Cynics should be taking Sports Illustrated’s choice to award LeBron James with the Sportsman of the Year award as their initial instinct suggests. Other athletes, other bad dudes and dudettes, have taken in more scorn. Other athletes have been the focus of all out cable TV marathons, daytime television dedicated to their potential and little else. Others have been trumped up, to ridiculous levels, merely for acting the centerpiece for a sterling collection of winning athletes. And other athletes have risen from low points with great alacrity and to marvelous results.
With something less than ease, James has mixed all of the more unsettling aspects of our attempts to saturate things. Basketball is a team sport, but the man went nine years without a title in ways that made Michael Jordan’s frustrations (no playoff wins in his first three years for MJ, three straight losses to the same team in two different rounds, no titles for his first six seasons) seem like a smooth ascent to glory. LeBron didn’t handle it well, he rightfully left a team in the least dignified manner possible, we bashed, and he failed. And then he won, so we give him an award.