Larry Banman" Why don’t we celebrate the real celebrities in life?
July 30, 2009
If you haven’t seen the infamous video clip where NBA superstar LeBron James gets dunked on, don’t refinance the house just so you can afford to own a copy of the tape. I caught it recently on the ESPN show “Outside the Lines.” Later in the show, when it was re-run, I didn’t bother looking up from the book I was reading. That pretty much sums up how much attention this dunk would have garnered, had not James and Nike officials stepped into the picture.
In case you haven’t heard the story, the dunk occurred during a pick-up game that happened during a LeBron James Skills Academy at the University of Akron. TMZ footage, presumably shot via cell phone and looking about as steady as the San Andreas Fault, shows Jordan Crawford dunking over James in the middle of a pickup game. The footage from eBaum Nation, which is higher quality and includes better audio, was shot from the side of the court where the dunk took place and shows Crawford’s two-handed jam.
I don’t have much experience playing above the rim, but I do watch more than my share of basketball. First of all, it is a pickup game. And, it isn’t like Crawford “takes James to the hole.” In fact, Crawford beats another defender and James rotates over in somewhat of a half-hearted defensive effort (kind of the effort you would expect in a pickup game) and doesn’t even make a concerted attempt to block the shot. What should have happened is that Crawford could have bragged to a few of his friends and some courtside observers might have jabbed LeBron with a few “I am a witness” comments, but the video footage would have likely died a quick death. Except.
Nike officials confiscated the footage of two videographers working the camp because they claimed the videotaping of after-hours pickup games was not allowed. When LeBron entered the NBA, he was given $90 million to endorse Nike shoes and apparel so I can understand why Nike officials might be a little uptight about their image headliner. Unfortunately for them, they and LeBron came across as paranoid and draconian. Added to James’ refusal to shake the hands of the Orlando players after the Magic eliminated LeBron’s Cavaliers in the playoffs this past season and you start to get the image of a petulant child. That is not the “We are all witnesses” image that Nike likely wants for their poster child.
Frankly, I have had about enough of LeBron’s marketing flirtation with a god-like image. The aforementioned “witness” campaign and LeBron’s “King James” moniker are, in my opinion, marketing ploys to elevate this only-child from Akron, Ohio to near-mythological heights.
We are often told that a society needs its heroes to give us hope and aspirations. Sports give us a recreational outlet and the best players in those sports naturally fill that need for heroism. In my opinion, that pendulum has swung just about far enough in one direction. I was watching a show the other night about the Brooklyn Dodgers and how most of the players lived in Brooklyn. Those players performed heroic actions and gave people a reason to celebrate or, at least, a chance to rally around the cry “wait’ll next year.” Those same players, however, lived down the street and could be seen in the barber shops, taverns and grocery stores in the borough called Brooklyn. Wouldn’t it be great to cheer on your favorite professional athlete during the season and play horseshoes with him or her at the semi-annual church potluck. To talk about the best place to get Italian food or your kids’ struggles with algebra?
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What we have today are too many players who own extravagant homes, multiple expensive cars, yachts and their own jets. We even have players who own their own tigers and islands. They live as if they are the aristocracy of our society. They are above the worries that you and I have about stretching the next paycheck over the mound of monthly bills. No wonder, they start to lose touch with reality and come across to most of the rest of us as arrogant and often unrepentant for their transgressions. They start to refer to themselves in the third person and have cute little nicknames like “The Glove” and “Human Highlight Reel.”
I agree that we need heroes. If nothing else, their exploits give us a chance to escape the mundane and cheer on the spectacular. I think it is good for the human spirit to realize that out-of-the-ordinary things are possible. It is nice to know that others, given the opportunity, can attain the things about which the rest of us dream. I don’t even begrudge the rewards that come to those who sacrifice and work hard or even to those who are naturally blessed with God-given talents.
What I want from my heroes, however, is a little humility, a little appreciation for what has come their way. When Lou Gehrig said, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth” he was dying from the disease that bore his name. I know there are countless stories of modern heroes who are great humanitarians, who display genuine humility, who give back to their communities, who realize they are part of the story, not the culmination of that story.
I just wish there were more videos of their actions. I wish there was more a celebration of their lives. That would be something that is worth a second look.