God forgive me, I detest the Miami Heat. As I watched the Heat cap off another championship, I fumed with anger, and I don’t really even care about NBA basketball. The only times I turned on the NBA Playoffs was when it appeared that a team may take down the franchise that I despise more than any professional team I ever have seen.
I have had to assess why it is this sports franchise can elevate my blood pressure to the point that I have been up until 12:30AM CST the nights after Game 6 and Game 7, stewing over their victory.
Is it an abreaction to those times on the playground when the best athletes would band together against the average athletes, and we all knew that they were going to destroy us? Maybe. Is it a violated sense of justice, because sports are supposed to be fair and the Big Three seemed to undermine the natural laws of the salary cap to create an artificial dynasty? A little bit.
When I boil it down, my rancor centers on Lebron James’ choice to take less money to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. After all, I cheered for James when he played for Cleveland. But why do I dislike James as a basketball player? He plays hard. He is a decent guy. For the most recognizable athlete in the world, he is relatively humble. He is charitable. He doesn’t get arrested. He rose from the inner city to achieve greatness. And in reality, he only took a few million less than was offered with other teams when he left Cleveland in 2010. It makes no rational sense to dislike this man and this team so much.
I think as I sit here on the couch trying to process my inner rage with the hopes of a good night’s sleep (I’m writing while watching the trophy ceremony… great choice) I have come to the bottom of it. Lebron does not do for me what superstars are supposed to do.
When I engage in the ever ridiculous, juvenile practice of taunting Lebron through the television monitor during games, I always say, “You are not Michael Jordan, and you never will be.” Michael Jordan fulfilled the role of the superstar role with perfection. The Bulls were built from the ground up around him. He made average players around him All-Stars. (Right, Scottie Pippen?) He completely took over games. Jordan put the Bulls on his shoulders and took them to championship after championship. Michael surpassed what we thought was humanly possible. And he earned it. Cue Nick Lannon’s talk from the NYC Conference:
Bill Simmons of espn.com brilliantly captured Lebron’s choice in 2010. A choice for Cleveland represented loyalty. A choice for Chicago winning. A choice for New York possible immortality. But Lebron made the choice that nobody expected in Miami: help. And given the titans he joined in Wade and Bosh, it wasn’t a little help, it was a lot.
Lebron is supposed to be the King. He is supposed to earn it on his own with the team on his shoulders. Most importantly, he is supposed to nurture the lie my flesh clings to day after day, hour after hour, and minute after minute: I can do it on my own. Lebron is supposed to seduce me into thinking that I have the potential to reach new heights, kick bad habits, reform faulty character, change difficult people, and make folks happy, if I just try a little harder. Deep down inside resides this power and potential that possibly can be engage, resulting in my victory.
Instead, there is Lebron standing with his second championship trophy next to Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, reminding us of what was expressed on July 8, 2010: I need a lot of help.
It’s frustrating. It’s unnerving. I mean, if Lebron needs help, what does that say about me?
It’s offensive. Just like the Gospel.
The Christian Gospel says, “You don’t have what it takes to make it on your own. You need help. Lots and lots of help.” It assaults the faulty aspirations of human nature, which compulsively desire to save the self in every circumstance. But when a person comes to a place where they die to the illusion of self-reliance, wave the white flag, and cry for grace and mercy, they find hope and freedom.
So can it be that an olive branch has been extended, and a shift in symbol has occurred? Lebron transforms from a villain to a reminder of my need to die to self-reliance and to call on Jesus day after day?
I say to you, Lebron, through the television monitor as I watch your press conference on SportsCenter, “Truce. The peace has been made.”