We’re slightly more than halfway through the NBA season (really? really). So far, not too much has changed from last season. The Lakers have the best 1-3 players in the league, and will probably be in the Finals; Kobe’s still a douchebag. Boston is old as fuck; their fans are still douchebags. The Bulls had a bad first half, but will probably still make the playoffs. Atlanta has been a nice surprise, seeming to finally put their young pieces together. Stan Van Gundy remains in more serious need of a blowjob than any man in history. Cleveland is going to win the East, but has some significant liabilities that’ll pop up around playoff time.
And LeBron James continues his ascent to threaten Michael Jordan…not as best athlete ever (it’s not impossible given he’s 25, but let him get at least three titles and MVPs under his belt before we even start debating that one)…but as coolest athlete of all time. Now I would argue that coolest athlete ever pretty much has to be an NBAer. Baseball players have to wear those ridiculous pants…out. You can’t see football players facial expressions or personalities during play…out. Hockey…Canadians are cuddly, not cool. Golf…Tiger is as close as golf’ll ever come, and he was never really cool…he always seemed to me like Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science, a nerd who discovered super powers. Tennis…they probably get the title of hottest (male and female)…let’s not overdo it. Soccer…too much fucking whining. NBA players have a hard-to-beat combination…great athletes…can display their personality during play…hip-hop swagger…great marketing. Jordan has to still be considered the all-time King of Sporting Cool. Just check out my favorite commercial of his:
I mean, fuck…he’s talking about failure, I think. Who cares? He just exuded cool. LeBron is still way too young to have that kind of style. At 25, Jordan still had hair and short shorts…it takes time and success. But this is what you saw coming back from commercial if you were watching the Lakers/Cavs game on Thursday:
2-point game at home…23.4 seconds left…playing the best team with the best clutch player…knowing every eye and camera on the place is on him…and he’s totally vibing off it. Singing along to the song he got Eminem, Kanye and Lil Wayne to do for the movie he produced…about his high school team. Most people who did that would come off like a cocky asshole. But he just seems like a playful guy loving life, without a care in the world.
Which is another reason why his decision this summer has greater implications than just his basketball career. For those of you who have been under a rock for the past couple of years, LeBron has the chance to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Teams all over the NBA have been falling all over themselves trying to make room for him in their budget. Cleveland has been trying to do whatever they can think of to build a strong enough team to get him to stay (including signing the ghost of Shaq).
But no matter what he does, LeBron will damage his cool quotient, maybe irreparably. Cool guys don’t leave their hometown team (LeBron’s from Akron, but still) when they’ve never won a championship and their fans have made it clear they’d give him their daughters and wives if he wanted, no questions asked. He especially doesn’t do it when the last time the city won any kind of championship was 1964, and when it’s had arguably the hardest time over the past few decades of any city not named Detroit.
Maybe LeBron will put the Cavs on his shoulders and get them a title this year. Then he’s really screwed. Cool guys definitely don’t leave championship teams. How could he ever pay the lip service to “winning being the only important thing” that keeps white sportswriters off your back?
But…here’s the rub…the coolest athlete in the world does not play in Cleveland, OH. There’s just no way. I like the Cleve as much as the next person, except maybe Liz Lemon. But I mean, even the names of its river and lake conjure up unpleasant thoughts (Cuyahoga…Erie…rotting fish and industrial waste). Nobody outside of the U.S. has ever heard of it. Most people in the U.S. don’t really know anything about it, except that it gives them a vaguely sad feeling. Plus, there’s nothing to compete with. New York, L.A., Chicago, Miami…you’ve got to really stand out, or you’re just another face in the crowd. LeBron could blow out his knee and limp along for the next five years, and he’d still be the biggest thing in Cleveland. Not cool.
Everyone thought that it was the coolest thing that LeBron got drafted by his hometown team…turns out it could be the only thing to make him uncool.