A Victory that Resounds Beyond the Court
by Playthell Benjamin
Averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds throughout a grueling NBA final, Lebron James led the Miami Heat to a World Championship and was selected by unanimous vote as The Most Valuable player in the championship series. The trophy will make a handsome companion to his league MVP award for the 2012 season. Not only was King James honored by league officials, he was showered with love from his teammates and warmly embraced by opposing players after their defeat.
A Merry Band of Brothers
James put on a rare performance of such magnitude that Magic Johnson, a first ballot Hall of Famer who is one of the greatest artist to play the game, was moved to enthusiastically declare Lebron James “One of the greatest athletes to ever put on basketball sneakers!” He placed him in the Top Ten of all-time greats right now, and suggested that Lebron could well be anywhere in the top three by the time he is through.
In this playoff series Lebron demonstrated why he deserves the title “King James,” as he put on a clinic on all aspects of the game: passing, rebounding, smothering defense, and unstoppable offense. Unlike the late King James of England, who had the temerity to rewrite the Judeo-Christian Bible – although many suspect he employed William Shakespeare to do the actual writing – there is no doubt that the marvels attributed to Lebron were of his authorship. The whole world watched him do it! And unlike the original King James, Lebron was not born to his title: he had to earn it!
Today Basketball is a game where grace and prowess are wedded in a public spectacle that has transcended the sport Dr. James Naismith invented at Springfield College in 1891, an era distinguished by “white supremacy” and American imperial expansion. Naismith, a trained minister and Physical Education teacher, created the game of basketball because he was ordered by his superior to create an indoor sport that could channel the energies of virile young men into constructive activity during the long New England winters.
Dr. Naismith intended his game to promote spiritual objectives, not serve as an arena for cutthroat competition. But that was before basketball became a market driven professional sport in a multi-billion industry. His Christian purpose of cultivating piety and moral toughness is clearly evident in the fact that he invented basketball under the auspices of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
This reflected the the spirit of a time when the doctrine of “muscular Christianity” stressed physical fitness as a prerequisite for white Christian soldiers – men who were tasked with spreading the gospel everywhere, civilizing the colored savages and ruling the world. In this evangelical view the role of sport was to promote western interests through “godliness and good Games.”
Dr. James Naismith: Inventor of Basketball. He conceived a Very Different Game
That vision of sports has evaporated as the world changed. The collapse of the racial bar that made professional sports in America a white man’s affair permitted the emergence of Afro-American athletes, who reinvented the game of basketball. What was once a stiff game of rigid prescribed plays with gangly stiffs doing a Two Step shuffle, has become a free flowing improvisational ballet performed by agile giants.
Afro-American ballers have bewitched the world with their magic show, but not everyone is applauding….and there is no paucity of Playa Hatas. No playa has been the object of more virulent enmity, expressed in pious putrid invective, than King James. So what’s it all about…really?
The source of this animus is located in Lebron’s decision to announce that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and taking his talents to the Miami Heat on a cable television special – his critics conveniently ignore the fact that the TV show raised two million dollars to fund programs for poor kids like he once was.
Yet in an era where athletes are being arrested and tried for real crimes Lebron is like Caesar’s wife: pure as the driven snow. Whether it’s using illegal performance enhancing drugs to gain an unfair advantage against his opponents, carrying illegally concealed weapons off the court, disturbing the peace by cutting the fool in the public square, or even showing up late for practice; Lebron is above reproach! So what’s the beef?
Among New Yorker’s, and hard core basketball fans in all the cities that vied for Lebron’s talents with dreams of a World Championships dancing in their heads like the Sugar Plums in Tchaikovsky’s famous Nutcracker Suite, this hatred is the universal response of rejected lovers. But for the majority of those whose team was never in the running, the hatred is an irrational response to Lebron’s self-confidence and business decisions.
Hence Lebron was cast as an arrogant, self-centered ingrate; some thought him an uppity nigger who was disloyal to the franchise that provided him the opportunity to play pro-ball. This is ridiculous: Loyalty to a corporate sports franchise? As former pro-footballer and sports commentator Marcellus Wiley pointed out on ESPN Sportscenter: Professional sports is a business and players often don’t find out that they have been traded to another franchise until they hear about it on Sportscenter.
I explored these issues in two essays at some length and posted at them at Commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com while it was happening. But what objective observer could fault Lebron for quitting the “Mistake by the Lake” for that perpetual bacchanal in the Magic City? It doesn’t make sense.
That’s why I believe much of this hatred is racial resentment expressed by closet racist who detest King James’ wealth, fame, independence and color. It is rooted in irrational societal and cultural issues that transcend the game. Hence Lebron’s victory resounds beyond the court! And the haters will have to live with the fact the King has claimed his crown! Every head must bow! Every tongue must confess it!!
They Rode their Horse to the Top!
Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.