Rather than Twitter my thoughts one by one, here are the remainder of them:
The holdover from the Jordan era, which pretty much wafts at every level of the NBA experience, is that a single, singular player leads a team to a championship, and that amongst a group of elite players, only so many of them have “what it takes” to get there. You can choose to believe this narrative if you’d like, but it’s a flimsy one, because once someone’s won it, it crumbles. Kobe couldn’t win by himself, and then he did. Look elsewhere in sports, and you can see it folding on itself (as you’ll see the next time Kobe loses in the playoffs): Phil Mickelson couldn’t win the big one, then he did, then he choked again, then he won again. Peyton Manning couldn’t win, then he could, then he choked.
I think what people are angry about with LeBron is that we’re not going to get to see if he has that, I don’t know, “it” that may or may not even exist in the first place. That’s a presumption in and of itself, but let’s just say it’s true: If the Heat win the title with relatively equal contributions from Wade and Bron, does that tarnish LeBron’s legacy? The answer, today, seems to be yes. LeBron seems to either not care or to have taken people at face value when they said he needed to win a championship to be a complete player, or something, when they really meant he needed to lead a team to a championship. Having played for a Team USA—on which he wasn’t the top draw, Kobe was—that was roundly lauded, you can see how he’d come to this conclusion. Why would people praise his ability to play with superstar then, and tear it down now? (He might be asking himself.)
Another thing about Team USA: So many stories about how watching Kobe brought LeBron’s work habits to another level. Maybe this is something where LeBron thinks he can get better just by being around Wade. Kobe himself has admitted that he’s basically stolen every move in his arsenal, an aggregation service along the lines of, jeez, fivethirtyeight.com. Maybe LeBron needs to see things up close to duplicate and surpass them, and got a whiff of it at the Olympics. I don’t know. I’m just saying.
He’s certainly read the tea leaves wrong about what was expected of him, as evidenced by the audible vacuum that hit the Greenwich, CT Boys & Girls Club last night, when he awkwardly spoke the words “South Beach” as his destination. (Seriously?) He honestly thought we just wanted him to win one, when we actually wanted so much more. What did we want? Something we hadn’t seen before, something transcendent. This was something we hadn’t seen before, but it wasn’t transcendent. Our new fear is that it won’t be transcendent even if he wins it all. That’s a disappointment, sure, but LeBron probably won’t feel like it’s a disappointment when he’s holding the trophy. In 20 years, maybe he’ll wonder “What if?” But it doesn’t matter if he knew he had that mythological extra oomph in 20 years; he’s searching for it now, frantically looking for it on the beach like a lost key. The thing is, we told him the key was there, even if it might not exist, and even if he thinks it’s the bottom of that trophy we’ll tell him nope. you don’t have it. Unlike many people, I have no problem feeling a little bit sorry for the guy and also rooting heartily against him, and that’s just what I plan to do (and root for Cleveland to absolutely pound him, somehow). The idea of this team winning the title sickens me to the point that I would root for Kobe against them. I wanted transcendence as much as anybody, and I find the idea of Wade and LeBron playing together categorically unfair. But you know what? It’s totally fucking fair. I’m being deprived of a negative, something that I only imagined existing: LeBron flying through the air, delivering the team on which he was Top Dog to a title, averaging 35 PPG in the Finals with 10 and 10. Now even if that happens we’ll think it’s silly. What a joke.