Superstar studded league leaves NBA, LeBron searching for soul

I must have been terrible this year, because I found out that I’ll be receiving the worst gift I can think of – watching LeBron James play on Christmas Day.

Excuse me if I’m not jumping out of my seat in excitement at the prospect of the NBA lockout officially coming to a close with the blockbuster series of games that’s slated for the holiday.  I’m worn out with following a league that caters to superstar vs. superstar, not team vs. team.

And the thing is, it’s not even just about James for me. Yeah, I’m a die-hard Cleveland fan who’s fated to loathe him for all of eternity, but he’s not the only egomaniac who thinks of himself as bigger than the game.

I don’t need to name names. If I did that we would be here all day.

But contrary to what the players think, it’s not even all about them. It’s about the fan base that has built these guys up into feeling like rock stars. In an age where the iPhone 4 has already started becoming obsolete, it’s no wonder these athletes think they need to continuously work to boost their rock star profiles.

No one cares anymore to watch a game dominated by ironclad defense, sharp passing or most of all, passion. It’s about the flash, the bravado and the celebrity status that has become so entwined, almost synonymously so, with professional athletics.

Over Thanksgiving break, I stopped in Barnes & Noble to pick up some new reading material. The first thing that assaulted me upon entering was a display of books bearing the trademark figure of LeBron, wingspan extended, that besmirched the streets of Cleveland in the years before his departure.

It was like Pavlov’s dogs – I saw that image and I prepared myself for the violent gagging that would surely follow. But then I actually read the title: “The Whore of Akron: One man’s search for the soul of LeBron James.” I immediately added it to my mental list of must-reads.

Was it too harsh? Maybe. A bit of an overstatement? Probably. But what’s so wrong with giving him a little flak? It’s not like any amount of criticism could ever bring him back down to Earth, or even back into our solar system for that matter.

LeBron James epitomizes everything that is wrong with the NBA. His talent and sheer power are both undeniable, but he’ll never be a legendary player. That type of player is a dying breed. But James and the rest of his pals are the products of what the fans want, and of what the industry as a whole now needs in order to thrive in the market we have all helped create.

Sadly enough, and I never thought I would say this, my apathy toward the end of the lockout and the continuation of this culture in the NBA outweighs my hatred of James. The Christmas Day schedule proves that nothing has changed. The small market teams and hardnosed players who don’t parade themselves around like demigods are still getting shafted. According to David Stern, 22 of the 30 teams lost money last season. If I had to take a guess at the eight teams that weren’t in the red, I’d just look to opening day for a start.

I hate writing clichés, but in this case it seems more than appropriate: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

CHRISTINE PEFFER

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