Happy Friday everyone. Sorry I was absent last week and thanks to Jim for filling in for me. This week I’ve been handed a gift to talk about even if everyone else has already talked about it. LeBron James delivered a gift to Cleveland and maybe the world in his press conference at media availability this week.
LeBron James is much more than an athlete
LeBron James set the stage in a way I’ve never seen an athlete set it before. He organized his meeting with the press in a way that made my former corporate self completely jealous. LeBron is a guy who likes to hear himself speak, but not as much as everyone else likes to hear him speak. That’s the opposite of the rest of the people in the world who are enamored with the vibrations of their own vocal chords.
The greatest basketball player of his generation called out all the relevant topics that he knew would get hit and treated the media like a herd of cats by laying out all the varieties of milk ahead of time. He knew that the media would want to talk about Trump, Kyrie, his free agency, and his thoughts on his Cavaliers team heading into the 2017-18 NBA season. He asked the media to stay on just one topic at a time so he wouldn’t have to jump around. A completely reasonable request, but not one I’ve ever heard an anyone think to make, let alone an athlete that’s supposed to be known for his basketball skills more than his ability to run a meeting. Serves me right for trying to pigeonhole LeBron with a singular title like, “athlete.” So he opened it up to the first question, which Tom Withers asked with expert comedic timing. Tom said, “Tom Withers, Associated Press. Where do you wanna start Bron?” The assembled media laughed, but LeBron didn’t have time. He was off to the races talking first about Kyrie Irving.
Scott was there and asked LeBron a question. He’s already talked to you about the content of what LeBron spoke about that day. It’s been spoken about everywhere since as well. I’m not here to talk about what LeBron said, specifically. I think there’s certainly a whole lot there, and it’s almost all noteworthy, but it’s so much more than that. LeBron is living out a validation of something I’ve believed for a long time but never thought any athlete or organization would actually do. It’s something that I’ve desperately begged the Browns to do over the years. Rather than play cloak and dagger, just talk openly and honestly. Fill the space so that you can talk about yourself rather than having the world fill in the blanks and talk about you with speculation. The NBA is the most like a reality TV show of all the professional sports, so it makes sense that LeBron would be the one to just push the pedal all the way to the floor and talk until he was done covering everything in the way that he wanted to cover it, but I’m still a bit in shock that he did.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. When I’ve talked about this kind of thing in the past, it’s usually been me re-writing a Browns communication. I would take some largely inept statement by the likes of Mike Holmgren, Pat Shurmur, or Ray Farmer, and I would tell them the better way to communicate with whatever sports-level crisis they were currently embroiled. LeBron James not only went straight after the basketball stuff, including his free agency and the messy departure of the second-best player on the team, he spoke of his commentary on President Trump, the NFL and White House visits being rescinded. He took what was a rather flippant tweet about a serious topic, in which he not-so-eloquently referred to the President as a “bum” and expounded on it with a wide-ranging philosophical statement about the value of sports in our culture.
1 He then went to talk about the power for good that is potentially held in the position of President. And when LeBron says that he wants the very best for all Americans, it’s truly believable coming from the guy who has spent much of his off time with the LeBron James Family Foundation actually trying to make a difference educating kids and giving them the incentive to make it to college. Maybe someday we’ll find out it’s just a hell of a tax shelter, but I doubt it.
Maybe there’s some possibility that I’ll be pissed off at LeBron James if he leaves Cleveland again, but it’s hard to imagine today. I’ll never deny my rights to be upset with him leaving the first time in the manner that he did. However, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where this man, who now carries himself like this could or would ever do anything in a manner that would have me furious at him. I would certainly be disappointed if he decided to play somewhere else because he’ll be taking away the chance for more Cavaliers memories, but it won’t be anger like he owes me something more. It will be like when your favorite band finishes an encore for the ages, and the house lights go up, and you know you have to go home. This version of LeBron James is the best there’s ever been, and he’s sharing it with us. Hopefully, it will yield at least one more championship, but even if it doesn’t, he’s maybe giving us something even more valuable.
Raising a music fan is amazing…
“This song makes my eyes cry dad, and I can’t make them stop.” That’s what my newly minted five-year-old said to me in the car recently when I was playing a song as we drove down the road. It was an amazing moment because it means that this little man feels music the same way his dad does. It’s one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had in my entire life, and that’s not an overstatement. We were listening to “The Gulf of Araby” by Natalie Merchant which has one of the most amazing choruses I’ve ever heard.
- No matter how much you might have enjoyed this president being referred to as a “bum,” I think it’s fair to call it less than elegant even if it was a fire for fire matchup. [↩]