Plutarch’s Life of LeBron JamesEdit
The term “gifted” is often coined to those who simply seem to be superior to others in a particular faucet of life. Whether that is artistic ability, leadership, or any other aspect, this term resonates as being something that should be cherished for its positive qualities. However, it is not always interpreted more deeply, and the realities of being someone who is gifted and exceptional can be overlooked. Not only can this label be a blessing, but it can also be a burden. Through Plutarch’s Life of Cicero, one can see the event in which having this label can become too much for one to handle. In the case of Cicero, it is evident that what seemed to be a blessing at an early age, soon turned into a burden, which ultimately lead to his downfall. When looking at a modern example that relates to Cicero, one can look no further than LeBron James. Once acclaimed as being the next Michael Jordan, it soon turned out that this lofty comparison is what sparked James’ downfall. Similar to Cicero, as depicted in Plutarch, LeBron James has faced a spiraling downfall due to the similarities of conceitedness, inability to fulfill expectations, and signs of vulnerability.
Life of LeBron JamesEdit
Born in Akron, Ohio LeBron james excels at basketball and might be the best player to play in the NBA. James was faced with a very difficult upbringing, which began with the instability of his parents. At the time of his birth, his mother Gloria James was only 16 years of age. Meanwhile, his biological father, Anthony McClelland, was an ex-convict who was not interest in being in LeBron’s life. Left to raise LeBron on her own, his mother Gloria battled with an inability to land a stable job, and she and LeBron moved from various apartments during his upbringing.
With a difficult home life and constant, James found it difficult to excel in school and make friends. However, from a very young age, LeBron James was able to channel his emotions towards sports. By the time he reached elementary school, he already demonstrated athletic talent far superior to his peers. As a peewee football player, his coach, Frankie Walker, not only noticed his talent, but also received word of his unstable life at home. When confronting Gloria James, she admitted that he needed a more stable living environment, and she and Walker agreed that LeBron should move in with the Walker family. Not only was Walker able to instill solid school habits, but he was also able to influence LeBron’s ability as an athlete.
By the time LeBron James entered 8th grade, he already reached the 6-foot mark, and he made his presence known on the AAU basketball scene. Having reached the national championship game for his age group, LeBron then made the decision on picking a high school, and chose Saint Vincent-Saint Mary, a Christian school located in Akron, Ohio. Over the course of his highschool career, LeBron quickly made a name for himself nationally, and was given All-American status and multiple National Player of the Year Awards. Upon reaching his senior year, LeBron would opt to skip college for the NBA, and soon multi million-dollar sponsorships came his way.
Being selected the 1st overall by his home state’s Cleveland Cavaliers, the pressure to succeed at a high level began from day one. Comparisons to Michael Jordan were plentiful, and everyone looked on to see if he would soon fulfill such a compliment. Promising to bring an NBA championship to Cleveland, LeBron would spend 8 years there. Having won multiple MVP awards, as well as a scoring title, LeBron was unable to fulfill his promise of winning a championship. Leading up to his free agency in the summer of 2010, speculation developed well before the time would finally come. The question was clear: Will LeBron James stay in Cleveland to deliver the championship he had promised to his home state? Or would he be lured to take his talents elsewhere in hopes of accomplishing his ultimate dream? On July 8th, 2011, in front of a vast national audience, LeBron James announced his decision to take his talents to the Miami Heat, to join fellow All-Stars, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. With this decision, not only would LeBron turn his back on the team that he promised to reward handsomely, but he also turned his back on the entire state of Ohio. Within seconds of his decision, the media, fans, and everyone on the world would change their opinion of LeBron, and he would soon find out that his decision would lead him down an unexpected path of dismay and downfall.
LeBron James: A Plutarchian PerspectiveEdit
Through Plutarch’s Cicero, one can see that he was a man who developed extraordinary talent from a young age. With this talent, came tremendous pressure not only by others, but also within Cicero himself, and it is stated that he sought to make his name more famous than any of the others for that time period (Plutarch, 563). As a poet, his ability was undeniable, and was seen as wise beyond his years. With this talent came great responsibility, which involved duties as a figure in such a high position. When looking at the talents of LeBron James, he was seen as a basketball prodigy, with the same utmost attention and praise given to him. Being proclaimed as the next coming of Michael Jordan, pressure centers on his ability to live up to expectations, and be the face of professional basketball. Plutarch demonstrates that while one may be exceptional in their ability, and far superior to the rest of the crowd, they are always merely human at the end of the day.
When explaining the life of Cicero, Plutarch implements a belief that one’s overemphasis placed on themself can lead to a humble ending. When explaining one of the common opinions of the ancient people, Plutarch states “Furthermore, he was so earnest and vehement in his oration that he mounted still with his voice into the highest tunes: in so much that men were afraid it would one day put him in hazard of his life” (Plutarch, 565). Through this explanation, Plutarch does not intend to emphasize only physical properties of voice, but instead introduces this for its symbolic meaning. It is able to suggest that being too centered on your own words will only spark problems in the future, and that people must think about what they say with care, or it will put one “in hazard”. When looking at LeBron James through the lens of Plutarch, it is possible to see how his verbal actions, and the deeper significance of his words, it has ultimate hurt his reputation. Plutarch could be quick to point this out when looking at the way in which James handled the events of his free agency, and his decision to sign with the Miami Heat. Upon his signing, a celebration was held where James and his fellow All-Star teammates were cheered and praised by the Miami Heat fans. When asked how many championships the newly constructed “Dream Team” could win, Lebron responded by stating as many as 7 would be realistic. If Plutarch were to give an account of this, he would emphasize how being too full with his voice would lead him to danger. By doing so, it can suggest how James has developed a warped understanding of himself, and while talented, has an unrealistic task that could come back to haunt him. Being the favorites to win the NBA championship, James soon found that simply winning one would be a difficult task, as the Dallas Mavericks would go on to knock them off in the NBA Finals.
In Plutarch’s account of Cicero, one can see how he emphasizes his conceited nature, and how he would like nothing more than to hear praise from others. Plutarch mentions of Cicero “And yet the great pleasure he took to hear his own praise; and to be overmuch given to desire of honour and estimation: those two things continued with him even to his dying day, and did eftsoons make him swerve from justice” (Plutarch, 568). Through this account, Plutarch is again able to demonstrate how a self-centered attitude can take someone off the wrong path on their road to glory. He suggests that no matter how great one is, an excessive focus on one’s self will lead them to future problems. For Cicero, this involved a focus on being the forefront of attention, which he clearly enjoy, such as when he returning from his banishment. His self-serving attitude and aura would eventually lead people to question his intentions. For LeBron James, one can safely say that it wasn’t he who directly gave himself the label of “The next Michael Jordan”. However, media and fans in general see reason to fault LeBron James, largely due to his cockiness that has developed as a result of such a label. Being seen on vacation with a shirt that read “Check My $tats”, it isn’t difficult to see how someone would be critical of the way LeBron James has handled his tenure in the NBA. Rather than brushing off the praise and showing modesty, like many great players do, he has completely embraced his role as being “The next big thing”.
As we can see with elite figures, whatever their field may be, the reality is that the public eye is constantly hovering over their every move. Aside from this, the general public typically has a clear awareness of how these authority figures should conduct themselves. Plutarch establishes a clear awareness of this through his depiction of Cicero, and the way in which he approaches challenges and conflicts. In Cicero, we someone who is very image conscious, and rightfully so, considering it is the opinion of the public that determines various roles, such as consul. As a result, he must take awareness to what the people see in him, and in his ability to live up to the expectations they require of him as a consul. Plutarch illustrates a way in which the personal feelings Cicero possesses are pertinent to the way he strives for glory. However, for Cicero, an oracle is given that shows signs of him following his own thoughts and actions when stating “For, enquiring, of the god Apollo Delphian, how he might do to win fame and estimation, the nun Pythias answered him he should obtain it, so that in his doings he would rather follow the disposition of his own nature, than the opinion of the common people” (Plutarch, 567). Through this account it suggests that what might feel right for him is different from what the public has in mind, and this pay prove costly. Aware of this, Cicero sought to stay under the radar, for fear of how this oracle might play out. In the case of LeBron James, there tends to be a central opinion taken by the majority as far as the way he should have handled his NBA career. Having been drafted by the team in his home state, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the common opinion seemed to be that he should stay there for the main portion of his career, and build them up to a championship caliber team. Like Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, LeBron was to take over the reigns of the franchise, and guide them on their way to the very end. However, from the perspective of Plutarch, he instead made the wrong decision by looking only after himself, rather than looking at the bigger picture. By signing with Miami, he officially accepted that he was not the guy to lead a team as the main guy, and instead joined up with a well-known winner in Dwayne Wade. Therefore, LeBron James could not be considered a true leader, but instead a sidekick, a sacrifice he made to achieve what he has never achieved, an NBA championship. As a result of his decision, the public was quick to recognize his stance, and were left amused that he was unwilling to achieve success the “right way”, and fulfilling a role that the likes of Michael Jordan and other leaders chose opted to do.
When discussing the leaders and heroes covered in Plutarch’s biography, he illustrates how when a seemingly strong figure appears vulnerable, the result is heavy criticism, and lack of stability. In the case of Cicero, Plutarch portrays him as someone who may be intellectually gifted, but at the same time very prone to being broken down. The topic of weakness can be seen in Plutarch’s account of Cicero, when it is explained “Thereupon Cicero seeing himself accused for this fact, he changed the usual gown he ware, and put on a mourning gown…he went in this humble manner…but Clodius was ever about him in every place and street he went, having a sight of rascals and knaves with him that shamefully mocked him for that he had changed his gown countenance in that sort” (Plutarch, 592). Through this depiction, one can see that while Cicero came off as being very strong in oration, he was still very often prone appearing weak, and in search of playing the sympathy card. When looking at LeBron James through the Plutarchian lens, one can see that when enduring the struggle of this first year in Miami, he sought sympathy from those that now despised him. Whether it was expressing his disappointment or revealing his desire to work harder, people simply ridiculed him in the sight of his vulnerability.
With Cicero, a similar problem of vulnerability could be seen in through the way Plutarch regards him as a leader. Plutarch writes “Cicero was not only fearful in wars, but timorous also in pleading. For indeed he never began to speak, but it was in fear: and when his eloquence was come to the best proof and perfection, he never left his trembling and timorous” (Plutarch, 597). When seeing this account, it is clear that Plutarch devalued Cicero’s ability to stand strong in the face of fear, as he would instead wear his negative emotions on his sleeve. Regardless of all Cicero’s great talents, it is proposed that his inability to stand up to pressure diminished his perception as a leader. In LeBron James, these same aspects can be seen, both on and off the basketball court. Upon heavy criticism in the media room, he is quick to defer the attention from himself when things go wrong, and he does take the responsibility as a leader to accept the blame. If Plutarch were around today to see the way he handles himself, he would note that James' failure to face adversity overshadows his abilities as a basketball player. Whether it is heading to the dressing room early after a bad loss, or refusing to answer questions after a terrible performance, it is LeBron James inability to handle challenges that keeps people constantly taunting him and his actions.
When comparing the life of LeBron James to that of Cicero, a Plutarchian comparison can be made in regard to the way they both deal with their role as a leader and an icon. As a result of their selfishness and underlying “me first” attitudes, they are unable to fulfill their duty as a leader, who is supposed to value those around them just as much as they value themselves. The inability to live up to high expectations also diminishes their value as a leader, as they are left unable to fulfill what people ask of them. Instead, they possess a narrow minded outlook, without weighing out all the options. Due to their glaring vulnerabilities when facing criticism and adversity, one can see that they are both unfit to take challenges head on, and instead accept defeat as a result of their flaws. When looking at the path that LeBron James' career as seen through the lens of Plutarch in relation to Cicero, one can only ask what could have been, had he been able to fulfill his role as an icon in a proper and humble way.
Plutarch. Selected Lives. Kent: Wordsworth Edition Limited, 1998. Print.
LeBron James Biography. JockBio. (2010). <http://www.jockbio.com/Bios/James/James_bio.html>