Why I Am Rooting for Lebron James

There are many reasons to root for Lebron James and several reasons to root against him.  Ont he plus side he is the most physically impressive basketball player since Wilt Chamberlain. With all due respect to Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Vince Carter, no athlete since Wilt Chamberlain has combine evolutionary-step-forward athleticism with size that seems impossible to support that athleticism.  Statistically he has put together seasons that are only rivaled by Michael Jordan for completeness (30 points per game, 7+ rebound, 7+ assists per game, with a first team all defense selection).  He is a gifted passer, a generous teammate (at least on the court) and one of the most impressive athletes on the planet.  For my money, the only athlete I would want to see perform in person more than Lebron James is Usain Bolt (though I have already seen Lebron play in Cleveland and Miami as a member of the Cavs).

The reasons to hate Lebron – The Decision and the fact that at age 28 he has not won a championship (to say nothing of the fact that there are dozens of great players who never won or at least did not win in their first 9 years – just ask Hakeem Olajuwon, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, etc.).

I hated The Decision. I hate the pomp of it and I hate the fact that he left Cleveland.  I perform a lot in Cleveland and that city was in love with their (relatively) home grown superstar.  They felt disrespected and betrayed and in an era where hometown sports heroes are a rarer breed it stung extra hard.  But one group of people, more than any other forced me back into being a Lebron fan (beyond the obvious reason of wanting to watch him play):

New York Knick fans.

There can be no doubt that the New York Knicks are now professional sports most overrated franchise.  They have not won a title in 39 years, they won a playoff game this year for the first time in eleven years, after setting a record for consecutive playoff losses.  But two years ago, all of Knick land was buzzing with the hope that Lebron James would leave Cleveland to bring greatness (back?) to the Knicks.  Photoshopping was out of control with Lebron in Knicks #23 jerseys, every Knick fan from the ardent supporter to the legion of wall street johnny-come-latelys-after-doing-coke-and-escorts.  No one in the NY fan base or the NY media was saying, “Hey, what about Cleveland? Shouldn’t a homegrown superstar stay with their team?”  Instead they were ready an willing to gut an entire franchise because, despite 37 years of championshipless basketball at the point, the Knicks were entitled to Lebron and it was inevitable.

And then Lebron picked Miami for less money to play with his friends.  Cleveland, justifiably exploded.  The burning of jerseys was a tad much, but their anger was justified.  But you know who the second angriest city in America was?  New York.  And that has not abated.  Never has a group of fans maintained a sense of self-righteousness about NOT being able to be the scumbag that gutted Cleveland.  Let me get this straight Knick fans – Miami and Lebron are scumbags because they did not let YOU destroy the Cleveland Cavaliers?  New York is no longer the Mecca of hoops, but it is the Mecca of hoops hypocrisy.

The hatred of Lebron has also reached a faith based level.  Anyone watching basketball right now with an objective eye cannot doubt that he is right now, the most talented player in the game.  Admittedly he has exhibited less than stellar play at the very end of games, but he has still hit big late shots THIS postseason.  He still can guard anyone on the other team from point guard to center, and has done so as recently as the Celtics series (no one seems to ever mention how good he is on defense when they critique his game).  He has great clutch playoff moments in his career – look at his one man battle against the 2008 championship Celtics or his epic one man take down of the 2007 Detroit Pistons.  He may have changed some of his mentality and that will effect his placement among the all time greats, but the evidence is in – Lebron James is great.  Dan Marino was great and never won a title.  Ken Griffey Jr. was great and never won a title. Only in basketball and especially in Lebron’s case is greatness so obvious to the eye, but denied by haters based solely on the lack of a championship ring.

But fans who need a WWE style villain love attacking Lebron – that has become the sport itself (to say nothing of the fact that Dwyane Wade flops more, bitches more, plays worse, argues with his coach, was an unfaithful husband and won a championship on the strength of great play AND an unprecedented number of free throw attempts, more than a handful of which were on dubious calls). But Lebron abandoned Cleveland and went to Miami and announced it on television (a program that millions watched) so he now deserves a visit from Seal Team 6.

As I watched Game 5 of the Celtics-Heat series on Tuesday I felt bad for Lebron.  I know, I know he is a millionaire and there is a book about him called The Whore of Akron, but I watch him because he is a great basketball player and seems to conduct himself in a good manner on the court and in a non-criminal fashion off of the court.  What more, as a fan of the sport, do I need to appreciate a great player and athlete?  As I sat alone in a bar watching the final quarter of Game 5 in midtown Manhattan (now a hotbed of financial industry employees, despite Occupy “Wall Street”) and it was great to see a bunch of rich men working in finance, an industry with about as much good will as 5,000,000 Decision announcements, booing Lebron James, calling him a scumbag and cheering for the Boston Celtics.

Now the Celtics are an actual longtime franchise rival of the Knicks, but Lebron was worth supporting the Green and White.  It was a great symbol of what New York and New York Knick basketball fans really are: hypocrites with no sense of history – they actually have always had the impatience and petulance of the Twitter generation, which the rest of American culture is just adopting now (of course I know plenty of quality Knick fans, but the die hard fans with knowledge and perspective rarely, if ever, drive the story with the Knicks). I would rather appreciate what Lebron is doing, rather than make him more of a villain so I can feel good about myself.  And hopefully Lebron gets a title or two as a stamp of his greatness at some point, because Knick fans have already gotten what they deserve: Carmelo Anthony.


Kobe Beef

Last night I watched the Boston Celtics get out-hustled and out-played by the Los Angeles Lakers.  As if it wasn’t enough to see Kobe Bryant have a solid game I was forced to swallow my own vomit several times as I watched Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar make quality contributions.  Rumor has it in the off-season they will be filming a buddy cop flick called Euro Trash and Shrek Ears.  But as much as Kobe has played the villain in my NBA story for the last 4 years, last night it got personal.  Because of the Laker victory, they will now play Game 7 on Thursday, my first night in Atlanta at The Punchline.

The Punchline is a big club and a chance for me to atone with Southern audiences for a minor debacle in Birmingham last Summer.

Backstory – Last Summer I featured at The Stardome, a huge club owned by some nice people.  6 of the seven shows went somewhere in the B- to B+ range, but one show, the Saturday show led to only the second time I have been boo’d on stage (the other time being Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn – a disgrace to higher education and the Civil Rights’ Leader’s memory, whose student attendees thought it was “boo every comedian that dares step on stage – like Amateur Night at The Apollo, without the credit of The Apollo. To put it in television analogies – if my comedy career was the show Homicide – Medgar Evers College would be Adeena Watson).  I said nothing offensive at The Stardome – I was just neither BET nor rednecky enough for the racially diverse, intellectual bottom feeders that occupied a few of the tables at the club that night.

So going to Atlanta was to be a bit of redemption for me and I actually booked the gig on the strength of my Always Be Funny/Glengary Glen Ross spoof video, which also restored my faith that YouTube was not entirely useless for my career.

But then the Lakers won because they seemed to finally discover that Rajon Rondo has the jumpshot of Shaquille O’Neal.  So that means Thursday night’s show will be empty of just about all basketball fans.  Now my routine has very fewbasketball references in it, but there is a correlation between people who are aware of basketball and people who enjoy my comedy.  Those people will not be there Thursday because Kobe & Co. won.  So who is going to be there Thursday night?  Southern comedy fans who do not like basketball.  Hmmmmmm, I just hope after the show I don’t have to tell anyone, “In New York they call me Missssster Cauvin!”

But the obvious point is that Kobe Bryant is to blame.  (I just wish LeBron James was at Game 6 and walked up to Kobe a la Maximus to Commodus in Gladiator and said, “The Time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end.” Because Kobe should know that when the LeBron James era will begin the moment LeBron gets a teammate(s) that is/are not terrible or fu*king his Mom…

Sidebar – For those of you that do not know – LeBron James mother is rumored (strong rumors) to have slept with LeBron’s bipolar, shotgun-carrying teammate Delonte West.  However, not a word has been uttered on this by ESPN , which is rather frightening.  My theory is that ESPN has marching orders from Nike not to say another word (what would ESPN be without Nike athletes and Nike advertising dollars?).  The story was discussed all over the Internet and on The Huffington Post, but not a peep from the premier sports news network in the world about one of the 10 most famous athletes on the planet?  Just makes you think if people including “The People’s Sports Reporter” Bill Simmons a/k/a The Sports Guy can be silenced (he gave a token – “absolutely false” comment on the story even though when I was in Cleveland everyone seemed to believe the story) by corporate titans (my friend Mike told me this has all the makings of a Michael Mann sports themed sequel to The Insider), what chance is there that news isn’t corrupted all the time by even bigger corporations (obviously it is).  And if you think this has nothing to do with sports – LeBron James disappeared against the Celtics after the rumors started flying, so unlike Tiger Woods’ Blasian fallace, LeBron’s story actually has sports-related salaciousness.

Back to Kobe- Is there anything more absurd than Kobe’s wife and future stripper daughters (when your Mom is a hot gold digger and your Dad is a wealthy rapist aren’t your employment prospects limited psychologically?) standing in the tunnel at halftime to greet him with adoration before he goes into the locker room?  “Look Nike and McDonald’s I am done with the butt rape and the cheating because here is my family right here.  But at the same time I am so driven to win that I take time out of halftime to greet my family?”  Anyone else’s wives or girlfriends meeting them in the tunnel?  Did Michael Jordan have Juanita waiting at halftime? No – he was too busy thinking about winning and killing the other team.  Now he might have had sex with his opponent’s wife in the tunnel as a competitive advantage, but he would never waste time to kiss his own wife mid-game.

So now for this horsesh*t I have to see potential fans not show up tot he first show in Atlanta.  It looks like me and the Celtics are going to have to put in a strong effort Thursday to make sure Kobe does not win.  Odds are the Celtics will have a tougher time than me.