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LeBron like Mike (Tyson, not Jordan)

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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It’s time for commissioner David Stern to conduct a LeBron James intervention.

As much as I’ve enjoyed ridiculing, cajoling and lampooning the two-time MVP this summer, I now feel sorry for King James. A victim of unchecked ignorance is still a victim. Like most people, James simply doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

It is Stern’s job to teach him. The NBA’s most valuable asset is depreciating from self-inflicted wounds, and he’s damaging other assets in the process.

SportsCenter ran a poll question linking James and Dwyane Wade to the NFL’s Man Tan and Sleep N Eat, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Three months ago, no one would have connected James and Wade to football’s Bojangle Brothers.

If David Stern is the cutting-edge, visionary commissioner he is hailed to be, he’ll recognize it is not in the best interest of his league to have its most electrifying player cast as Flavor Flav with a jump shot.

We’re headed that direction with James.

An ESPNLosAngeles.com writer spent the weekend with The King and his Court at Las Vegas nightclubs and filed a well-written account that confirmed James is an attention whore surrounded by childhood sycophants.

The apologists who leaped logic and defended James’ classless, reality-TV-show exit from Cleveland are currently working overtime coming up with an explanation for “The Decision: Las Vegas.”

 

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Maverick Carter, the head of James’ marketing firm, LRMR, invited a writer to document his latest cash grab. Vegas nightclubs paid James to host a string of parties. It’s not a horrible decision. Paris Hilton and the Kardashians have turned party hosting into careers, and being portrayed in celebrity magazines as pampered, spoiled, narcissistic and bitchy divas who love to dance is good for their brands.

LeBron’s brand? Not so much.

Someone at LRMR or ESPN or Stern’s office figured this out and had the story removed from ESPN’s web site. Given the massive scope of negative fallout from “The Decision,” King James needed to keep his social life out of the media spotlight for a significant period of time. Maverick Carter should only invite the media to tag along when James is speaking to kids or prisoners, cutting checks to charities, visiting sick people in hospitals and/or working out in preparation for next season.

The media shouldn’t be given access to James club-hopping. Seriously, if Maverick Carter represented JaMarcus Russell, Carter would demand that general managers interview Russell at casino buffets that served grape Kool-Aid.

I apologize. I promised I was done ripping Team James.

I’m also uninterested in shredding ESPN. Chastising the World Wide Leader for a lack of journalistic ethics is a waste. The Mothership no longer pretends to be an instrument of journalism. It’s strictly a marketing tool for its business partners.

No, what’s interesting here is what Stern is going to do. The Next Michael Jordan is starting to smell like The Next Mike Tyson, a physical freak devoid of the parental foundation, maturity and intellect to manage the fame, fortune and predators bestowed upon him.

James’s entourage -- Carter, Randy Mims and Richard Paul -- don’t know what they don’t know, either. They’re in over their heads. They need help.

I respect LeBron’s desire to employ and empower his childhood friends. That desire should be nurtured and cultivated. It just needs to be redefined. You can give young people too much too soon and cripple them.

Stern can and should deliver that message. He should do it in a conference room with Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving singing in the choir.

No one expects LeBron James to be perfect. Russell, Jordan, Magic, Bird and Julius were not perfect. But none of them flirted with being despised in the prime of their careers. None of them made a series of easy-to-avoid errors that eroded their respect.

The solution is simple. LRMR should partner with a mature firm/agency. Carter, Mims and Paul need to spend five or six (more) years as associates learning the ropes. That’s how you support the people you love. You teach them to fish. You don’t dump them in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat with a spear and say, “I hope you make it back to shore.”

LeBron wasn’t dumped in the NBA. I know, he didn’t play college basketball. Still, little league, summer, junior high and high school coaches spent a lot of time developing LeBron’s God-given gifts. James didn’t exit the womb ready to take on Kobe Bryant.

Representing LeBron James is the equivalent of playing in the NBA. He’s doing himself and his friends a disservice by not requiring them to go through proper training.

Tagged: Heat

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