Let me see if I can make this clear without getting myself in trouble:
But some kind of screwup. Show up late or not at all for one game. Miss a practice because of a Nike commitment, then say it doesn't matter all that much. Shove an unruly fan who got in his face in a club. Get frustrated from double- and triple-teaming and lash out at an opponent. Complain about teammates not giving him enough help.
But here we are in the 24-year-old's sixth season, and it's as if he's following a script written by a couple of hip, yet image-conscious screenwriters.
And, so, as the Cavaliers' young superstar
Incredible. Simply incredible.
Now, just because someone lives an Ozzie and Harriet upbringing, as
Ticket to disaster? Hardly.
James handles everything thrown at him -- criticism, marketing challenges (would anyone deny that he's a more natural performer than Jordan in his ads?), questions about not winning the big one, etc. -- as easily as he handles hounding defenses. When Washington Wizards guard
As he thanked the Cavaliers' fans at the team's final regular-season home game last month, LeBron added, "If we win 99-20, don't boo us because you don't get a free chalupa." He had been upset that Cavs fans sometimes booed when the team didn't score 100 points to trigger a fast-food prize. Again, I thought it was the perfect note, a finger-wave at the fans but a gentle one and one James eminently deserved to make.
His play has been both sensational and exemplary. They're not always the same thing. Remember it wasn't too long ago that James' ability to take -- and make -- the big shot was being questioned. Now he's become a doubly clutch player because he may take the shot but he may also find an open teammate. It wasn't too long ago (the summer of 2006) when a lackadaisical performance at summer camp led some to ponder whether he should even be on the Olympic team. He got the message, and two years later LeBron, Bryant and
But the fact that James became a superstar in the tradition of Jordan/Bryant -- let's hold those exact comparisons until we see what happens the rest of the way -- is not really a surprise. It's the way he conducts himself on and off the court that has gotten my attention. True, most of the time, James seems to be reading from a teleprompter in his head, and I would prefer the less scripted, more spontaneous James, the James who calls Barkley stupid. But the kid has grown up fast, under a white-hot spotlight, and, man, what a job of growing up he has done.