I’m not saying this because I’m happy LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hell, I could care less where the hell he was to take his talents to. But the way LeBron James has subverted the normal “means of production” makes him a folk hero in my eyes.
LeBron James is the most powerful man in the NBA. Not the commissioner, not the owners, not the broadcasters. An employee — the worker in the classic Marxist archetype — has the power to ground all business to a halt, which is what LeBron has done for the past several days: Chris Bosh had to wait for the decision which in turn halted any business the Houston Rockets could do; Carmelo Anthony had to see where LeBron wound up so he could fully weigh his options which affected what the Lakers and Knicks could do; and let’s not forget the Chicago Bulls.
Hell, the weight of this decision even had the power of what ESPN would air: naturally once he makes the decision no matter the hour, they would have to drop everything and air a 72-hour special all LeBron all the time.
Which singular athlete has this much power?
Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Barry Bonds, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin? None of them has the power LeBron does to paralyze a league to a halt while waiting for him to choose where he wants to play.
In the classic Marxist analysis of capitalism you have the the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the owners and the workers. Marx supposed that the exploitation of the workers would create a revolution leading to a socialist paradise. We have seen the results of these revolutions abroad and have not seen a similar uprising here in America.
But here is LeBron completely subverting this relationship of exploiter and exploited. He has garnered power by his superlative play on the court to exploit the exploiters. He ground their business to a standstill for days. He forced an apology and groveling from an NBA owner. He indirectly programed the most powerful sports media disseminator.
Now, the NBA isn’t a perfect capitalist enterprise, but the greed by the owners as exhibited by the lockout a couple of years ago certainly echo those of the hypercapitalists that have put our economy in the state that it is.
Even if you don’t buy this Marxist interpretation I’ve laid out, you’ve got to appreciate LeBron for getting an owner to see the error of his ways (Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans) and send another owner into a depression (Micky Arison, Carnival Cruise Lines).
As a side note, I was amused by the lots of people who were mad at LeBron for the media circus that surrounded him the past few days. It should be noted that LeBron didn’t say anything — most of the noise was generated by the basketball media in a way to justify their own existence.