I imagine the inside of the human brain as a small town, the spine acting as the super highway.
Every townsperson neuron has a set job.
There’s the memory bank: a massive brick building filled with thousands of workers rushing around adding and removing papers from rows of filing cabinets. Some of the workers are more important than others. For example, the President of the Memory Bank makes sure, at least for the first eighty years, that the most important files (name of spouse, names of family members, etc.) are never misplaced or taken outside of the vault. The lowest worker on the totem pole, Mo Ron the neuron, is in charge of the What-day-of-the-week-is-it? desk. His duties are self-explanatory.
The filing cabinets for the name of the person you just met, where you left your car keys, and when-the-Family-Video-rental-is-due are all positioned right by the front door and are frequently robbed by the town goblin.
Down the street from the bank is the artistic coffee shop. In here are the writers, painters, and musicians. The musicians are in charge of putting together the: “These Songs Will Be Stuck In Your Head Today” playlist. They try to stick with your favorites. The painters draw memorable moments of the day. When you see a pretty sunset or look out at the Cliffs of Moher. These talented artists paint the image then walk it over to the memory bank for future access. The writers work all day to construct the dreams for the night. Their policy: the more obscure the better the art. People who say, “I don’t really have dreams,” it’s because of severe writer’s block at your brain’s coffee shop.
At some point between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., Officer Sleep comes by and tells the barista to shut things down for the night. In the case of a midday nap, Officer Sleep rushes in and all the writers freak out. “Well it’s not finished yet, but I guess here’s a fricken daydream for yuh.”
Baristas vary in terms of how frequently they forget to lock up the coffee shop. When they forget, the town goblin stops by and creates havoc. He switches tomorrow’s playlist to Ke$ha’s “Your Love is My Drug.” He scribbles together a twisted nightmare for the night and paints a naked picture of someone you never, under any circumstances wanted to imagine naked.
The final important building is the self-esteem center. This is basically one ongoing pep rally dedicated to everything you’ve done well in your life. Think that Starbucks Hank commercial. They hang banners and fill trophy cases with all of your accomplishments from first steps to college diploma.
When you fail at something, this is the first group to have your back. They don’t believe you can fail or do anything wrong.
It was someone else’s fault. The officer had a personal vendetta against men who drive red Ford Focuses. The other team’s fans are only making fun of your rec-spec goggles because they’re all jealous.
As always, the goblin tries to corrupt their gatherings. He sneaks in from time to time and posts failures on the bulletin board. In the case of a basketball player, during a free throw, the entire self-esteem center goes quiet and right at the last moment before the ball’s released, the goblin rushes in like the guy in Happy Gilmore to shout, “You will not make this shot, yuh jackass!”
So who is this goblin? Some might call it a demon, a low self-esteem agent, a misfiring of the gene-encoding regulator of G protein signaling 2 (RGS2). Whatever it is, this little molecular monster has one joy in life: to see you suffer.
In LeBron James’ case, not only does he deal with his own personal mind goblin, he has one on the outside too. Ladies and gentlemen, Skip Bayless.
Somehow this skinny old man who can’t be more than 5’6’’ tall has turned the best basketball player on the planet, a 6’8’’ physical monster who makes more in 12 minutes of an NBA game than I’ll make in a year, into the kid on the playground whose being held upside down by his ankles while the bully’s buddies steal his lunch money.
It’s bizarre. It’s contagious. There’s never been anything like it in sports.
Down 3-2 to the Celtics and looking like the Big Three era was headed to an end, I don’t know what LeBron could do on the basketball court to get out of the hole. It’s like that “Simpsons Did It” episode of South Park.
LeBron hits the Game tying three! Yawn, MJ hit game winning shots.
LeBron carries his team to the NBA Finals! Yawn, let me know when he wins a title.
All 11 other Heat players fouled out and LeBron took on the Thunder 1-on-5 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and won!—yeah, but the refs missed the obvious traveling call.
So where did it all start to go wrong for LeBron? My theory is it has nothing to do with The Decision, the Celebration, the Mavericks loss, the rise of Skip Bayless, the twitter jokes, etc., I think it all began to unravel when he forgot to be himself.
Remember the multi-role commercial making, Eddie Murphy of the NBA LeBron? The ESPY hosting LeBron who took out his frustration on losing to the Spurs by performing his version of Bobby’s Brown’s “My Prerogative”? The singing, dancing, laughing LeBron?
It all seems like ancient footage now. I think this was the real, authentic, fun loving King James. And we all loved him. Why? Because, as William Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet:
This, above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
America doesn’t demand perfection or any specific type of character traits for the celebrities we adore. We are a nation that loves Kevin Durant’s humility, but loved the boastful prime of Muhammad Ali. Millions admire Tim Tebow’s religious devotion but would trade lives with Hugh Hefner in a heartbeat. We admire Bill Gates for setting up the multi-billion dollar charity, but help fund the monster that is Kim Kardashian’s wallet.
I like all of the following stars, in no particular order: Flavor Flav, Bruce Springsteen, Adam Sandler, Lady Gaga, Wes Anderson, Kristin Wiig.
What do these people have in common? They all seem to know who they are and stick to it.
But in year one when LeBron went to Miami he tried to recreate himself. He was ready to embrace the role of the villain. The mayor in his mind went to all of the local businesses and told them about the switch:
(Memory Bank). Alright guys, all the happy memories, burn ‘em, no more soft stuff around here anymore. Just pain. Anything negative, have it ready, we’re runnin’ off hate from now on.
(coffee shop) Musicians, nothing but hard rock. I want 24-7 ‘let the bodies hit the floor.’ Artists, draw me up some, I dunno, some dead puppies or something. Writers, more blood and guts in the dreams.
(self-esteem center) You guys make me sick. Take those banners down. We’ve won nothing yet. The 4th quarter of the Pistons game? Are you kidding me? Take that shit down. From now on nothing goes up unless it says NBA Champion. Nothing!
The town began to rot. The goblin smiled. A year later LeBron wanted to go back to being happy.
Mayor: Ok, get all the old stuff back out, we’re fun LeBron again.
Town: But, um, we burnt all that stuff…
Mayor: Why the hell would you do that?
Town: You, um, told us to?
Mayor: And you listened?!
Goblin: Te he.
In the Michael Jordan dominated world that is the NBA, LeBron made the mistake in thinking championships were more important than self. And it’s an understandable desire. It was choosing between being everybody’s buddy or a legend who generations of people would respect as a champion.
His mistake: Not thinking the two could go together.
He chose to put a lot of pressure on himself, we dumped on gallons more, and it seemed impossible to meet all of these growing expectations.
Then came Game 6 of the Celtics series. Most people will agree, with all things considered, this is the best game of LeBron’s career. Then, as a follow-up act in Game 7, he led the team again in one of those uniquely specific to LeBron James types of, “Oh, just another 31 points, 12 rebounds game.”
But to me, the most important part of the last two games was what he revealed in his post-game interview with Doris Burke after Game 7.
“I got back to what I know I’m capable of doing and that’s having fun with this game,” LeBron said, he pauses for a brief second, starts to smile. “Believing in my self and my teammates. I’m happy to be in a good place.”
Bigger smile on his face.
In a little more than a week, LeBron will either be a champion or empty handed after three career trips to the finals. There will either be new LeBron can’t finish jokes (might be justifiable, might not be) or images of LeBron, I imagine, crying with the trophy (hopefully not saying, ‘Go back to your lame lives, you got nothing on me now!”).
There will be over-exaggerations one-way or the other. Is this the end of the Big Three? Is the Heat the next dynasty? Is the Thunder going to win 10 titles in a row? Is “is” really the right grammatical choice with Heat and Thunder even though “are” sounds better but continually gets underlined as wrong in Microsoft Word? Does Tebow watch basketball?
There will still be people who hate LeBron, love LeBron, and millions who wish he was on their favorite NBA (or NFL) team. The goblins will start new plots against him while many ex-LeBron fans might start taking him back.
If LeBron tries to please everyone, he’ll please no one. The best thing for LeBron to do:
Keep having fun.
Be lieve in himself.