Before Game 3 of the NBA Finals was not the time for Lebron James to confess he was tired, physically and emotionally, from the strain of trying to represent the idea of Greatness to four generations of sports fans.
The time for that, it turned out, was a few hours later, after Game 3.
“Obviously it’s physically and emotionally draining,” James said. “Because I give everything to the game and want to put myself and my teammates in a position to be successful. So, you know, but I lay it all on the floor. I did that tonight. I gave it everything I had both mentally and physically, so obviously I’m drained right now, I’m ready to get home.”
What changed in the meantime was that James and the Cleveland Cavaliers played their butts off, and still lost to the Golden State Warriors 118-113 in Cleveland. James played 46 minutes, and had 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
As far as you can tell on the court, the man is impervious to fatigue, mental and physical. It could be that James’ body is so strong, and his virtuosity as a player is so extraordinary that emotional fatigue isn’t capable of taking him down, as it might for almost every other player since Wilt Chamberlain.
Admitting fatigue is tricky business in sports. Donovan McNabb learned that the hard way. The whole thing in sports is, if you’re out there, you’re expected to perform. Especially if you’re supposed to be the greatest player of all time.
And Lebron does. The man performs. He delivers. He’s met every expectation ever placed upon him. He was supposed to be one of the best players of all time, and he did that. He was supposed to do that while representing his city, his country, his family, the game of basketball, and himself like a champion, and he has. He was supposed to make himself a pseudo-political figure that had something to say without alienating too many people, and he even did that.
You tell Lebron what he needs to do to earn your approval, and by golly he’ll do it. But he can’t make himself a sociopath. He can’t just detach from reality. His game is physical, not ethereal.
His life is exhausting. The season is exhausting. The Warriors are unbeatable.
The man is exhausted. Of course he is.