Surely you’ve heard by now — LeBron James is back in Ohio, once again the leader of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Last night’s ugly 95-90 home loss to the New York Knicks marked his first regular season game as a reborn Cav, and the birth of Cleveland’s new mega team featuring James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. James looked stiff and, frankly, not himself in the game. It’s unlikely the Cavs’ faltering start will be representative of their year at large.
But yesterday also showed us the latest of Mr. James’ hubris. We’d be foolish to undermine his confidence about his playing abilities — he’s one of the greatest ballers the game’s ever seen — but he’s clearly imagined himself into quite the inflated cultural figure. When asked about the significance of his return game, James said “this is probably one of the biggest sporting events that is up there ever,” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
James’ P.R. team is probably wishing for a mulligan on this one. Especially after James reportedly co-opted his team’s first practice at training camp, holding an impromptu players-only meeting during which he gave each roster member a specific, personal goal for the season. This before rookie coach David Blatt was able to begin his own team instructions.
If you assumed LeBron had learned his media lessons since his gaudy, absurd production of “The Decision” and the ridiculous “not one, not two, not three…” celebration that followed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh when he joined the Miami Heat four years ago — well, you assumed wrong. James may have figured out that it behooves him to keep expectations for wins, losses and awards lower, but he hasn’t yet seen how to hide some of his megalomaniacal tendencies.
Maybe it will take a retired, further-wizened LeBron to wield his substantial power without all the corny reminders of how tall he stands over the pack. Or maybe he’ll never be humble enough to stop giving his skeptics more reasons to mock him.
— John Wilmes