LeBron James was a precursor to our nation's irreparable discourse. Even before elected leaders truly embraced a nihilistic, choose-your-own-reality approach to power and governing, sport's central figure was serving as the prototype for maddening, head-spinning, and ultimately distressing conversation.
We've all known what James was going to be since he was in high school. An adonis touched by god with unlimited Basketball IQ.
He is many things. Mysterious is not one of them. James is an open book. He is accessible. A Steven Spielberg-type protagonist. What you see is what you get. The greatness is so overpowering that it refracts every ray of light before reaching our eyes, creating a kaleidoscope of color that dazzles the mind and makes rods and cones tingle.
But he is polarizing. Years ago it was due to his free-agency stagecraft or rabbit ears or perceived softness. Or, more honestly, due to jealousy. Since 2016 he's been shoehorned as a boogeyman for a culture war for the sin of being outspoken about equality and remarkable altruism.
There's been a widespread and increasingly desperate effort to look at James, a zebra, and see horses. Even as his stripes have become more and more defined through the years. The MVPs, the Finals appearances, the world titles. They all added up but were proudly ignored and diminished by people who decided long ago that, for whatever reason, they didn't like this guy and would simply refuse to accept him for the undeniable great he's always been.
The most high-profile of the detractors are doing it for attention and money. That one guy over at Fox Sports is well-compensated to look at the modern-day masterpieces and suggest that someone other than the artist is responsible for the brush strokes. More distressingly, though, is the army of Average Joes who will do it for free. The jabronis who awake from the best sleep of their lives and accuse LeBron of placing a pea between their mattresses.
These naysayers, who continue to shout and post into the void even as a mountain of evidence nuking their specious points builds up, are largely driven by something human and destructive. A refusal to admit that maybe, just maybe, they got this one wrong. That James isn't, in fact, a fraud or a phony or overrated or undeserving of GOAT or GOAT 1b) status.
It's largely harmless yet exhausting in the sporting realm. Such real-world obstinance, though, has dire and fractious consequences. So perhaps that's why this stuff has become so tiring and infuriating.
For the record, it's long past time to put our perverse both-sides fetish away on the issue of James. One on hand you have a sound argument for him being the greatest player in NBA history, and arguably the most compelling in any sport given his place in the media ecosphere. On the other you have the moderately persuasive push to point out that he's only the second-best to ever do it.
So you know what? To those people, a message: If it is in within my power to concede that, sure, Jordan is better, can all of you stop then? Can you stop doing this zero-sum whataboutism every time James puts another notch in his belt and hardware on the shelf? If every sane person kowtows to your distorted perception, will you put down the pitchforks for the first time and stop digging yourself in to a hole that long past collapsed and suffocated all joy?
James is, once again. A world champion. At least here on Earth-One. For news on what's happening on Earth-Two, reader, please seek out another source.