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LeBron's headband steals the show
LeBron James’ headband had survived so far as kind of a totem of his youth. James, at 28, has watched his hairline slowly recede for a few years now.
He has heard it used as a punch line in a Tyler, The Creator verse. And he has worn that signature headband higher and higher on his head, concealing the thin parts as his hairline retreats like a melting glacier behind it. But then the headband came off. He lost it, wonderfully enough, on the rim, as perhaps only he could.
And, look, this is not magic. He is not some kind of a reverse Sampson. But it was impossible to ignore that everything changed in that moment, and there is something just perfectly, comically, gloriously LeBron about that.
The Spurs had controlled James and Game 6 until then on Tuesday night. James, the best player in the world, had looked afraid to take a 19-foot jump shot and reluctant to bully himself into the lane, to post up, to assert that he is, indeed, the best player in the world. “The headband was the least of my worries at that point,” James said.
And yet once the façade came off, James became the force of nature everyone expects him to be. He posted up, he shoved himself into the lane and set the building on fire.
Soon the Spurs’ comfortable lead was gone. James scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, finishing with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. And that being the case, the LeBron headband now joins Curt Schilling’s bloody sock on the short list of mystical sports garments of the 21st century.
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By about midnight there were more than 100 LeBron's Headband accounts on Twitter and by Wednesday morning, the offshore sports book Bovada was offering odds on whether James would start Game 7 with it on or off -- On (-200), off (+150).
By the afternoon, James had said he would be wearing the headband to start Game 7, and the suspense lifted. It had caused quite a commotion. That’s where it stops, though. Schilling pitched that World Series game with a shot-out ankle. Michael Jordan had the Flu Game. Willis Reed strode out of that tunnel with a busted-up knee.
James lost the athlete’s version of a hairpiece. It was so very King James. He can’t have a Willis Reed moment because he never gets hurt.
It can’t be a bloody headband because he never bleeds. He may not be susceptible to communicable diseases.
All of James’ weaknesses are only weaknesses of image. He is not competitive enough or he is not clutch enough or he’s a jerk for leaving Cleveland like that. Whatever it is, it’s always about the way he’s perceived, which is what the headband is about.
It’s style and vanity, and even if it isn’t literally important, we can all have a laugh at how something so superficial appeared to be so meaningful. It wouldn’t be a true LeBron moment if we all weren’t desperately assigning meaning to some trivial thing.
He, like a few of his contemporaries in popular culture (Kanye West, Tim Tebow) inspire people to dance with preposterous notions. That’s what happens with people who are difficult to explain, and James qualifies as that.
So — why not? — it must have been the headband.
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