Cavaliers, WWW

LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers, and hack sitcom storytelling

Pearl Jam is one of my favorite bands of all time, but they peaked a long time ago. To be kind, you could make the argument that they’re still relevant in the current climate of music, but I think that assessment relies heavily on a history and a back catalog. They’ve done what they were going to do to change the world and there’s nowhere for their story to go except laterally and down. LeBron James’ career is kind of the same way.

I’ve struggled to figure out how to describe my feelings about LeBron James in Los Angeles. I’ve stated time and again that I’m not angry about it and I’m still not. LeBron James delivered here in Cleveland in a way that nobody ever has in my lifetime. Big ups forever and all that. Still, there’s something really strange about the experience of seeing LeBron James in Los Angeles. It’s just kind of stale, boring, anti-climactic, and weird. I realize that it’s a problem of story-telling and longevity.

LeBron has a few career peaks. He’s been the hometown hero. He’s been an unpopular player. He’s been the key to one of the league’s greatest modern super teams in Miami. He did the impossible by returning home and defeating the Warriors against all odds to bring a parade to this city. He fought valiantly against the next super team and came up short, and now he’s gone to the Los Angeles Lakers heading into the twilight of his career. LeBron’s still one of the greatest in the game today. It’s just from a storytelling standpoint, this sitcom has kind of run its course.

The rumors of LeBron going to New York dominated the early parts of his career as he spouted off about the “Mecca” at MSG. He never went to New York. The second part of his career he shocked the world by going back to Cleveland. It was a plot twist that would have left J.J. Abrams and M. Night Shyamalan with their mouths agape. Then the rumors were that LeBron was going to Los Angeles and the rumors persisted until (dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNN!) LeBron became a Laker.

It’s like when a sitcom is out of ideas and they decide it’s time for some of their characters to get married. Maybe the distant redhead cousin with the impossibly large dimples comes to live in their house to create new hijinx. Maybe Fonzie gets on those waterskis to jump that shark tank. I’m not making fun of LeBron James necessarily, but he ran out of compelling storylines so he went and did the kind of obvious one. It’s the hack move that everyone always predicted but LeBron never ended up doing. He went to a franchise that has a storied history and fans that won’t be easily impressed in a town where his star shines a lot less than it would in almost any other city. This whole chapter of LeBron James lands like a mud pie from a storytelling standpoint.

LeBron’s still (maybe) the highest profile American athlete in the world, but he’s no longer adding to the story in the same way. Just like Pearl Jam releasing a new album that might have a song or two that gets added to their already three-hour setlist, nothing LeBron can do going forward can make a dent. He is who he is and his story’s been told. It’s a phenomenal story, and he’s changed the world, but it’s so very unlikely that he can change it again, especially by making such an expected move to Los Angeles. We’ll get some nostalgic moments and maybe he’ll find a way to defy these odds and write a whole new book to add onto his legacy, but it seems unlikely.