VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Oh boy, here we go again. Looks like LeBron James is once more getting too big for his britches.
He is no longer content to merely be a renowned NBA superstar, it seems.
Now, James wants to play Cleveland Cavaliers general manager and owner as well.
And, as a result, for the second time in his career LBJ is in danger of paying a big price reputation-wise.
If you’ve gone missing in a cave while spelunking and have just been rescued, here’s the deal.
Recently, James publicly aired some Cavs personnel gripes he had (specifics later) rather than keeping them in-house.
While doing so, LeBron also wondered aloud if the Cavaliers ownership and front office were becoming complacent, now that an NBA title was in hand.
The prevailing reaction was: Geez, LeBron, if you must undermine someone, at least have the decency to do so behind closed doors — you know, like last year when you undermined then-coach David Blatt, leading to his firing.
On top of that, LBJ used potty-mouth lingo when he expressed his displeasure.
Some team leader and shining example he is these days.
James had better be careful.
He’s on the verge of losing the popularity and respect he had worked so hard and long to recover upon losing same back in 2010.
That was the point in his career, you’ll recall, at which James exited Cleveland for Miami and announced the move in a grandiose and self-absorbed manner via a James, Inc.-produced TV special called “The Decision.”
His narcissistic attitude in it was a turnoff for a large segment of the U.S. sports-viewing populace.
Choosing haughty words like “I have decided to take my talents to South Beach” just didn’t set well.
Most folks outside Cleveland felt, yes, James had the right to jump to a team where he would have a better shot at an NBA title.
But just go, LeBron — don’t try to make the move seem like a man-on-the-moon moment in history.
His pomposity-laden special came off as the sports equivalent of the nauseating music video Michael Jackson made some years back.
You know, the one where MJ declared himself “The King of Pop” and appeared in the form of a towering “Colossus of Rhodes” type statue (or, for you millennials, the Jolly Green Giant) with thousands of adoring Lilliputian-sized fans wailing and worshipping at this feet.
It took years for James to reconstruct his image from that of a sickeningly full-of-himself jock back into an admired and respected performer once more.
It was only through LBJ’s dedicated, nose-to-the-grindstone play in lifting Miami to a pair of NBA titles — combined with the emergence of a more down-to-earth and lessy punkish persona — that he was able to accomplish his big turnaround.
And then, of course, came James’ PR coup d’grace: a return to his native Cleveland area where, in fairy-tale fashion, he led the Cavs to that championship-starved city’s first pro sports title since 1964.
But now, James is in danger of undoing all the public goodwill created by “The Comeback” (MAS’ words, not James’) with his “whiny” and “inappropriate” attitude (Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s apropos words).
LBJ is once again turning a whole lot of folks off by petulantly politicking publicly (try saying THAT three times real fast) for Cavs roster moves — and in the most uneloquent way.
“We need a f—ing playmaker,” he grouchily proclaimed, while the Cavs were in the midst of a recent funk that saw them lose six of eight contests.
“We’re top heavy as s—”, the man who would be King James added. “It’s been a s—y 2017.”
Then, displaying a disappointing understanding of, um, the King’s English, LBJ added: “I don’t got NO time to wait. I’ll be 33 in the winter and I ain’t got no time to wait.”
Uh, it’s called good grammar, LeBron. Try using it.
Proper verb usage, avoiding double negatives and that kinda stuff.
What the heck happened to the thoughtful, articulate humanitarian that James had seemingly developed into?
You know, the person who earned 2016 Sportsman of the Year honors from Sports Illustrated.
Was that all just a facade?
Maybe James does indeed have a point about Cleveland needing a vet backup at the point to give star guard Kyrie Irving — and himself — more rest over a marathon of an NBA season.
But there are certainly better ways — and words — to convey that sentiment.
Why on earth, then, would James risk undoing all the good he had done with his uncouth public grumbling?
MAS will throw out two possible reasons.
First, beforehand, LeBron is putting the blame on the front office/ownership should the Cavs not be able to repeat, by insinuating that while other teams were improving, Cleveland became stagnant. (i.e. a suitable cop-out, if needed).
Or, secondly, he’s laying the groundwork to get the hell out of Dodge.
Before James agreed to return to The Land, he received assurances from owner Dan Gilbert that the Cavs would spare no expense in putting the best possible team on the floor.
James can now claim that Gilbert reneged on their deal (even though the Cavaliers have the league’s highest payroll).
Thus, LBJ would then have a plausible excuse to bolt for someplace else where he feels he would a) have a better chance to win a Jordanesque number of NBA titles or b) enjoy playing during the latter stage of his career like, say, NYC or LaLaLand.
Maybe even accomplish a) and b) simultaneously.
After all, James does have an opt-out clause in his contract after 2017-18.
Alternatively, it might be that LBJ has just simply picked a very poor way to express his opinion on Cavs personnel matters.
Whatever LeBron’s reasoning, his semantically challenged public bellyaching is a bad look.
James seems to have forgotten previous lessons of humility learned the hard way.
It’s almost like he has suffered a relapse and is once again drunk on the tidal wave of adoration and attention heaped on him last season after ending “The Drought.”
If LBJ hopes to match Jordan in championships won (six) AND retain his popularity at the same time, his present methodology for doing so is ill-conceived.
LeBron, with three crowns, would do well to reassess his approach.
But will he?
He unapologetically speaks of “defending his legacy’ whenever someone like Barkley offers professional criticism of James’ actions, with no malice aforethought.
LBJ seems oblivious to how much he’s alienating himself with a ton of regular people with no axe to grind.
Diva and LeBron are now used in the same sentence by many fans.
It’s like James is living in his own personal bubble, allowing in only sycophants and kowtowing media.
(NOT among the latter group, of course, are The JT’s Sam Smith and MAS, who kowtow to no one; well, OK, maybe MAS kowtows to his girlfriend Dang sometimes.)
James will indeed be 33 next December.
That may leave sufficient time to win six titles but not nearly enough years to restore yet another thoroughly trashed good-guy rep.
Oops, time to replace $800 skinny jeans with the full-fit kind.
Contact Man About Sports at: email@example.com
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5