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In The Court Of The Crimson King

There is no denying that LeBron James carries a certain presence. Forget that last night’s first opportunity to see him wearing a Heat jersey to actually play basketball is still the ultimate tease in what seemed ages ago since he announced his decision. Yes, these games are meaningless in a sense but after a summer’s long of hype and subsequent controversy it was still quite the rehearsal dinner. Two and a half hours before tipoff there was LeBron alongside his new teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh out on the floor in their warmups. As camera crews were setting up in the sidelines and Heat dancers were going through their moves, the three stars went largely silent as they went about their business taking jumper after jumper. I was going about my own business too, having moments ago acquired my first ever season media credential and taking it all in. LeBron certainly grabbed your attention even in this busy environment. Getting up close and personal with someone that has the athleticism and creativity of Wade packaged in Udonis Haslem’s super-sized body does that to you. Sure I had witnessed him first-hand at the party held in the AA Arena after LeBron’s decision and again at the Heat’s media day. Both times the Heat jersey looked more like a costume on him, or a really well done Photoshopped picture, due to not having any frame of reference of any actual games played for the team. Of course there was also the curiosity of seeing Bosh on a constant basis after limited national TV appearances while playing his entire career up in Toronto. Coupled with how the two would interact with Wade in a competitive game alongside a mix of new and old teammates made for some genuine intrigue not ever seen for a preseason game in recent memory. Yet somehow between that time and the actual tip off I must have missed the press conference where Wade, Pat Riley and Micky Arison officially gave the keys of the franchise to LeBron. There must have been one because after a single preseason game in which Wade only played a few minutes, some in the media are already matter-of-factly reported it as such: This is LeBron’s team now. I’ve been around the team longer than someone in the national media like, say, Adrian Wojnarowski has and all I’ve seen and heard so far are all the right things from the reigning two-time MVP despite what I’m led to believe if I took everything I read as gospel. Maybe I’m a newbie around these parts but I’m more inclined to wait a little bit before I write such a grandiose declaration instead of jumping the gun. Like maybe after several months, if not years. Maybe even after their careers have ended. Maybe never. Yet, after one game some are ready to declare it as such, already setting up some sort of hypothetical and purely imagined power struggle between the two superstars and friends. Yes, after a preseason game that includes seven more to go. Let’s not forget that the Heat will play at least 82 actual games and after that what might be a dozen or more in the postseason in just the first year of a multiyear commitment. But Wojnarowski, a fine NBA writer might I add, still felt the need to romanticize the entire scene with this sweeping statement: "Yes, (Wade) desperately needed the help. Yet, they had come to take Wade for granted here, and James is the shinny, sparkling new toy." If Wade is Woody, everyone’s favorite toy who has been around for years, then LeBron surely is the Buzz Lightyear. I get that. But at what time has the Heat EVER taken Wade for granted? Was it after that minor hamstring injury or was it before when the franchise held a weeklong celebration at the start of free agency for the greatest Heat player ever? Maybe it’s like the beginning of any relationship where everyone is on their best behavior. Much like a Real World season, inevitably most people will show their true colors and it can still manifest in front of the cameras. No matter how rehearsed LeBron may appear to be right now, from what I can tell he has been as humble and low key as the best player in the NBA has a right to be. I just stressed the word "may" in the last sentence. I also like to pepper in the words like "possibly", "appear" or "likely" in my articles. I wouldn’t want you to think I presume to know something as intangible a new concept as who’s team this new Heat is with such conviction. Yet, I don’t see any of these words coming from Woj to express an opinion. Without them it sure sounds like facts I’m reading after one preseason game. "Opening night of the preseason, Wade was pushed to the side and everyone saw they could leave him the captain, the spokesman, the last man introduced to the laser light show. They could leave everything in place for Dwyane Wade except for the fact that the Miami Heat no longer belong to him. A force of nature showed on the shores of Biscayne Bay, grabbed the ball and never looked back." Maybe this is still D-Wade’s city and franchise, but this is LeBron James’ team now. King James doesn’t do deferential." Well that settles that. Unless you’re actually interested in reading the entirety of LeBron’s thoughts on his role on the team.
No matter how many weapons we got on the court, I’m still going to play my game. I can’t defer. If I have an opening I’m going to go for it. If I have a look I’m going for it. You can see that I don’t have to force many shots. If the shot is there I’m going to go for it but I have guys that can make shots and guys that can make plays for other guys. So it’s not a lot of pressure on me making shots every time I shoot one but I’m never going to defer. I’m always in attack mode.
But that doesn’t really fit into his new role as ruler of the Heat so let’s just cherry-pick the word "defer" and warp it into something else that better fits a certain bias against LeBron. The man has averaged 27.8 points in his career so maybe it’s a good idea to let him score when he thinks he should. Wojnarowski isn’t the only writer to not just make the case that this is LeBron’s team but to declare it as such already. Nor is this an indictment on all of them as "bad" reporters. Perhaps it’s simply a byproduct of a modern age where the most important goal is to be the first among the crowd to make such sweeping statements or break news but not necessarily be the most rational. Maybe I’m old school at the ripe old age of 32. I grew up listening to Chick Hearn in countless broadcasts while great Laker teams spoiled me with basketball of the highest level. I still enjoy the sports section over breakfast. I think having several broadcasters during the playoffs is overkill and wish they would at times just shut up so I can just watch the game unfiltered and form my own conclusions. Reading this sort of conjecture from writers I respect kind of makes me long for the good old days. But that’s why I got in the biz myself, to report on the game I love. Along the way I’ve met and read a lot of amazing work from bloggers and reporters and a lot of that wouldn’t be possible without new technology, new concepts like advanced stat analysis and through social media outlets like Twitter. I’ll be the guy there at the AA Arena trying not to smile as I interview players. I’m just happy to be here. I have a hunch that LeBron is happy to be here too. Just don’t quote me on that one yet.