One thing our founding fathers were sure of is that they didn’t want a king in this new country. They didn’t want one person to be regarded as something so special that people would have to bow down to him and treat him almost like a god. Well, I wonder how the founding fathers would feel right now as there is a campaign throughout the country regarding someone known as King James.
In case you’re one of those people I don’t understand who’s not a sports fan, this young man’s name is actually LeBron James, he’s a great basketball player, and his contract is up. As James decides where he’ll play basketball next, ordinary citizens and government officials are treating him like, well, a king.
James is a fantastic player, he’s charismatic, and would bring baskets full of cash to whatever city lands him. He wears 23 on his jersey, but in the free-agent market, he is number one. He’s only 25 years old, so he probably has many years of basketball left. If you have teenage kids that you’d like to pursue a higher education, don’t let them hear LeBron’s story. He never went to college, and his next contract will probably be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s nine figures! The downside, of course, is that he has missed out on cramming for organic chemistry and analyzing “The Scarlet Letter.”
Yet, some people think he’s a bargain. His being on a team guarantees more people in the seats, and his being in a city means more visitors, more full hotels and restaurants, and more forged autographs being sold on the street. That’s why so many people are kissing this king’s ring, or something else of his.
For the past seven years, he’s played in the not-so-flashy city of Cleveland. Now, flashier places like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are trying to lure him away from that city on Lake Erie. James is from Akron, Ohio, just a few of his giant steps from Cleveland. This is one of the reasons that he just might stay and play in Cleveland. One Clevelander has started a website called pleasedontleave23.com. There’s also a 212-member LeBron James Grandmother’s Fan Club. The Cleveland Orchestra has made a video praising LeBron, as has Ohio’s governor. Ted Strickland.
Chicago Bulls fans have a website called, sendLeBrontochicago.com. David Geffen, media mogul, music producer, and all-around rich guy “guarantees” that he can get LeBron to join the Los Angeles Clippers. Supposedly, all that Geffen is asking is for Clippers owner Donald Sterling to sell him 51 percent of the team. If that minor miracle happens, we’ll actually see LeBron playing in the Staples Center. But knowing the Clippers, they’d still find a way to lose.
And then there’s New York. New York City has a campaign called “C’mon LeBron” that includes T-shirts, billboards, and messages on taxis begging James to come to New York. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg actually made a video trying to get LeBron to take a bite of the Big Apple. Fortunately, it’s not a music video, but it’s still unseemly and embarrassing. Some might even think it’s blasphemous (a word that I don’t think I’ve ever used in a column before). At the end of the video, the mayor says, “As the good book says, lead us to the promised land.” And then with a wink and bad comic timing he adds, “And that’s a quote from the King James version.”
I know what it is to be a sports fanatic. I admit that I have watched the exact same Sports Center show more than once in a four-hour period. But this goes way beyond the usual abnormal behavior of sports fans. I understand that it’s about money and civic pride, but how much pride can a place have if it’s willing to do anything to get a 25-year-old kid to play a game in their city?
In case you don’t think it’s more than a bit weird that James has gotten all this attention, there’s more: President Obama has weighed in on the subject. First he said that it would be great if James played in Obama’s hometown of Chicago. Then I guess his advisers or pollsters told him that statement was a mistake, so Obama said it would be nice if James stayed in Cleveland.
That’s right. The president of the United States actually gave his opinion on this issue of vital interest. Who’s next? The Dalai Lama? Could be. “Come on, LeBron, play in Tibet. We won’t just give you money. If you sign for five years with an option for six plus revenue sharing for public appearances, I’ll throw in the secret of life.”
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.