In 2002 LeBron James’ St. Vincent-St. Mary high school team from Akron was playing in the state tournament here in Columbus. My boss and I were at a meeting with a client near the Schottenstein Center as the championship game was going on. The meeting ended and we went over to the arena just to pop our heads in because neither of us had seen James in person before.
I knew who James was, of course, and knew that he was going to be a very big deal, even if he was only a junior in high school. I was never, however, so big a basketball fan to where I could offer anything beyond fan-level insights like “he’s good” or “he’s strong.” My boss wasn’t either, but he had some chip on his shoulder about James that instantly transformed him into some super roundball scouting insider.
We only watched for, like, ten minutes before we had to go, but even in that short time my boss felt obligated to tell me all of the things James lacked and did wrong and how “he’d be exposed” once he got to the NBA. He was no Larry Bird or Dr. J., he said. He probably made a few other comps which made it clear that only those players who he had followed when he was younger were worthy of praise and that the new stars can’t measure up. Typical old guy sports fan bullshit.
James’ team lost the game. Afterward there was a press conference that caused some controversy in that James, obviously disappointed, responded listlessly to reporters’ questions. He sulked and kept a sucker in his mouth the whole time. The takeaways were pretty negative. My boss had seen it all on TV that night and the next morning was very proud of himself for having James pegged as an immature fraud who couldn’t handle pressure, blah, blah, blah. At no time did he acknowledge that James was still literally a kid. He didn’t seem to care.
I really don’t pay much attention to basketball anymore. And after all of these years and all that he has accomplished, LeBron James certainly doesn’t need another championship to validate his basketball legacy. But I really would like to see him win Game 7. If, for no other reason, than to stick it to dudes like my boss who seem to have this reflexive need to shit on young, emerging stars simply because they’re young emerging stars. As if doing so somehow validates their own lives or experience or somehow keeps them from getting older.