chris “Happy to be here” Bosh. An excerpt:

Bosh: (annoyed) How do you figure? Last I checked, you and me had the same number of rings.

LeBron: (incredulous) Same number of…Look, man, let me put this another way. Look over your shoulder. What do you see?

Bosh: (looks) There’s nothing there.

LeBron: Right. Now look over mine.

(Bosh looks. A single-file line of fifteen women, anxiously straightening their dresses and fixing their make-up, has suddenly appeared behind James)

Bosh: What the…

LeBron: You see? I just thought about them, and they appeared.

I also have thought power. I think about work, and it appears. I guess I’m Batman too. So many Batmans.

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