It is probably a salutary feature of our society that we tend to instinctively root for the underdogs. It makes us value virtues like humility and perseverance. However, as much as we all love the underdogs, I would like to make the case not for the pauper but for the prince. To be specific, I want to defend the King, Mr. LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Homage to LeBron James is the only way to follow the National Basketball Association, because the reason we follow the NBA is different from why we follow NCAA basketball. I have grown up a Louisville basketball fan. I have gone to games thick and thin, wearing red and black, whether we are NCAA champions or National Invitation Tournament contenders. College sports, Yale sports included, are tailor-made for this kind of fandom. We can watch college students progress as they grow up, and we sympathize with them because we realize that most of them will not become titanic superstars but merely regular adults trying to make their way in the world.
However, the NBA is fundamentally different. The NBA is a league of all-stars, a business designed to offer game after game of Goliath versus Goliath. And in this realm, James is the king.
Simply put, I follow LeBron because I do not want my NBA superstars to be relatable. If I wanted that, I would instead go to Payne Whitney Gym to watch my varsity classmates or even venture down to the Sillidome and watch friends play pick-up hoops. But to watch a statuesque, 6-foot-8 juggernaut throw down dunks, chase down blocks and win championships, I need to turn to LeBron James.
James is a hero in the classical, and even pre-classical sense. King James is not an inspiring David battling Goliath, he is the Hercules slaying the Hydra of the over-stacked Golden State Warriors or the Achilles single-handedly sacking the Troy of Silicon Valley. He is not an average Joe with a superb shooting touch and a comedic twitter presence or a heartwarming out-of-nowhere storyline. He can simply dominate a basketball game like a Greek god.
I am a bandwagon Cleveland fan, as I was a bandwagon Heat fan only a short while ago. I am devoted to my hero because he represents a shining example of pure, distilled, unapologetic greatness to society.
James is the type of hero I most expect and hope for from the NBA. The NBA is an entertainment company, and supporting a team is ultimately consuming a product. I consume this product for the opportunity to marvel, stupefied, at athletic feats I could never dream of achieving. When I watched in person as James plowed from the three-point line to the rim to send a game to overtime, I felt as if I had seen everything worth seeing in life.
Of course, there are plenty of NBA players who make the highlight reel. LeBron is not the biggest player in the NBA nor does he win the All-Star Dunk Contest. It’s far from clear whether he rivals Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. The important criterion instead is what LeBron represents: He was a McDonald’s All-American who skipped college because he was too good at basketball, immediately became a star player and now has appeared in six consecutive NBA Finals. His nickname, after all, has been King James since he was too young to drink.
Although my Homeric Ohioan does not win every game, and although he may never surpass Jordan or even Kobe Bryant in America’s eyes, I will still tune in to watch the scion of unapologetic and predictable greatness. I am happy to entertain any challenges to LeBron James’ supremacy; his reign is not uncontested. But for the time being, I don’t see any worthier occupant of the King’s throne.
William Strench is a junior in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .