LeBron James is no longer king.
You’re thinking, “Rob, are you crazy? He’s in the Finals. Again.”
Before you get too worked up, let me explain.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst went on Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report recently and said this: “What typically happens — and this has been happening for like three months now — is LeBron will take the ball, and LeBron will call the play. (Cleveland Cavaliers coach) David Blatt will see what play LeBron calls, and he will repeat it to the team.”
Naturally, the suggestion that Lebron was coaching the Heat and not their coach stirred up controversy.
LeBron responded this way: “It’s just I have a feel for the game. I know what helps our team and we got great minds. Our coaching staff are great. I thank them that they allow me to give some input on what I think we should do at times, but ultimately it’s their call. So, it’s great to be able to just get different sides of the game with some of the great minds that we have.”
Notice how LeBron said he has the power to call plays but immediately couches it in a thank you to the coaching staff for “allowing” him to. He has been and continues to wrap his power in false deference.
A king would do not such a thing.
A king would pronounce to all that he has the divine right to power.
The three ages of LeBron
There were three stages of LeBron’s evolution to this dude we see today, and they have close historical parallels.
LeBron burst onto the scene with a Sports Illustrated cover as a high school basketball player. Imagine LeBron not as a genetic freak of a basketball player but a medieval prince starting to become more a part of the power structure as his dad becomes more and more decrepit.
Everyone knew he was becoming a king. It was just a matter of time.
Keeping with this medieval king analogy, the NBA Draft was his coronation, the day LeBron was officially introduced as king of the NBA.
The first years of his reign did not go so well. The lack of championships left the populace questioning the legitimacy of the primary royal. So the king both decided to make a change and to assert himself publicly.
For those unfamiliar, “the Decision” was the 2010 TV special Lebron used to announce that he was “taking his talents” to the Miami Heat. But this special was not just a way to alert the masses of his decision to leave Cleveland. It was a power play, and judging by the national reaction to him for the next four years, it was a clumsy one.
What LeBron did not count on was backlash from a largely jealous fan base that would rather see management operate as absolute tyranny over its subjects, the players. If the medieval king analogy represents LeBron’s first stint with Cleveland, LeBron’s introduction as a Miami Heat player can best be compared to Gaius Julius Caesar.
Caesar took the reins of the Roman “Republic” after years of another civil war. When Caesar gained this power, he rubbed the Senate’s nose in it.
Caesar is supposed to have told a senator to “take the republic back from” him during his triumph. That was one of the main reasons Caesar would die on the Senate floor, the victim of many stab wounds on March 15, 44 BCE.
Imagine the four years of LeBron as a member of the Miami Heat as four years of the assassination of Julius Caesar. A member of the future generation of Rome power-seekers would learn from this example when another civil war ends with him victorious, as LeBron would learn when free agency came up in 2014.
The 2014 free agency period was like night and day compared to 2010.
LeBron signed a two year deal with a one year opt out with Cleveland, forcing the Cavaliers to acquiesce to his demands or threaten losing him, again.
When it was announced that LeBron was going back to Cleveland, it was in a Sports Illustrated article. It was not thrown in the face of the populace (that segment generally does not like read).
LeBron was publicly reverent to the Cleveland management and David Blatt, as he was when dealing with the play calling controversy.
LeBron showed the facade of management having power while he had it all.
And that man I referenced earlier who learned from the faults of Julius Caesar in turning a turbulent Republic into a peaceful empire with him as sole ruler? It was Augustus, first emperor of Rome.
When a civil war left him as winner of all Rome’s power and might, he had to play it carefully. If he did not, he would go the way of Julius Caesar and Rome would descend into another civil war.
Augustus allowed the carrots and sticks of the hyper-competitive society to still be used, but the rewards of climbing that ladder were only ceremonial. He doubled the size of Senate, theoretically doubling its power.
But Augustus was the one who made law, using the Senate to “pass” it as if they created it.
If so, you might want to refer to LeBron as Emperor James.