There comes a point in the life of a grown man where it’s no longer really appropriate to care deeply about professional sports. I’ve written about this before. I enjoy watching sports as much as anybody, but I realize that it’s entertainment. That’s it. My own personal self-esteem or self-worth is in no way affected by whether or not somebody puts a ball in a hoop or a goal, no more than it would be by Luke Skywalker disappearing at the end of The Last Jedi (spoiler alert). In both cases, I’m watching professional performers execute their craft.
I completely understand that, for many, the enjoyment of watching sports can be enhanced by rooting for a team or an individual to do well. I like rooting for Manchester City in the English Premier League, mostly because they play a beautiful style of football/soccer that is enjoyable to watch and produces a large amount of goals. If they lose a game (which they rarely do as of late), I simply turn off the television and go on with my day. I don’t give it another thought. Some would say that doesn’t make me a “true fan”—and they’d be right. I’m not. I just enjoy their style of play.
But there are a lot of “true fans” of the NBA today who are upset by the fact that LeBron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Los Angeles Lakers for the upcoming season, signing a rather large contract in the process. When James left the Cavaliers the first time, he departed to play in Miami with fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in pursuit of his first championship. After somewhat mixed results in South Florida, including two titles and two runner-up finishes, James returned to Cleveland and brought that city its first professional sports title in over fifty years. All’s well that ends well, right?
Except that the Cavs showed this year that they can’t compete with the best in the Western Conference, getting flat out smoked in the finals for the second consecutive year. So James, perhaps tired of playing in Cleveland, decided to leave yet again. But this time it’s a bit different, and nobody can or should really be all that mad at him. Because James has finally realized that his end game is not to win more basketball championships—it’s to build a lifelong brand.