LeBron James May Have Finally Grown Up

Maybe, just maybe, LeBron has finally grown up.

At least this time, I don’t feel like my TV was highjacked. There wasn’t any breaking news that pulled me away from my every day duties as a husband or father, radio host, TV analyst, or baseball coach. I’m not the biggest NBA fan anyway, which might explain why something of that magnitude in mainstream media would have had to grab my attention. LeBron is done in Miami. The “Big 3” are no more in South Beach, and probably just as well. After what they would deem as an embarrassing loss to the superior San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, the Heat organization and it’s fans were beginning to realize nothing is guaranteed, and no situation is perfect. This time, we didn’t have to endure a collaborative effort with major outlets and spoiled athletes with over-sized egos, hosting a press conference that would later turn out to be a punch line on one side, and tarnish the reputation of the untouchable stalwart in Pat Riley (I still can’t believe he allowed himself to be a part of that) on the other. No, this time, LeBron put his big boy pants on, did the smart thing and talked to his wife about it. He didn’t go to places or people that would fill his ego. He didn’t call up Melo and conjure up a sadistic plan to rule the NBA world by holding it hostage. He took a step back, gathered his breath, and thoughts…..and waited.

That’s rare for LeBron. As much as he complains about being in the spotlight and always being followed by the press every day of his life, he has a history of keeping himself there, and not just because of his 30 point games, or his injuries, or the lights going out in SA. I’m not sure he’d have it any other way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’s a liar, I actually believe he got tired of it, like a convict gets tired of prison. The problem is that once a prisoner has been on the inside for so long, then gains their freedom, they’re often times not sure what to do….so they commit another crime to get right back in. After all, it’s 3 squares a day. LeBron couldn’t stay out of the media if he tried. But that’s not the story here. Sure, we all speculated where he’d wind up. With Melo. Or D. Rose. Or Mars. Even if you hated the previous fiasco, like I did and still do, you wondered who would win the Sweepstakes just like I did. Even my 12 year old (who only knows about 5 NBA players, 4 of which just played for the Heat last season), wondered aloud as he staggered in the front door after throwing up at his indoor conditioning session today. But none of that happened this time. LeBron sat back a bit, stayed quiet for a short time, then…..wrote an essay. What? An essay? An essay. Ok, so he didn’t write the essay, but he spoke to SI’s Lee Jenkins, who then wrote it for him (Read it here at http://www.si.com/nba/2014/07/11/lebron-james-cleveland-cavaliers?xid=aol_home&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D500592). Was this another ploy for attention, done with only a writer and pen in front of him instead of a crowd of thousands, a TV audience of millions and the loathing of fellow NBAers who would never demand such an event? Nope. This was on his terms. In virtual silence. He wasn’t annoyed or angry, and for once, just maybe, there was a TRUE sense of purpose to him, a moxie revealed on the court but yet to be seen behind his hidden places. Maybe, just maybe, LeBron has finally grown up.

In his “essay”, Lebron thanks Wade, Bosh, Riley and many others. He talks about growing up and “becoming a man” in Miami, which at his age would lead one to believe that he, even being arguably the best player in the game, may have had quite a bit of growing up to do after all (did I mention something about a press conference?). He talks about coming home to Cleveland (oh, wait, did I spoil it for you? Sorry. He’s going back to Cleveland, in case you have your head in the sand), the importance of giving back, etc. What strikes me as maybe the biggest sign of maturity in “Le Brawn” is his newfound willingness to accept a role as mentor and leader. He feels it is his time to elevate the careers of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. He speaks of his foundation, the success of children as they graduate college, and the community. What stands out the most for me? When he talks about how “….nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” For the first time in a long time, I actually believe him.

When he first entered the NBA, I couldn’t wait to watch this young man play, similar to the feelings I had when my beloved Chicago Bulls signed a tall, skinny kid out of the University of North Carolina. And that turned out pretty well. James played hard, scored a lot of points, and like any gifted athlete, he got tired of losing. Problem was, he kept talking. Then grew an ego, won some rings, and people listened to him for different reasons. But they always listened. And they voiced their displeasure. This time, in my opinion, LeBron James has done 2 things right. He came home to Cleveland, and for a short time, he stopped talking. Now, we’re all ready to listen for the right reasons. I won’t root against him now. It’s hard to root against someone you respect, someone that doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk, even in the early stages. The only thing that would have made this perfect would have been for him to simply show up for a workout in Cleveland….with his new teammates. With one TV camera, one reporter, and a massive amount of hard work and high fives. But that’s my perfect world, and it’s not about me. This time, it really should be about LeBron, because in his eyes, it’s no longer about him. It’s about everybody BUT him, and that’s the superstar we all fell in love with back at the altar. After all, it’s easy to love someone who’s loudest voice echoes in the form of their character. In my house, the NBA just got a little more interesting.