When most people think of Lebron James, they think one thing: basketball superstar. And the reasons why are pretty clear. He has started in 930 of the 931 career games in which he has played and has scored a whopping 25,443 points over his career to date. In the 2015 postseason, he averaged 48.1 minutes per game — and a regulation NBA game is 48 minutes, so think about overtime games — and became only the third player in NBA playoff history to record game highs in points, rebounds, and assists in the NBA finals. James has played a dozen seasons in the NBA, and he’s not yet 31 years old.
Others may think differently when they hear James’ name mentioned. Overhyped media darling. Object of hero worship. And the reasons for those are telling as well. ESPN — always so quick to name their favorites and talk about them incessantly — speaks of him in ways they wouldn’t dare speak of any other player besides Michael Jordan. And then there was the 2010 television special “The Decision,” in which James spent an hour and fifteen minutes, aided and abetted by the ESPN hype machine, announcing his decision as a free agent to play for the Miami Heat. (He later admitted some regret over the overdone broadcast.) For me personally, the level of hero worship I see has made me reluctant to be a fan of LeBron James, much in the same way I never really cared for Jordan in his day.
Perhaps we should add another description to our impressions of LeBron James: man of faith. James grew up in a Catholic family, and he has taken his faith in the God of the Bible with him into adulthood. He has been known to help church basketball programs and has even played in church league games from time to time. In one interview he gave credit for his abilities to the Almighty:
The grace of God above, He gave me this athleticism…
He has even led prayers for injured teammates on occasion. But in one interview last week, James admitted that he only knows one man who will never let him down: Jesus Christ.
Last week, an injury-plagued Cleveland Cavaliers took on the New Orleans Pelicans, and although James put up 37 points — a total he has only matched one other time this season — the Cavs came up short in overtime, losing 114-108. A reporter asked him if the return of injured teammates Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert would turn the team’s recent fortunes around, and James replied with both wit and wisdom:
It’s only one guy in the world, ever, where everything will be all right when he comes back, and that’s Jesus Christ. Other than that, you can’t bank on nobody being OK.
King James hath declared it, and it is so. Only Jesus guarantees never to let us down. It’s a powerful statement of faith, yet Cleveland.com writer Joe Vardon manages to use James’ statement to make fun of him. Vardon peppers his coverage of James’ admission with cutesy lines like:
Who knew the King James Bible had a New Orleans dateline?
You know, neither Irving nor Shumpert could’ve knocked Holiday’s game-tying three out of the sky. Nor could they have given James’ jumper the proper guidance it needed to find the center of the hoop.
The articles headline puts “Jesus Christ” in quotes, as though nobody at the website quite knows what to do with the name of the Son of God. (“Who is this guy LeBron’s talking about?” “I don’t know. He sounds like an expletive.”)
I’ve gained a new respect for LeBron James after hearing of his simple statement of faith, witty yet profound. Kudos to King James for sharing his faith in a surprising way. At the same time, I’m a bit disappointed in Joe Vardon and Cleveland.com for using the quote to make fun of James for admitting that there’s Somebody out there who’s bigger and better than he is.