Here's some real talk for LeBron James, the kind he didn't get in 2010 when he made the glorious decision to go on live national television and put a stake in Cleveland's sporting heart. Some people have advisors. LeBron has ass-kissers, friends and family who long ago latched onto Superman's adolescent cape and rode it to riches. Hey, good for them.
Most times, good for LeBron too. Most times, an unadulterated ass-kisser is the friend a person like LeBron needs. Those people, genetic lottery winners like LeBron and Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, need unconditional support from somebody. No, really. They live in a cocoon of round-the-clock noise, and this is a day and age when only the nastiest noise gets through. People like LeBron, they need loyal friends. Someone to tell them the haters are wrong, you won't look ridiculous with that vacuous NBA player or in that egomaniacal pose or on national television telling Akron you're taking your talents 1,200 miles away. You're the best,
Kimye, Biebs LeBron. Everyone needs support.
But this is one of those times when LeBron needs to hear not the smooching of lips on his rear end, but the hard sound of truth. And if none of the leeches in his posse will tell him for fear of being shunned or banished, I will. Can't banish me. The worst LeBron can do is ignore this:
Those are the choices for The Decision 2.0, the only two if his reputation matters to him at all. And it does. We all know it does. He was stung -- and shocked, because all those ass-kissers around him had told him what a great idea it was! -- when the country recoiled at the enormity of his ego and the shrinkage of his heart as he gamed the system in 2010 to leave behind northeast Ohio for South Florida.
Roughly 60 percent of the response to an ESPN SportsNation poll in 2010 said The Decision had done "permanent damage" to his image. And that number sounds low to me. If 40 percent of America was OK with LeBron after that whole thing, when he surrounded himself with the Boys & Girls Club of America, as if he was doing this for the kids -- the kids! -- and hand-picked Jim Gray as his emcee and used an hour of prime time to celebrate the wonders of LeBron ... I missed it. I didn't hear 40 percent approval for LeBron James in 2010. Did you?
As impossible as it seems, he could be on the verge of doing it again. Not the live TV show, far as we know, though to put anything beyond LeBron and his team of tone-deaf opportunists would be a mistake. They could do this again on ESPN, or worse, take it to pay-per-view. Charge us $14.99 to watch LeBron say he's taking his talents to Lake Shore Boulevard. I'd pay it. Lots of us would. Tell the world there's about to be an accident outside their window, and you won't see shades pulled. You'll see people sitting on ledges, eating popcorn.
LeBron has two options, and they're great options, but they're his only options. One, he can stay in Miami and show the loyalty most of us wanted to see from him in 2010. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not, but we judge our mythical figures differently than we judge Nicholas next door. Oh, Nicholas wants to leave my nice neighborhood for one of those ritzy, gated communities? You go, Nick. Pursue that dream.
LeBron is leaving Cleveland for Miami? How awful.
That's how it is, how it always will be for men we turn into idols, following them on Twitter and buying their shoes and liking their Instagram post of today's view from Cabo. We give these people so much of ourselves, but we expect something in return. Too much? Nah. It's a fair trade. They have the fame and fortune and fawning, and in return we want them to show certain virtues. Loyalty is one, and I'm not holding that desire at arm's length -- I'm saying, that's how I feel too. When great athletes are loyal to a city and a fan base, it's heartwarming. When they're not? It's disgusting.
Unfair? Don't think so. To whom much is given, much is expected. And this is what we expect from LeBron: Show Miami the loyalty you didn't show Cleveland and stay with the Heat -- or show loyalty to Cleveland and return to the Cavaliers. I don't know that I'm tapping into what much of America thinks, but this feels right to me. America would be OK with LeBron if he stays in Miami and tries to win with whatever financial handcuffs the Heat face. If he goes back to Cleveland and tries to return those rags to his pre-Decision riches? America would swoon. We love a humble homecoming.
If he chases titles in Chicago or Los Angeles or Houston? America won't be OK with that. The winning city would be OK with it, just as Miami suddenly embraced LeBron in 2010, but that's what we as sports fans do: Ignore the warts because those are now our warts. And besides, LeBron doesn't have warts. They're beauty marks. You shut up! Jealous hater.
LeBron has the right to go wherever he wants, don't get me wrong, but don't ignore America's rights, either. And we'd absolutely have the right to despise him if he goes to a new city with new toys and tries to game the system again and win new titles there.
Lots of us -- including me -- recovered from The Decision in 2010. Lots of us went from revulsion to anger to resentment to acceptance to being able to enjoy LeBron for what he is, which is the single greatest talent to ever play this game.
Would we be able to recover from The Decision 2.0? Don't know. Don't find out, LeBron.
Ask your friends, and they'll tell you ... exactly what you want to hear.