Allen Iverson: “I had my cornrows; now you see police officers with cornrows. That used to be the look of the suspect [laughs]. So that part of it makes me feel good because I know I had to take a beating for other guys to be accepted the way they are.”
Trend setters have it rough. Imagine the difficulties faced by those advocating space travel for the first time. Yeah they obviously had support and financial backing or it would have never have happened. Try walking up to someone and saying “Let’s fly to outer space”
[A]fter the rocket quits our air and really starts on its longer journey, its flight would be neither accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left. To claim that it would be is to deny a fundamental law of dynamics, and only Dr. Einstein and his chosen dozen, so few and fit, are licensed to do that.
The above quote is from the New York Times looking with disdain at Robert Goddard’s idea of building a rocket which would fly to space. Wearing a cornrow is possible for a cop because Allen Iverson brought what is perceived as a extreme hairstyle to the mainstream. Space travel is possible because Robert Goddard took the ridicule heaped upon him by the press such and pressed ahead with his vision. Superteams are possible in part because LeBron James set himself up as the fall guy and took the heat for going to the Heat.
If you look at it objectively leaving aside the issue of loyalty to one’s team and the expectation of bloodthirsty rivalry which we believe superstars to have, what LeBron did wasn’t so bad. Its not like saying that if you leave aside the legal issues then robbing a bank isn’t so bad. What LeBron did wasn’t heinous. It did shatter the idea of a athlete being the ultimate role model of loyalty and high ideals, better their skills, higher the pedestal we place them upon. And the fall from expectations is long and hard.
The scorn LeBron invited upon himself came from two quarters. (not the fourth, that joke was formally laid to rest this season after the Finals and Olympics). One, he left his team. Two, he didn’t just leave Cleveland, he teased, led on and then dumped Cleveland on national tv.
That season LeBron was made out to be a villain. One step above the bogeyman. For the sake of good drama, going into ‘I am whatever you say I am’ mode, LeBron embraced the scorn and hate and he rose above all in two seasons. A lot of the preening and posturing was him just going with the image the public fostered upon him. He took the blast full on, absorbed it and acted as the shield for all those who looked to follow in his footsteps. Chris Paul went to join Blake Griffin. Carmelo Anthony left to join Amare and the Knicks. And now Steve Nash and Dwight Howard went to join the Lakers. And the vicious backlash from the media has been mellow for Melo, pale for Paul and light for Dwight.
We had the indecision from Dwight, the mocking of Melo when the Knicks struggled and Nuggets prospered, but it has all been lightweight compared to what LeBron took on. LeBron’s brand value plummeted in the aftermath of his Decision. His jerseys were burned. He became the villain we all needed to make the narrative spicy.
Talking about a player’s loyalty to the team. Look at the other side of the story, team’s loyalty to the player. Teams release players all the time. Jermey Lin was cast aside by the Rockets, now they were clamouring to get him this season, admitting that they had made a mistake in letting him go. Loyalty is a two way street. Orlando Magic had a beautiful gameplan on offense with Dwight Howard:
- Dump the ball down low to Dwight.
- If he’s triple teamed he kicks it out for a three.
That was pretty much the playbook of the Magic. When we talk about loyalty we need to see if the teams are serving the best interests of the player. Allen Iverson was surrounded by the most woeful supporting cast a superstar can be saddled with. He left for Denver to join Carmelo.
Here’s the kind of reception he received when he returned to deliver the game ball in Philadelphia:
Mark my words, the day will come when LeBron returns to play in Cleveland amidst cheers and applause. He set the trend, he took the beating, and he paved the way for others to exercise their free will. If your organization won’t give you the pieces you need to win a championship, you need to go out and get your own. If LeBron hadn’t done what he did, we would be hearing a lot more of Kobe needing Howard and Nash to win, how his rings are inferior to MJ, and it would go on.
Forty nine years later, after mocking Goddard for his rocket dreams, New York Times released a ‘correction’:
Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.
Years from now when LeBron James retires with multiple rings and MVPs in his resume, we will all witness a moment of recognition for what he dared to dream and pull off.