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LeBron's Teachable Moment - 2011

Oh, please!

I can't believe that a year later I'm writing about the same man for the same reasons despite a completely different set of circumstances that produced the same if not worse results. Almost a year and one month to the date, I'm writing once again about LeBron's Teachable Moment.

2010: In plain and full view of anyone who is a fan of the NBA and the owner of a television LeBron James shrank into insignificance during the conference finals with Boston. To my own personal disbelief it seemed as if he decided he couldn't win easily, so he just stopped trying. Right then he stopped being The Man. He stopped being this massive basketball phenom that I admired and had no problem touting to anyone.

Then came The Decision. I was seated at a Mexican restaurant during a visit to Chicago eating dinner with some of my parents' neighbors. I was baffled. Why was the Boys & Girls Club there? Why was it so long? Forget the city of Cleveland, why did he dis' his team and the people he had been working with for 7 years? He didn't dis anyone by leaving, but he dissed everyone based on the way he OPTED to leave. There was so much bad karma kicked up into the air you I swear you could see it.

I remember putting down my chicken quesadilla, sitting back in my chair and thinking to myself, This isn't going to go the way he thinks it will.

Then a week later or whenever it was, I saw him clad in Heat gear, thankfully absent from his jersey was the significant Number 23 replaced with . He was rising up out of the floor on a stage in a space filled with smoke and lights standing alongside D. Wade and Chris Bosh. Then he began to dance... Who dances in a a team uniform...on a stage? Then came the predictions. Each one wild, brazen, uninformed, unproven, angering to everyone who was right there with them (as in the players of the NBA) and angering to all us "average folk" who know you that you have to get somewhere first before you start sharing the rarefied air of the Hall of Famers who were so good they almost don't even seem real anymore (and I'm talking about more than just Jordan).

I remember thinking, What in the hamfat is this?! And several other thoughts crossed my mind that don't need to be shared here. What I will state is that I was upset. Why? Because my son and so many other kids in this world live and breathe their lives through the words, actions and commercials of these so-called, larger than life, clearly overpaid athletes. With the air time these dudes were getting there wasn't anything anyone could say to the contrary to their child that wouldn't prompt that child spitting back that you were a hater. But there was one simple trump card that life had in the deck. One shuffled in amongst the deck of cards stacked full of money, fame, and a PR blitz that has been downright nauseating. I played it last summer:

"Let's see what happens."

Then the season began and I admit to being among the many who reveled in every defeat the Heat suffered, especially at the hands of my Bulls. But I concede, their in-air magnificence was something to behold. I found the post game interviews to be particularly bizarre. No one ever talked about being beat but instead talked about whose fault it was for why they lost and how the losses never mattered. What loss doesn't matter if you can learn from it?! The only one who seemed to speak with any level of transparency was Chris Bosh and for this, I appreciate him. Now back to the other two. D. Wade even went so far as to call attention to how much the world reveled in their defeats. If I made millions I would honestly not give one hot damn what anyone thought of me, just as I do right now making 2 cents on the dollar. The only thing I'd be worried about is winning games. I mean honestly, who cares?

But the regular season is the regular season and they ultimately muscled and defended their way into the Playoffs and started knocking teams out, my poor Bulls included. The Finals were set. They were slated to meet a team I didn't think anyone in the Eastern Conference could beat in the Dallas Mavericks. They had this whole old man work ethic going on, the tortoise and the hare thing happening right there in HD, coming from behind EVERY TIME they played. They seemed to be live by the adage, "the race doesn't go to the strongest or the fastest, but to the one who endures." I began to grin, not as a bandwagoneer, but because what we had on our hands here folks was an epic battle in the making: old world basketball teamwork versus the flash and panache of social media savvy athletic specimens who seriously, seriously, seriously rule the air.

A Tiger Can't Change His Stripes
Jason Terry talks a lot of trash, but he backs it up. Jason Terry also seems to understand some basic truths that gave much fuel to his fire. Namely, a tiger can't change his stripes. The photo included in this post is the same one I put up last year when LBJ was with the Cavs. Why should I put a current photo up? He's the same man, the same player, the same poor loser. Narcissistic, mentally delicate despite how athletically blessed he is, shook in the face of disaster and seemingly baffled by losing. For those of you who don't know, shook means fearful. Since we are talking about superheroes let's consider this: most of us who grew up loving Spider-Man of the comic books did so not because he easily laid waste to any and every enemy he's faced, but rather the exact opposite. On one occasion after another Spidey's enemies would get the best of him and beat him within an inch of his life. He suffered a lot of collateral damage along the way as well, but he somehow managed to muster the strength to prevail. At battle's end he'd swing home half naked, his costume in tatters, wearing half a mask and one boot, covered in his own dried blood.

Jordan got dragged off the court a complete and utter mess by teammate Pippen after the performance of a lifetime while suffering through a stomach virus. Dirk played most of the Finals looking like a snot nosed child. Kobe will grow old with arthritic fingers. Even D.Wade refused to be saddled by a busted hip.

If you're trying to shed blood you've got to be willing to bleed in the process. Or, at the very least understand that it might happen along the way.

If you begin to come unglued, then remain unglued once defeat appears to be inevitable, defeat is certain. A true champion is the man or woman who fights against the odds stacked against them: whether that's building a team and snagging your first championship from a mighty franchise or marching into history against the statistical odds of winning six.

LBJ changed teams, put on a nationwide tour, shuffled and danced, and told an entire city a fairytale of what what he would do. Oh yeah, and he dragged D. Wade down with him. Sorry, I like D. Wade. Expressionless and a little defensive when questioned, but he gets down when he has to and I'm so glad he found himself in this series and began to perform like the D. Wade he used to be. But like D. Rose before him in these post season games and Jordan before them all, you can't be a team by yourself. What was to be his ultimate solution proved itself to be his ultimate undoing. I can only imagine how ridiculous he must feel having to sit there during every postgame interview next to a dude he probably has wanted to punch in the face at least once during this whole bizarro soap opera.

Throwing Tomatoes
I'm just a regular guy with a regular life, living it everyday. There's no hate here. I genuinely expected more just as I did last year. Here is a self-proclaimed champion collapsing in on himself before the game is even over and now I've got to explain what's happening to my son and keep him respectful of this man on the TV. Regarding that real, venomous hate spewing from the Midwest, Cleveland needs to move on. Dan Gilbert needs to be a true owner and drop his former player off his radar and definitely out of his Tweets. They can't be mad that they gave one man, honestly, a boy at the time, so much power over them. And wishing bad on another human being brings about its own ill will on the wisher. This may be the reason why Cleveland is the sports town it is, but it's not my place to say. I'm not from there. Regarding LBJ's management of the hate cast his way: it shouldn't even be a conversation. A Tweet, a Facebook status, an email, whatever, is irrelevant (remember what I said about giving one hot damn). Unless it's a hateful reporter and until someone starts throwing beer at you from the stands, man up and ignore it. You chose to dance on this stage. Sometimes you have to dance when they are throwing tomatoes too. These so-called haters don't pay your bills or write your checks just as you don't theirs. A man who aspires to be a Man among men should be able to walk amongst the common man, not call him out on his "commonness" of which he is fully aware.
Translation: insulting the humdrum reality of the average American that helps to generate the money that goes into your pockets is PR suicide.

During my last trip to South Beach I saw more "common folk" than I did residents of Star Island. Everyone dancing out in front of the American Airlines Arena after the Bulls were defeated this year didn't look like they were living celebrity lifestyles.

Addressing the insignificance of the common man's fickle insensitivity to you makes you just as fickle. You also alienate those who support you and those who were barely paying attention to you. At the end of the day you are just one person with 15 minutes of fame. The common man is a fraternity of people who will endure as long as humans walk this Earth.

LeBron only had to go one place for the change that he so desired for The Ring he wants so badly: the man in the mirror. As his desires aren't matching neither his actions nor his outcomes it's pretty easy to assert that something is wrong. Something is missing. Something went left years ago instead of going right and he is living out the consequences now. No matter how much he changes his suits, environments, teams...whatever. The results will always be the same because like the dude who can't find love again and again and again, the problem never was about the females he dated or the city he lived in. LBJ's problem(s), from the obvious to the ones we, the regular people, will never understand (nor should we) will always be the burden of everyone else (right now the Heat's and the City of Miami's) until he learns this. I imagine if this blog still exists in 2012 I will be writing this post again around the exact same time with the exact same picture for the third year in a row. I'll be genuinely surprised if I'm not. Maybe this wouldn't matter so much to me if I wasn't currently neck-deep in one of the biggest fights of my life. One where my faith, hope and optimism are all at stake. I refuse to concede any of them. Maybe I could have just watch these games without introspection if I didn't have someone in my own life who is frighteningly LeBron-like. Maybe none of this would matter at all if i didn't have a son.

Last night James tweeted “The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time,” after the Heat lost Game 6.

As Jason Whitlock and nearly every other person on the planet has said since then, "God doesn’t care about the NBA Finals." What He does care about the condition of your heart and how you use it to march forward through that which opposes you as Dirk, The Jet, J. Kidd and Tyson Chandler did. This way the doors of opportunity won't slam shut on you once they are opened to you.

Parents, husbands, wives, children and dreamers, this has been your Teachable Moment, courtesy of LeBron James.

E.Payne is the author of the soon to be released DAD: As Easy As A, B, C! and I Didn't Invented Sex. For the past 3 years he has posted 600+ articles about fatherhood, marriage and everything in between here at Makes Me Wanna Holler.com. To learn more, click here.

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