The Once and Future King

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“What should I do? Should I be who you want me to be?”

Those were the last words out of LeBron James’s mouth as his immortal 1:30 Nike commercial came to a close.

The questions hung, as if the answers were somewhere lost in the airwaves, waiting to be broadcast. The questions resounded in our subconscious, our message boards, our sports radio dials. “What should I do?” He looked us all in the eye, and begged us to answer his eternal question. “Should I be who you want me to be?” The screen would fade to black, with white text: “Just Do It.”

We all had the answer. All of us, except LeBron, it seemed. Every person has a question in life – one that can only be answered by he alone. This was LeBron’s. That’s why it seemed so maddening that he would ask the whole world – in earnest or in jest. But that’s why we kept watching.

“What should I do?”

The irony of the ‘Chosen One”s legacy is that it seems as though he’s never really chosen it for himself. He’s always let other forces do the choosing. Even “The Decision” seemed less like a choice than a calculated process of elimination – the output of a formula put through the filters of his inner circle. His actions on and off court often seem constricted by considerations that are far from personal – considerations of legacy, of how others will view him. If the greatest player in the game today is also the most un-liberated, what does that say about him? What does that mean for this league? What happens if and when he does become liberated?

“Should I be who you want me to be?”

LeBron’s constant state of being on the verge of both greatness and failure has pushed the intrigue of the NBA to rarely charted territory. And now, as all of us stand on the brink of this season, LeBron seems ready for an answer.

(This article was inspired by this wonderful work of Adrian Wojnarowski, who in this piece takes a look at the world LeBron has built, and the world we’ve built for him.)

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