They ended up with that split-screen of the King’s jersey burned live on his infomercial, as this sad, lost robot sat in a leafy suburban gymnasium with children as props and the world watching, those empty eyes masking a lost, dazed LeBron James(notes). This was the champagne shower for the Championship of Me, an exercise in self-aggrandizement and self-loathing that will have far-reaching implications for the NBA and James. What a spectacle, what a train wreck.
As the worst idea in the history of marketing unfolded, James looked trapped somewhere between despondence and defiance. His bumbling buddy Maverick Carter had walked him into the public execution of his legacy, his image, and there was a part of James that clearly wished he could turn back through the doors and hide. Only, it was too late. No going back now. James goes to the Miami Heat, Cleveland goes into a basketball Hades and LeBron’s legacy becomes that of a callous carpetbagger.
“His brand is [bleep] now,” one high-level NBA official said late Thursday. “He’s destroyed everything.”
The Championship of Me became the Championship of Flee, because LeBron James doesn’t believe he can be the centerpiece of a title team. He needed Dwayne Wade, a closer, far more than Wade needed him.
Yes, he’s ruined everything. What a wonderful idea: Divorce your childhood sweetheart on national television and tell her, hey, I’ll let you keep the “We are all Witnesses” billboards lording over downtown Cleveland.
“I’m taking my talents to South Beach,” James said, and it was like time stopped because – even for him – this was a moment so devoid of reality and free of concern of consequences. South Beach? He wasn’t picking a basketball team as much as a party. He’s 25 years old, and yet somehow this felt like a cloistered teenager picking a party school for college.