“See you later.”
Mr. James calls the Ankletaker, after dropping the kids to school.
“Uncle Drew, we need to talk before the game. Meet me at the usual place.”
Mr. Irving is puzzled by this sudden phone call. Has he done something wrong? The team morale is a bit shaken after the latest surge on double T. Sometimes LBJ goes to his dark side. Not the best way to motivate the troops.
“Ok, ‘Bron, I’ll be there at 3 pm.”
Mr. James orders a coffee and reads the latest chapter of an obscure book called: “The Art of overthrowing adversity.” He feels confident and anxious. After reading a few chapters, LBJ opens the Ipad and watches a Jordan documentary. Damn, MJ was unreal, he thinks to himself. Lost in his thoughts, he almost missed Kyrie’s entrance at the coffee shop.
“I’m cool, Irv. I wanted to talk because we are entering the most important part of the regular season.”
“Again with that speech, ‘Bron? Is this related to tomorrow’s game versus the green dudes?”
“Nopes, Kyrie. It’s all about the next game. It’s always been about the next game.”
“What are you saying? Tonight we’re playing against Orlando. That team is awful. They don’t pose any real threat. It would take a considerable amount of wicked magic in order to lose this game. Chill, LBJ!”
“I find your fanfare disturbing”, says LBJ, projecting his best impression of a Darth Vader voice. “We can’t get distracted. This is that time of the regular season where we make our case for the best team in the League.”
“I’m worried about your thought process, LeBron. C’mon, man! Everyone knows we’re the best of the East. You shouldn’t worry!”
“Not so fast, Kyrie. Remember that Series against the Bulls, a few years ago? We almost lost it!”
“Please… get serious, Lebron! They were dead meat and they knew it!”
LeBron looks at Kyrie while thinking carefully about his next words. He likes Kyrie and his confidence but he knows the perils and dangers of being too cocky. Those tender years, the chosen one… he remembers. All the accolades, the media hysteria, the hype… all for nothing. Zero rings. Sometimes he wishes he wasn’t that confident or that he had better teammates. Years wasted in highlights and no Titles. The fruitless years.
“There’s a short line between confidence and getting burned”, he starts to explain. “Remember last June? Warriors had us, started to act cocky and lost the Finals. Now there are a plethora of 3-1 jokes. They will never go away. Especially now, in this social media age. No one forgets. It should serve us as a warning, not a fanfare memory.”
“So you’re worried about the Warriors, then?”, asks a confused Kyrie, as he sips his smoothie.
“You’re not getting the point. It’s not tonight’s game, the Celtics, Warriors or any specific team. We must get into Playoff mode. We must win convincingly, so other teams fear us. We’re not causing fear to our own shadow, let alone all the good teams in the League. We must play better. I must play better. You should play better!”
“What are you implying, James? I’ve been playing well. Look at my numbers! I’m having my best scoring season!”
“Indeed, Kyrie. It’s not about you and me. I know we’ll deliver. But we need help. Love, double T, JR, Shumpert, all the others. The competition is stronger this season. If we don’t bring our A game, we’re going down faster than Bogut.”
“That Bogut dude… do you think that was made on purpose? Some people implied he’s a secret Warriors ally. That his signing was nothing but an act, meant to distract and annoy us.”
“That’s far-fetched, Kyrie. It seems you’ve been reading some NBA conspiration theories websites…”
“One must get distracted, LeBron.”
“Get better reading habits, dude. For instance, I’m reading this book. Fascinating stuff. Quite inspirational.”
“Where did you get it?”
“From the Zen Master book list. I’ve been talking to him. He’s a wise dude.”
“What are you saying? Knicks fan base has been asking for his head for months. Knicks had three Superstars and still, they were disappointed. Your good friend Carmelo has had enough…”
“It’s hard to win in New York. Too many distractions, too much media snooping around all the time, creating havoc. Never mind them. This is about us. I want to ask you a favor.”
“Shoot, King. What do you want?”
“Use tonight’s game as a practice for tomorrow’s game. Improve your assists numbers. In the last 10 games only on three occasions were you able to surpass the 6 assists mark.”
“But you like to play the PG role! How can I increase my assists if you’re always directing the offense?”
“Good point. I’ll pass more. Do different things tonight. Don’t focus solely on scoring. We need to get all the others involved. If we don’t unite now, before the Playoffs, we won’t go all the way.”
“You’re worrying me, James. Where’s your supreme confidence?”
“Rebooted and upgraded. We need to be wiser, this season. These playoffs will be tougher.”
“Ok, ‘Bron. I’ll do as you ask. Tonight I’ll try to get into double digits assists. Happy?”
“Maybe later, Kyrie. Let’s see how you do.”
“Hey, it’s not all on me. The others must make the shots.”
“Don’t worry about them. Do your job. They’ll play well. Anyway, time to go. Nice chat. By the way, you pay the bill.”
“Hey! I paid last time!”
“It works like this: you pay twice, I pay once. I’m older, dude. Remember that.”
Kyrie leaves, unconvinced. He gets in the car and puts his favorite soundtrack while worrying about LeBron’s latest mindset.
Meanwhile, LeBron texts double T: “Dude, sorry for the outburst. It’s not you, it’s me. We need to play better. We need you tonight. I need you tonight. Sorry for the screaming. I must win this season. We must win. Back to back.”
Afterward, LeBron James sends a text to his buddy Dwyane Wade: “Your Bulls suck. I told you not to go there!”
A few moments after, Dwyane replies with a pic with the following caption: “Keep chasing the ghost, LeBron! You’ll never catch him!”, followed by six ghost emojis
LeBron replies with a Jack M Silverstein quote: “You should have read this interview”, he texts. “Bulls are completely lost.”
“Good one, King. Laugh now, while you can. Good luck tonight against the Magic.”
LeBron chuckles with the latest Wade text. He sometimes reminisces about younger seasons, when all seemed easier and funnier. After that first disappointment versus Nowitzki’s Mavs in the Finals, LBJ had a jolly good time. Bosh, Wade, and Ray Allen. The Heat Beatles. Winning was fun. No competition. Obliterating the opposition. Until it all changed, yet again. Another decision. This time, the logical one. Bosh and Wade were over. Ray Allen, gone. It was time to move.
After daydreaming about these happier Miami days, when the pressure to win wasn’t this accentuated, he calls Kevin Love: “Lil’ Kev, please meet me at the secret hangout.”
K. Love simply says “Not a problem. I’ll be there in 30 minutes.”
They meet in a parking lot near the Q. LeBron looks at him and utters: “We need to step up, Kev. We’re not playing to our potential.”
“Are you angry with my recent plays?”, asks a fearful loveless Kevin.
“No, dude. You’re playing well. I mean… you could definitely improve, but I’m sure you will. Whatever happens, don’t get injured. Not this time!”
“’Bron, I’ll try, but as you know, one never knows…”
“Just be extra careful. We need you more than ever. The others aren’t playing well.”
“Is this because of last game situation with double T?”
“Nopes, dude. This is simply a wake-up call. We need to get into Playoff shape. We need to play better. I want to win the back to back. It won’t be easy, though.”
“Do you think the Celtics can defeat us?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Kevin! With that little I.T. dude who suddenly thinks he’s A.I.? Please, get real!”
“They have good players, though. It’s not only the ‘little dude’…”
“Kevin, where is your focus? We’re the best team! But we must play better. We won’t win simply cruisin’”
“True. What about the Poseidon curse? Rumor has it you’ve been cursed for that Madison Square Garden water bottle incident…”
“So now you believe in NBA Gods? Come on, that’s only a distraction! Those are stories… nothing more than stories!”, say an irritated LeBron. “#StuckOn3 ? Me? Please! Let me tell you something: I’m trying to get seven…”
“Seven? Seven what? Regular Season MVP’s?”
“No, dummy! Seven rings! MORE THAN MJ! MORE THAN MJ!”, he screams, as his right neck vein starts palpitating as if it’s going to explode.
“Calm down, King. I see your point. Isn’t that a bit of a stretch, though? Seven?”
“It’s the right number. Seven!”
“Ok, ‘Bron. If you say so. Going back to our team… do you have any special request for tonight’s game versus the Magic?”
“Get the others involved. I said the same to Kyrie. It’s time to put Cavs machinery in the optimal state. Get JR, Frye, Shump, D-Will and all the others contributing. We can’t win without them. This season the stakes are too high. Many teams are playing well. It’s not like last season.”
“Ok, ‘Bron, whatever you say, my King. I’ll try my best”
“Not try. Do!”, says LBJ, projecting his best Yoda voice.
“You’re improving, LeBron! Your Master Yoda impression is definitely better”, says the Love one. “See ya later, gonna shoot a few threes now.
“Ok, lil’ Kev. Stay focus. And Kev…”
“Don’t. Get. Injured. Seriously, dude.”
“I’ll stay away from the painted heat zones.”
“Good. Good. See ya later. Let’s destroy Orlando tonight. Place some fear on the green ones. They, too, must feel our power.”
“Don’t worry, ‘Bron. This Orlando team is pathetic, anyway.”
K-Love exits the car, walks to his vehicle and quickly exits the scene. LeBron stays longer. He keeps imagining the back to back, humiliating the anticipated winners, media darlings Warriors. He still has no respect! He thought this season all the other teams would be simply orbiting planets, revolving around his Cavs Nation, but somehow, Durant dude and his impact made the storylines change, yet again. All of the sudden, it seems Cleveland is simply a decoration team, trying to stay relevant in the news after the epic Westbrook season, Harden’s improvement, Spurs revival and the recurrent Warriors.
He feels angry with this situation. Time flies. Just a few seasons ago he was the chosen one. Now, with all the trials and tribulations, he feels he’s still in the beginning. Yes, he won three rings already. Yes, he won for The Land. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. He needs more. More than Timmy. More than Kobe. More than MJ. He will obliterate the records. The perfect NBA Finals is long gone but he’ll win more than all of them. More than MJ. More than MJ, he says to himself. He then plays “The Magnificent Seven”, an epic The Clash song and drives back to pick up the kids.
“How was school, today?”, he asks, as the Clash scream loudly:
“So get back to work an’ sweat some more
The sun will sink an’ we’ll get out the door
It’s no good for man to work in cages
Hits the town, he drinks his wages
You’re frettin’, you’re sweatin’
But did you notice you ain’t gettin’?
Don’t you ever stop long enough to start?
To take your car outta that gear
Don’t you ever stop long enough to start?
To get your car outta that gear
Karlo Marx and Fredrich Engels
Came to the checkout at the seven eleven
Marx was skint – but he had sense
Engels lent him the necessary pence
What have we got?