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Legend turning into tragedy



Published: Tue, February 11, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Somewhere along the line, LeBron James seems to have lost his focus.

It doesn't seem like he's playing for the love of the game anymore.

I sense this, because I've watched his games on ESPN2, listened to his interviews and observed nationally-known sports journalists debate over who is more to blame for LeBron-mania.

When James was a youngster, honing his skills on the playgrounds around Akron, I doubt that he gave much thought to playing in the NBA or about shoe deals or SUVs.

Print the legend

Sometime, though, after LeBron-mania began to grow, he took on more of the personality of the legend.

And, as one of the characters in the Western classic "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" said, "When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend."

As the myth grew, so too, it seemed, did the myth-maker.

His showmanship was always one of the qualities that has made James such a special talent, but this season it seems as if he is trying too hard. It appears as though he's playing to the cameras, instead of in front of them.

He rarely shied away from the cameras after the games, either, but as the spotlight's glare often will, it sometimes shined on the negative as well. Suddenly, media audiences with "The Chosen One" were no longer permitted -- unless, of course, the interviewer or his employer was of equal or greater star quality.

In a way, I can't find fault with the kid.

Show me any high school student whose ego wouldn't be immense with such lavish praise heaped upon him or her.

Don't mistake this for a pass on James' culpability, however. He shouldn't have to strain his eyes too much to realize there aren't many of his classmates driving $50,000 SUVs.

Questions

Where, though, are the "adults" who should be looking out for this kid's best interests?

If Dru Joyce II, his coach, told him a thousand times to be wary of someone offering anything for free, why didn't he tell him 1,001 times?

Why can't a parent, with little or no visible means of support, of a St. Vincent-St. Mary student with a 4.0 grade point average, walk into the same bank as Gloria James and get a similar loan?

Why can't that same parent get a nationally-renowned law firm to represent him in a legal matter, as the James family did?

And why can't that 4.0 student walk into the same retail store as LeBron James and be given the same gifts for his or her academic achievement?

We could debate other aspects of this situation until James is collecting an NBA pension. For instance, who's paying for all these trips to North Carolina and California? If it's the school footing the bill, where, all of a sudden, did that money come from?

Not above the rules

The James Gang has an enormous, pompous sense of entitlement.

It's not hard to figure out why, with everyone from elementary-aged kids to bank presidents and court judges slobbering over his every move.

His athletic ability, though, should not entitle him to freedom from the rules.

It should not allow him to sue the organization -- the OHSAA, to which his school voluntarily joined and agreed to abide by its rules -- to overturn those rules.

Somewhere along the line, LeBron James seems to have lost his focus.

It doesn't seem like he's playing for the love of the game anymore.

And for that, I pity LeBron James.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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