Is LeBron James A Fool?

LeBron's Return To Cleveland

LeBron’s Return To Cleveland

On Thursday, October 30th, 2014, basketball star, LeBron James played his first game since he rejoined the Cleveland Cavaliers. James’ career has been very eventful. The number one overall pick in the 2003 draft, LeBron is known as the best basketball player in the world today. He is viewed as a hometown hero to Cavaliers Fans, as James grew up 40 minutes away from Cleveland in Akron. James proudly represented Cleveland, making a commitment to bring a championship to his fans. On April 10th, 2010, before the playoffs, James told the media, “I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland, and I won’t stop until I get it.” He had all of Cleveland’s support.

Fans burn James' jersey after he announces he is going to Miami.

Fans burn James’ jersey after he announces he is going to Miami.

However, after failing to win a championship, LeBron made a controversial decision on July 8th, 2010. After playing his first seven seasons with the Cavaliers, James took his talents to Miami to create a super team with all-stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron became one of the most hated athletes in the world. Many thought that James betrayed Cleveland, who had supported him since the beginning of his career. He was called a traitor and quitter. Cleveland passionately showed their hatred of James, thinking that he broke his promise to bring them a championship.

When James arrived to Miami, there was a dramatic media event for the fans. James made his famous speech, telling the fans that he expected to bring multiple (not 1, not 2…not 7) championships to Miami. After 4 years with the Heat, James and his teammates won two championships. After the Heat had a disappointing Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, LeBron again became a free agent and decided to return to Cleveland. Cleveland fans, who had despised LeBron for leaving them, immediately forgave him. This season, Cleveland is projected to be one of the best teams in the NBA. After years of disappointment and hatred toward LeBron, Cavaliers fans again have a good team to support.

Throughout his career, LeBron has been accused of making and breaking many covenants to his fans and teammates. According to Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher, one who breaks covenants is a fool. He claims that by breaking promises, one is denying justice. A fool thinks that there is no reason not to break a covenant if it benefits him. Hobbes’ says that this is foolish because one needs allies to succeed, and breaking covenants ends alliances.

Does this mean that LeBron James is a fool? Using Hobbes’ reasoning it would follow that LeBron James has lost many allies. Fans believe that he broke multiple promises. Former teammates feel abandoned. Shouldn’t Cleveland fans still be mad at LeBron? Should other players not want to play with James if he has a reputation for leaving his team if they lose? In LeBron’s defense, there was never a real agreement or promise between him and his fans. James just spoke his mind, and fans interpreted his comments as covenants. He said his goal was to bring a championship to Cleveland. He didn’t say it was going to happen. However, he did say he wouldn’t stop until it happened. He told Miami fans that he thinks they could win multiple championships. He didn’t give them a guarantee. From the perspective of LeBron’s fans, it appears that he broke his promises, but he never really made any.

Even if James did break promises and is a “fool,” it doesn’t really matter. It is hard to condemn LeBron James. He is simply the best basketball player in the world. Even if he abandoned your team and you hated him for it, if he wanted to return, you would welcome him with open arms. After all, he is LeBron James.

This makes me wonder if people assume that covenants are made too often. Many times, someone says that they want to do or think they can accomplish something, but don’t promise it will happen. LeBron never promised a championship in Cleveland, he just said he would try really hard. People sometimes trust others too much, and they can be setting themselves up for disappointment. For example, if your parter on a school project told you, “I’ll try to finish this part by tomorrow,” are they promising that it will happen?

Also, are all powerful people allowed to be foolish? If LeBron were being foolish, it doesn’t matter because everyone wants LeBron on their team. No one cares if he broke a covenant. When someone is so uniquely skilled in their expertise or field of study, he or she can afford to break covenants without the risk of breaking alliances. However, it may not be worth forgiving a powerful person because there is still a good chance they break even more covenants.

Fans happily welcome James back to Cleveland

Fans happily welcome James back to Cleveland

It is hard to call LeBron James a fool for his actions. While his comments to his fans suggested a covenant, he never really promised anything. Even if a covenant was made and broken, James’ return to Cleveland overshadows any hard feelings of a broken alliance. James has received a lot of criticism lately, but did he ever really do anything wrong? He did say was that he would not stop trying to bring a championship to Cleveland. He did leave, essentially breaking the promise that he would not give up. Did he return to Cleveland to make up for a broken covenant?

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4 comments

  1. ayoubl · November 3, 2014

    Interesting comparison between James and Hobbes’ theory. I would be careful in totalizing James’ skills by claiming that he is “simply the best basketball player in the world” however, the question of whether high-status individuals are exempt from the fools theory is very intriguing. First, I must ask the question of whether James is trusted by the Cavaliers fans or more so accepted. Does James’ decision to return to the Cavaliers stand as evidence that he has been completely forgiven or are the Cavaliers fans excited for their teams predicted outcome in the coming season?Hobbes notes the importance of keeping covenants so that one may be trusted. James’ fans burning his jersey serves as proof of unhurt feeling but I am not fully convinced that he can so easily be forgiven. While some fans accepted his return to his original team, I am sure that there are still hurt feelings that lost respect for James after his transfer to Miami. However, I am especially interested in your mentioning of powerful people’s ability to be foolish. This idea immediately leads me to think of politicians and how they have been stigmatized to be thought of as untrustworthy. Stereotyping of politicians, while unfair to many, has arisen from past experiences which leads me to wonder if, in this case, powerful people are also stigmatized to be foolish. This being the case are they able to be foolish or just more easily able to get away with being foolish? Perhaps we have accepted that they will in some way betray us, or break covenants, that it becomes easier for some individuals to forgive them.

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  2. hsharf · November 3, 2014

    I think you bring up an interesting point with LeBron’s decisions and Hobbes. He did somewhat make a covenant to fans when he verbally shared his goal to win a championship in Cleveland. Nonetheless, isn’t it the goal of every NBA player to win a championship? So was LeBron just pointing out the obvious? I do not think James was breaking a covenant when he decided to leave Cleveland.I agree with maxmquad, Lebron made his goal public, but he did not owe anyone anything. Evaluating the situation, LeBron put in a lot of work to try and bring his goal to fruition; this included two MVP’s and him single hauntingly bring the Cavs to the finals. Nonetheless, at the time Cleveland was unable to deliver a product (other players) that could help LeBron achieve his goal. Furthermore, by LeBron returning to Cleveland, he is returning to his goal, and therefore is not breaking the possible covenant that was in place. Ultimately, I agree with maxmquad that LeBron is not a fool.

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  3. benlangt · November 3, 2014

    I have always been a huge fan of LeBron James, both in Cleveland and Miami. He trains and plays harder than all of his competitors, which is why he is often regarded as the best basketball player in the world. When I first heard that LeBron was leaving Cleveland for Miami, I was flabbergasted. I never though he would leave the city that he called “home”. Although it felt like LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami was breaking a covenant, he really never made any binding agreement that he had to win a championship for the city. He was just doing what he felt would lead him to the most successful future(winning NBA titles). Although LeBron moved to Miami, he still kept a house in Cleveland because he knew he would never move entirely from the city he loved. When LeBron made the decision to come back to Cleveland, the fans that were “LeBron haters” soon became avid fans of his again. LeBron James did not break a covenant, but the way he handled the situation was not in the most polite and professional way.

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  4. azaryff · November 6, 2014

    Really interesting post. I think this particular connection can be made in all sports. One that I’m slightly more adept in would be soccer. Every single year you find players going back on their promises to stay at a club, or to never join another club. For example when Cesc Fabregas said he was “always a Gunner” (Gunners [Arsenal FC] being the team in North London) in 2004 but joining Chelsea FC, a team in West London and saying he was “committed to the Blues (Chelsea)”. This happens all the time and has inspired a twitter account called ‘Football Judas’ (https://twitter.com/FootyTraitors).

    This is really interesting because it does tally up with Hobbes’s idea of covenants and fools, as you also have shown. I’d extend the idea by saying that players do this all the time to get support of fans, and allow them to play better and more comfortably, which would be their end.

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