When the story of the Orlando Magic's game 6 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers hit the airwaves last night, it seemed no one really cared that the Magic are heading to the NBA finals to play the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead, the focus was on the post-game behavior of Cavaliers megastar and NBA MVP LeBron James. After the final buzzer, James left the court without congratulating the Orland players and, horror of horrors, didn't talk to the media.
I immediately thought of another young superstar whose hopes of glory were dashed: Opie Taylor. Young Opie had hopes of winning the 50-yard dash in the Mayberry boys track championships. How could he lose? He even had Barney Fife, the Jillian Michaels of pee wee track trainers, preparing his body for greatness. But, it was not to be. Opie came out of the gate like the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. Opie made a quick exit for home without congratulating his friends or speaking to the Mayberry Gazette. When his dad, Sheriff Andy, found him at home, Opie made it clear: "They're not my friends. They beat me and they took my medal." Andy then gave one of the best fatherly speeches of all-time and, in the end, Opie came back and told his Pa he didn't want Andy to be disappointed in him.
LeBron James is not a bad guy, but last night he made a childish decision after the game. If many of us think back to the age of 24, we made many decisions of which we are not proud. That isn't an excuse for bad behavior. It was childish, selfish and immature. The whole sports world had been building up a Kobe v. Lebron NBA finals and Lebron certainly has enjoyed the hype and all that goes with it. When the final seconds ticked away on Saturday night, LeBron forget that there was more involved than his ego and his fame.
LeBron James has received mostly positive press over the years. This is deserved. He comes off as a very down-to-earth and nice guy. I haven't been much of an NBA fan since the days of Bird and Magic, but I really like LeBron. He seems like he could really be "one of the guys." I have a feeling that this young man is sick inside today, not only from the disappointing loss but from hearing so many negative comments about him. My prediction is that LeBron will get it. I think he values the position he has developed as a public figure and will say the right things to apologize for his lack of judgment in that moment.
Opie Taylor went on to be one of Mayberry's finest young men. LeBron James, too, will recover from this and continue to be a great player and an admirable young man.