June 13, 2013 (a hyperbolic account of a fictional event):
San Antonio, Texas – In a shocking turn of events, during the NBA’s over-analyzed, hype-machined, and yes, critically important NBA Finals, the sports media higher-ups have unanimously decided to stop talking about LeBron James. From here on in, he must be referred to simply as “Mr. L,” if he’s discussed at all, in any medium, whether it be on the internet, the television, the radio, or that most outdated medium, print journalism.
The man who runs the 24-hour sports news cycle at ESPN (let’s call him Ernie) has gone into hiding, after suffering a nervous breakdown. LeBron James’ full first name “LeBron” as well as his full first and last names”LeBron James,” is no longer eligible for use on any ESPN or ABC network, no longer being discussed by that internet sports mega-celebrity Bill Simmons, or by anyone even loosely connected to the NBA, ESPN, ABC, Grantland, CNNSI, SB Nation, Deadspin, USA Today, or anyone, anywhere, at any time.
A fictional assistant speaking on behalf of ESPN-ABC’s “NBA Countdown,” the pre-game LeBron-fest that appears before every NBA Finals game, put it this way:
“We have been told from the higher-ups that the American people have simply exceeded their tolerance for talking about one human being. I guess during that 27-game winning streak, we just said his name too often. We’re told that the continual parallels to Michael Jordan have been particularly exhausting to the hardcore NBA fan, though the casual fans do appear to eat it up with a spoon. So you see, we are stuck. We are in a bind. Bound. We have a responsibility to our sponsors to keep up the big ratings, or we’ll all have to take a pay-cut next year, and so we followed our orders and kept saying [his] name. There was a point at which there were a rash of employees who found their significant others furious with them, because many of us were babbling his name in our sleep.
We knew we were pushing it, but after our focus groups and our search engine optimization sessions, we figured, with all the chatter out there these days, nobody would really put up a fuss. We were wrong. We apologize. From here on in, we will call him “Mr. L” or “L.” And one more thing, we will attempt to give some credit to the San Antonio Spurs over the course of the next few games.”
“The Decision.” The “Witness” advertising campaign. “King James.” The incessant pestering from the media.
Poor LeBron. Since he was out of diapers, people have been turning him into a mythological hero, a legend, royalty, the center-of-the-sporting-universe.
As an NBA lover, it becomes next to impossible to appreciate the greatest player in the game when that player’s name, his successes and his failures, makes up 90% of the noise that is connected to the game you love. We create cartoons out of the players we love and then we hate them for it. We have been doing it since Jim Thorpe and Cy Young and we will continue to do it until there are no more keyboards to type with or microphones to shove in athletes’ faces.
Jonah Hall writes The Darko Index because of Kawhi Leonard, Andrew Bogut, Avery Bradley, Tony Allen, Paul George, and the ocean of defensive-focused NBA players who also make watching professional basketball fantastic. Contact Jonah at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you desire, twitter @darkoindex. Just don’t discuss Mr. L.