His rise to "global icon'' has occurred only after overcoming an impoverished and fatherless childhood. As a teenager, he handled the drooling attention of being "The Chosen One'' on the cover of Sports Illustrated with aplomb. He joined his home-state team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, dutifully surrounded himself with friends, and provided the Mistake by the Lake some of its most glorious athletic experiences ever.
So he's not a natural-born villain. He's simply now in the process of providing himself on-the-job training.
In just a few short months since leaving the Cavs to join his "Superfriends'' with the Miami Heat, James has undergone a metamorphosis.
He was predestined to be The Next Jordan.
Instead, now, he plows off into the ditch of being The Next A-Rod, The Next Bonds, The Next Vick … or worst of all, is throwing himself over the ropes as The Next Undertaker, The Next "Nature Boy' Ric Flair, The Next Randy "Macho Man'' Savage, The Next Bobby "The Brain'' Heenan.
Why? Because the ongoing performances of LeBron "The King'' James are over-the-top, silly and cartoonish.
Oh, and like pro wrestling, fake.
When James reacted to his former team's 112-57 loss to the Lakers this week by tweeting, "Crazy. Karma is a bitch. Gets you every time. It's not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!" … he was taking a dig at Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and James' spurned fans.
There are a multitude of problems with this.
*First, Cleveland isn't now a bad team because owner Gilbert expressed some negative views of the departing LeBron; Cleveland is bad because LeBron departed.
*Second, "bad karma'' is, as always, something we think happens to somebody else. If I get a good break in life? I earned it, or God smiled on me. If I catch a bad break?
"Why God? Why me!''
Indeed, the night after LeBron's karma tweet, his team played the lowly Clippers. Miami lost – and LeBron sustained an ankle sprain.
*Third, while many of us believe that "God sees everything,'' even those of us who are passionate sports fans believe that "seeing'' and "watching'' and "caring'' are two different things. When my wife watches "The Bachelor,'' I see it, but … after the Cleveland Cavaliers were embarrassed in LA versus the Lakers on Monday.
*And most of all: James is an inept villain because shortly after the tweet was released, he tried to retract it.
LeBron is now claiming his tweet wasn't his tweet. What, a hacker? Nah … LeBron simply re-tweeted somebody else's tweet to him, he says …
"It was just how I was feeling at the time," James told the Sun-Sentinel."It wasn't even a comment from me. It was someone who sent it to me and I sent it out … I don't think it was no intent at all … It wasn't no hit at that (Cleveland) franchise, no hit at that team, especially those players, at all."
Real Villains Don't Alibi.
Actually, I think Real Villains Don't Tweet, Either.
A villain – the role James simply must embrace now that he is an overdog, playing alongside Dwyane Wade, playing under Pat Riley, living The Life in glamorous South Beach – doesn't antagonize by inserting his thumbs in his ears and waggling his fingers … which is what a tweet argument is. A villain also doesn't orchestrate a grand and lacking-in-self-awareness press conference to announce his plans to "take his talents'' somewhere. (WWE has its announcements, but the pomp is artificial; LeBron's "The Decision'' on ESPN was sincere in its lack of humility.) A villain doesn't upload to the internet a photograph of the birthday cake he's given himself, a 6-foot high pile of confection featuring a huge golden "LJ'' and topped by a crown befitting "The King.''
Tweeting? Tearful pomp? Baked goods?
What is this, "Wrestlemania'' or MTV's "My Super Sweet 16''?
Down deep inside of LeBron James, it's still lives. The effervescent showman who reserved most of the show for in between the lines. The freakish athlete who could lead the NBA in scoring, if he wanted to, but could also lead the NBA in assists, if he wanted to … and on any given night, might do both. The devoted Ohioan, the selfless leader, the young man who seemed like the type that used to laugh at people who spoke of themselves in the third person or bothered with sitdowns with Larry King. And in fairness, has LeBron ended up in a Dallas uniform (as pictured above), I know this space would be more tolerant of his foibles.
Nevertheless, LeBron James is an inept villain. Still, if he keeps practicing at it, maybe he'll someday master the skill.