Subtlety has never been one of LeBron James’ best traits. In fact, he has consistently displayed the opposite, preferring instead to wear his self-assurance on his sleeve despite the waves of criticism he knows it invites. From the moment he was drafted first overall in 2003, he has not been shy in expressing his confidence to the point of cockiness. It’s why, to this day, naysayers — of which there are plentiful — continue to count the myriad times he let his ego get the better of him and juxtapose them with his notable failures.
The flipside, of course, is that James has earned the right to speak the truth himself. When he says he’s “the best player in the world,” he understands his position in the sport’s hierarchy only too well. And not for nothing does he brandish the moniker “King James” with pride. For all his missteps, he has, by and large, walked the talk, and to such a remarkable degree that his place in National Basketball Association annals is secure. By most accounts based on advanced analytics, he’s at worst the second-best player ever to have graced the pro scene.
In this context, it’s no wonder, then, that James was pictured wearing a cap with the outline of a crown stitched in front shortly after he affixed his Hancock on a $153.3-million deal yesterday. With agent Rich Paul on one side and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on the other, he bore a smile that conveyed enthusiasm for the task at hand. Never mind that, as currently constituted, the roster he will lead cannot but he deemed little better than that of the Cavaliers he just left in free agency. For four years, he will be the face of the purple and gold, and he’s relishing the thought of embarking on a journey of redemption.
Certainly, James has warmed to the thought of resurrecting the prospects of a franchise resident living legend Kobe Bryant left in tatters. It’s a project he deems worthy to invest the medium term in, and enough to commit to even without assurance that any other marquee name will join him. In no small measure, it’s because he believes in himself, in what he says, in the promise he brings. It’s because he knows that he is, in the final analysis, king of his fate.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.