Dead End Immanence
These last few weeks have been a time of great inward searching here at FreeDarko, the sort of perilous epoch during which coins are befaced and hospitals beckoned. Right left of my spleen and the knottiest ridges of my spirit, I stumbled upon a relic from a bygone brush with inspiration: LeBron F. James.
You may recall this most granite of prosperants. Last year during the playoffs, he followed a script untouched in its predestined chivalry, its non-stop clutch at perfection and monotheistic narrative. LeBron was the Chosen One like us Hebrews were, a reflection of an angry, all-mighty deity with no room for human frailty. His narrative was startling in its simplicity, like that billion-dollar epic that moves you because it dresses up plain truths in billowing, lumbering garbs. There are any number of better candidates for Basketball Jesus; LeBron was the Messiah of the prophets and chasids, and he made our loins quake accordingly.
But now, our Highness seems all but forgotten. The stats have dipped, the team somehow seems even shakier and less inviting, and the East's fraudulentness is approaching Nets-era intensity. Still, what I'm realizing is that LeBron may have had his moment because his myth admitteth progress, never process. When he first began his march through the postseason, this site was awash with complaints that the media was treating it as a "coronation." At the time, it struck me as needlessly grouchy; now, I'm seeing that LeBron's story might end up being as much, if not more, of a joke than Kobe's has become. Bean Thousand is often accused of imitating MJ, and yet no one suggests that his transformation into a more mature player might be every bit as contrived. If this is the case, the scale of his self-consciousness, and consciousness of history and legacy, are almost sickeningly grandiose. While there's nothing interesting about self-doubt, crippling self-doubt almost redeems itself through sheer chutzpah. The same is true for Bryant, whose has gone from coopting mannerisms to engineering his own imperfect salvation—so fucking demonic it becomes pathetically sincere.
Scan the skies for LBJ, and you'll find only a fixed point in space gradually making its way toward finality. There is little doubt that James is as perfect a basketball speciman—mentally, physically, spiritually, and diatonically—as the human animal has ever yielded. Even if his success does not always come instantly, eventually it will come to pass. Put simply, LeBron James will eventually get rings, get MVP's, and assume his rightful place near the top of the totem pole. That these Cavs are likely not going to facilitate this (cf. the Suns Massacre) does not thwart or question this; it merely puts it on hold. A dream deferred rots only if it fears the sun, and in LeBron's case, he feels not time and is sustained by his own inner glow. Kobe toys with his narrative because it will define him; LeBron is on such a different level that he's ultimately immune to a good story. When it works in favor of his upward drift, it enslaves us all. We may begrudge it, but there's a reason why we're witnesses, not believers.
LeBron now, though, is in limbo. No one ever call him disappointing, because he'll eventually get there. And while Cleveland may finish with a decent record, it's hard to take them seriously as a contendor. Assault me all you want with "best record in the conference"—that team could get beat by Washington, Chicago, Detroit or Orlando in the 'offs, and no one would bat an eyelash. Move over to the West, and that number jumps considerably. LeBron can still take them somewhere, but unless he surpasses last year, we'll barely notice. Imperfection simply doesn't make any sense in reference to James, and so these falterings or moments of flux are written off as indecipherable. There is no Wade-like push to the top, or Melo-esque fall and redemption, to be had within his pages. Only fit of ascendance, spelled by caves that will be forgotten.