The Decision to Accept Second Best

LeBron has let us down with awful decisions for years now, I don’t know why we thought this time around things would be any different.

Remember the Slam Dunk Contest? I always thought LeBron didn’t want to participate because he was “too big” for it. He didn’t need it. He was focused on bigger things. What never crossed my mind was this: What if he was simply afraid of the public’s reaction if he didn‘t win?

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James reacts to a play against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter in Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff basketball series in Boston, Massachusetts May 13, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Even when he got excited about it at the 2009 All-Star Game, “throwing his hat in the ring” for 2010, he didn’t have the guts to go through with it when it came time to man up and formally join the ranks.

That doesn’t mean anything, does it? It’s only a dunk contest, right?

Remember his leaving the court after that 2009 loss to Orlando? Remember how he refused to shake hands with fellow Olympian Dwight Howard? Remember how he left the building after such a tremendous upset without answering a single question? Remember how Big Z and Mo Williams were left ducking for cover when the media storm hit their locker room in search of LeBron? Remember how he actually defended his actions the next day, declaring that he didn’t stick around because he is a winner?

We dismissed this and took his word for it because, why shouldn’t we? He’s the King.

Then came the infamous dunk at his summer camp. The one caught on tape. The one Nike quickly swept under the rug. Oh I see, it’s cool for LeBron to posterize people. It’s cool for LeBron to embarrass anyone in his path by dunking all over them. But if it happens to LeBron? If he’s the one embarrassed? Well that just cant happen: “I’m going to have to confiscate that cell phone, sir. You understand.”

What we failed to recognize with LeBron is this pattern of behavior goes back years and WE were the people enabling it. A free Hummer in high school, skipping the dunk contest, not shaking hands with Orlando, the disappearing dunk video, not telling Cleveland he was leaving, the hour long TV event, and finally deciding to join to D. Wade’s team. I mean, what did we really expect?

Going to Miami was never about wanting to win. It was about being afraid to lose.

LeBron James is without a doubt the most athletically gifted and spectacularly talented basketball player in the league. He makes the right decision at the right time in a way that I wish Kobe Bryant would do.

But when the chips are on the table, he simply doesn’t have the guts to get it done.

The entire city of Cleveland deserves better.

Actually, we all deserve better.

As a Laker fan I thought we FINALLY had a worthy foil for Kobe. An adversary that actually threatened our star’s greatness. Since Kobe came into the league in 1996, he’s dismissed all adversaries one by one: Iverson, Carter, McGrady, Ray Ray, Pierce, Wade… he proved himself as the superior player in every instance. In fact, what makes Kobe’s quest so impressive is he was never even competing against them, he was competing against history. Against West, Baylor and Jordan.

Then came LeBron, and everything changed. This was different. LeBron was bigger, stronger and faster. LeBron could score AND pass. LeBron might be too much to handle. LeBron might be better than Kobe.

And just when I thought it had happened, that LeBron has surpassed Kobe as the best player in the league, we found out that LeBron didn’t have the one thing you need to succeed at the highest level: heart.

He simply didn’t have the heart to be the man.

And that’s the saddest part of all this.

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