All my friends were there
I swear to god I saw this commercial today:
Narrator: Current events got you feeling down?
(city street through someone’s eyes, shaking and blurring)
(words like “depression” float around)
(up staircase to apartment door)
Narrator: “Don’t turn to drugs to deal with these feelings”
(hot blonde sitting on couch, looking at once homey and seductive)
Blonde: “How was your run?”
(shot spins around, revealing to us that we have been seeing the world through the eyes of a young black woman in a sweatsuit)
(at this point my mind was so thoroughly blown that I didn’t catch the exact line that followed, or the last bit of voice-over. I did, however, catch that the commercial was brought to you by the U.S. of A.)
Notwithstanding the ad’s homosexual overtones, as well as the government’s admission that we might be so distressed by their performance so as to self-medicate, this miraculous twenty seconds of television does hit on a problem central to today’s mushed-up galaxy: it feels bad. This planet is as scary a place as its been since the Dark Ages, and our national leaders in Washington are to be commended for trying to show us the way (I wish this sentence could be seriously applied to the Wizards’ backcourt).
Thankfully, I have a solution. Anyone else who posts on this blog has been party to my New Year’s resolution: spend at least fifteen minutes a day wondrously thinking on LeBron present and future greatness. After watching this commercial, though, I know that my little thought experiment has a life and electricity whose fiery reach extends far beyond mere league rehabilitation, or dignified time-wasting. As LeBron’s greatness will save the NBA, so to do I believe it will transform the country itself. Were the Republicans to be wise, they would set up King James as a full-fledged government institution, whose sheer majesty is an end in itself, a distraction that emboldens as it quickens.
Here, then, is LeBron’s present and future. But what of his past? We all remember the now-laughable Bron/Melo rivalry, the PG experiment (which did work out much better than the short-lived “D-Miles, frightful new face of the point guard industry” fiasco of the Cavs’ reverse-epic 2002-2003), the failure to make the playoffs. That was LeBron Year One—a cute, encouraging, occasionally unbelievable first act to what everyone assumed would be a magical career.
I stand before you to say that we did not give him enough. Now that LeBron stands mere feet away from the mantle of “greatest player in the league,” Year One looks less like a rookie year and more like a high school rookie year. Every great high school player has taken some time to adjust to the big show, and LeBron was no different. What we saw last season wasn’t Act 1, it was the preamble. These were the growing pains of greatness, a liminal stage that, in the hands of lesser athletes with names like Kobe, T-Mac, and Garnett, could be excused away—nay, needed to be so. It’s surface-scratching, a speculative glimpse at what might one day bloom like a wild, wild office party. LeBron will undoubtedly improve as the years roll by, but this is the first season he’s a real NBA player, not someone still finding his feet. And this thought, my friends, is downright terrifying.
Sometimes when I sleep, I remember LeBron’s first game, also notable because it was held up by an overtime Magic victory over the Knicks—the only win they’d enjoy for several weeks. Most people I knew in the city who would care came over, and we watched LeBron put up 25 points, prove incapable of seizing the day and staging a fourth-quarter comeback against the Kings, and, most astoundingly, turn the mind-melting Ricky Davis into somebody’s teammate, if only on one fast break. It was an impressive showing, and pretty much indicative of his season: promising, precocious, but more unfinished and wistful than it was a super beginning or positive first step.
LeBron, we hardly knew you. Now we do, and if only we had known how then—if we hadn’t jumped the gun—we would have been even more ominously astounded.