Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Letter to LeBron James

Dear LeBron,

Been quite a summer hasn't it? Moved to a new home, signed with a new employer to play with some friends and somehow managed to alienate an entire state and plenty of fans in the process. You also somehow became the new obsession of ESPN - not bad considering they've only loved Brett Favre and the East Coast just as much.

Your first days with your new employer are getting all kinds of attention. But is it really the best kind? Your preseason games are getting national attention. Don't get me wrong, folks will kill to see you play but having all this attention for meaningless games isn't really the best. But you can't be blamed - ESPN's more about creating the story these days than reporting it.

Right now, you're at a crossroads. 25 and the face of the NBA yet facing more backlash than at any stage of your career. Ohio insulated you for a decade as you grew up a 2-sport star to national magazine cover boy as a HS junior to the biggest sports star Cleveland had since the mid-90's Indians. New decade, new challenges face you and it's time for you to assess what's ahead.

You've done a great job bringing your old friends along to help mold your career but you need to re-evaluate your boy, Maverick Carter. If anyone is to blame for guiding you wrong during "The Decision" and beyond, it's him. Clearly he wants respect. He wants that Forbes Juice. But he's doing it the wrong way.

Maverick's guiding your steps but you're a grown man. It's time for you to man up and own your voice. Take some advice and decide what's more important. Being a billionaire or being a smart billionaire whose main focus is HOW he got the money, not getting the money. Your idol Michael Jordan was a master of control.

Mav's trying to do two things. Prove himself as a power player while managing your moves to validate that. Putting you on TV and magazines didn't do anything but start a goodwill tour you don't need. Image is everything but sometimes you have to take a step back and let things breathe - something our generation doesn't do enough of.

You bringing up race as a reason for the backlash was something wasn't it? You were right and wrong. Right in that it was "a factor" (not the #1 factor), right in that it always plays "a role" (defined as some role) but wrong in not making that clearer. It lacked the nuance needed in the public sphere to make it clear but you handled the aftermath well - when asked about it, you owned it and wanted to move on. Well done.

I'm not mad at you for saying it, I'm disappointed that you didn't explain it better.

I hate to say this. It's four words I don't like to tell any Black athlete because it's what you get told whenever you speak your mind. It's what any athlete gets told by fans who don't want to be preached to and encouraged by owners who have no problem not listening to their own advice. The words are: Shut Up and Play.

Don't say anything else about a list you've made of people who wronged you. MJ, Kobe, Larry Bird and others have done the same thing but they made mental lists. Saying you've made a list doesn't make you an vengeful Bride, it makes you look petty.

Don't do anything besides bball-related interviews. This is the year when you need to work on adding rings to your empire. You see your boy D-Wade flashing that 06 ring he earned being The Flash. You see the Lakers reloading for the 3-peat. You see the Eastern Conference getting stronger with Chicago joining Orlando and Boston as your threats. It's time to focus on the goal, not the empire.

Bball fans see you as nothing more than a glorified point guard in a small forward's body. They think you're all hype with no leadership who takes over because he has to not because he wants to. Now you have the team, the figurehead in Pat Riley and all the motivation in the world. You won't change their minds with any interview so like I said, shut up and play.

Just do your job and remember that real kings moved in silence. Dons never signal their next move but they plan for it one step at a time. Remember Michael Corleone's final scene in the Godfather - handle your business without announcing it. Be friendly, have fun with your Twitter but think before you speak. I know it's out of character but you're Darth James now. No longer the Kid we all admired but the Man everyone loves to hate.

All of your heroes have been there. Most of your peers are there. The best way to plan for it is move in silence. Your biggest statement will be your actions - i.e. when you go to Cleveland and shove it in Dan Gilbert's pompous face. This is where you have the chance to be like MJ and go into killer mode.

See LeBron, that photo with you being introduced to Miami with your friends was nice. But you know whats nicer....

This one. The last team standing. Being handed the Larry O'Brien Trophy as NBA Champs.

It's time to grow up. You and me both are at that stage where after 25, it's time to man up and become smarter about how we handle business. You've got two months left til #26 but you can start now. Let your actions determine your future and don't let anybody - even your best friend/confidant - tell you what to do without your input.

Just play basketball, revel in your new home and new identity while letting the rest take care of itself. Besides, you're gonna need all the focus to stop the Lakers from their 3-peat. Right now, you're a King without a Crown and it's time to show and prove you're worth your hype.


Virgo Kent (A Fellow 84 Baby and Hoops Fan)

1 comment:

  1. Powerful letter my man. I especially love the advice about kings moving in silence.