Friday, February 17, 2012

Regrets...does LeBron have a few?

Nike's "The LeBrons" commercials have shown us all the focus-group tested sides of LeBron James's corporate-manufactured personality: There's Wise LeBron, Business LeBron, Athlete LeBron and Kid LeBron. A new character seems to be emerging for James's third post-Decision appearance in Cleveland -  Contrite LeBron.

"I think it would be great, it would be fun to play in front of these fans," Contrite LeBron said Thursday when asked about suiting up for the Cavs again some day should the opportunity arise. "I had a lot of fun times here. You can't predict the future. If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me."
James not unexpectedly qualified this statement by saying he's happy in Miami. The conversation was strictly of the blue sky variety anyway, as he's not eligible for free agency for another two seasons and has an option for two more after that.

Our ex-lover had a more interesting response when asked if he would play for Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert, what with the niggling little matter hanging between them of James embarrassing Gilbert on national TV followed by an...impassioned response from that worthy, which included a capitalized, bold-faced guarantee that the Cavs would win a championship "BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE."

LeBron has not spoken to Gilbert since the July 2010 free agency period, but claims he doesn't hold a grudge against his former boss.
"He said what he said out of anger," James said. "He probably would want to take that back, but I made a mistake, too. There's some things I'd want to take back as well. You learn from your mistakes and move on."
Cup your ears and get out your shoe-phone decoder, folks, and you may hear an actual apology in there somewhere. James similarly danced around an apology to Cleveland fans a couple of months back during an interview with ESPN.

That interview and James's more recent comments reek of a man trying to sew up the threads of a tattered image. It's hard to imagine someone who knew he was the face of Cleveland sports, with all the tragic history that title carries, giving the city a ready-made moniker to add The Fumble, Shot, etc., and thinking that somehow he would come out clean on the other side.
OK, perhaps James expected some backlash from Cleveland, but I'd bet green money that the overtly negative national reaction blew his wheels. Hence the slow but steady trickles of remorse we've seen over these last months. It's all a lie, isn't it? A marketing campaign as cynically conjured as that other ass-hated Nike commercial, the one where "heel" LeBron rhetorically asked his so-called haters, "What should I do?"
And's easy to strain James's actions through the colander of our cynicism and hatred. His words, dare I say, seem tinged with sincerity and real regret. He's like that guy you  know who wants everyone to like him, even after he mindlessly shunts you aside. If James is genuine here, it's because he's easily manipulated and incredibly naive.
Manipulated by Pat Riley, by a legion of sycophants and handlers telling him he can do whatever he wants without consequences, by glad-handing big shots like World Wide West whispering "global icon" into his ear. James got caught up in his own hype, and is now discovering that playing for a demanding hardcase like Riley in front of Miami's fickle fans isn't the same thing as the breezy life he had in Cleveland.
Who knows? With enough time gone by, James spending the last year or two of his career here ala Jim Thome is not an impossibility. Gilbert is a businessman first and no fool. If he sees money to be made from LeBron coming back, it's easy to see it happening. Whether Cleveland wants James back is a topic for another column.
For now, let's root like hell for Kyrie Irving and these new Cavs, who may not be far from playoff contention themselves. LeBron will say what he will, and the news cycle will move on. Only James knows if those talents so publically taken to South Beach were regretfully misplaced.