Did LeBron James seem happy towards the end of his run in Cleveland? Did the Warriors seem kind of joyless even as they beat the LeBron-led Cavs in three of four NBA Finals? Kyrie Irving chose his own destiny and seems like he hasn’t had a good day since, at least as an NBA player. Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the league and he tortured the league’s news cycle with LeBron’s friend as his agent. I’m not even close to the first one to point it out, but what’s the deal?
There are some players that don’t seem wholly miserable. James Harden seems to be enjoying his time. Giannis is certainly an exception that might prove the rule. It’s like any argument where you can just pick the examples that successfully make your point. Dame doesn’t seem miserable in Portland either. Still, there seems to be something weird going on.
It reminds me of the difficulty of anything to beat expectations. Is it because these are the best players in the NBA and they want it all? They want their egos fed. They want to be able to win. They want refs to give them superstar calls. They want teammates’ adulation, even on a superteam. Have they set the bar too high heading into the movie theater to see Avengers Endgame? Can anything they’re able to achieve or any team scenario they set up live up to the lofty expectations? Seemingly the answer is no.
I was listening to Bill Simmons recap the Celtics playoff exit and how he wants to drive Kyrie Irving to the airport, as the saying goes. I can relate, not in wanting to drive Kyrie to the airport, but something else. It’s not just ruining the game for the stars that seem so miserable. It’s making the game relatively joyless for fans. I miss LeBron and I’d love it if he were still here, but it didn’t take me long to justify his departure as a glass half full of relief that I wouldn’t have to suffer through another joyless LeBron James regular season sleep-walk session. I was relieved to not be invested in the playoffs. Lakers fans wish it was a relief.
For a game that’s never been more culturally popular and relevant, it all seems kind of strange, doesn’t it? In a league where the player empowerment has never been higher, isn’t it strange that with so much control there seems to be so much obvious and outward misery? It’s impossible to diagnose and I won’t pretend to think that giving all the power back to owners and general managers would make it better. I just don’t know what the real problems are, or how to fix them. Has it always been like this, but now we have more access and players have a richer platform to express their feelings?
That seems like it might be part of it, but I just don’t know. Whatever it is, this system appears not to be working that well for the most powerful among the constituents of the union. It will be interesting to see who emerges as a leader and what the priorities are the next time collective bargaining comes to the forefront.