If you’re an ends-justify-the-means guy, LeBron is nearly unimpeachable at this point. However rocky the process can be — The Decisions, channeling his effort based on his mood, subtweeting teammates — he’s amassed three rings and counting. Wherever you rank him on your subjective list, he’s one of the several best players of all-time. That’s good, right?
Whether you or I like LeBron or not is ultimately inconsequential, and perhaps you think he’s earned this right, but he can be a self-absorbed brat at times. When the Cavs were down 3-1 to the Warriors, he wore an Undertaker t-shirt. It didn’t take an advanced math degree to compute that this was intended as symbolism that the team was going to come back from the dead. Retroactively, this only has more significance.
Fast-forward to the Cavs’ season opener. The Undertaker was in attendance, and he met Kevin Love. Curiously, there were no photo ops with LeBron. In a mailbag last week, Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon answered a question about why:
James arrived at The Q before the wrestler and his posse, and claimed not to know he was out there. But of course the word immediately spread through the locker room that The Undertaker was waiting outside. Here’s a life lesson. If you don’t have an appointment, don’t already know James personally, aren’t a business associate or a small child, the odds of “meeting” James before or after a Cavs game in or near the locker room are not great. I once saw Houston Astros stud second baseman Jose Altuve try to get a meeting with James after a game against the Houston Rockets in Texas. The request came through various team PR officials. Let’s just say James had no interest.
Okay. Let’s take this piece by piece. Later Fox Sports attributed WWE sources in writing, “Undertaker was a guest of the Cavaliers and his travel expenses were covered by the team.” Fox subsequently removed Cleveland.com’s reporting, and, weirdly, any mention at all of LeBron not meeting Taker (which was the whole reason we’re talking about this now), from the piece.
As far as comparing Jose Altuve to The Undertaker, would you know who Altuve is if he were wearing his jersey in front of you in line at the post office? Did LeBron get attention from referencing his gimmick and then make good on that prophecy?
Another rule. James is not cool with someone purposefully trying to make money or gain fame through him, away from the court. In other words, no PR stunts that don’t benefit James. He wore an Undertaker T-shirt. For him, that’s enough.
Look man. You might not respect professional wrestling because the outcomes are scripted. However, within the confines of that genre, which a lot of people do care about, The Undertaker has accomplished more than enough that his brand isn’t massively elevated by LeBron wearing his t-shirt. He won over 20 consecutive WrestleMania matches and is still able to get himself into phenomenal ring shape in his 50’s. His contributions to keeping WWE in business when they were raided by WCW in the 1990’s were monumental.
When I first saw this piece, my reaction was that LeBron was being petty, and easily could’ve gone and met him for two minutes and let this photo op make the rounds. How heavy is LeBron’s water?
Further, if WWE is to be believed — and it would take a lot of hubris to tell an outright lie that is easily disprovable by paper trail from a franchise that has every incentive to keep LeBron satisfied — LeBron looks even worse. Whether this was a miscommunication between the team and him, or he knew of the appearance in advance and rebuffed it all along, this is just another example of why a lot of people root against LeBron and/or look for reasons to minimize his accomplishments.