During Wednesday night’s ESPYS Awards, LeBron James announced he would not be retiring from the NBA and would be returning to the Los Angeles Lakers next season. Nobody thought he would be doing anything otherwise but he clearly felt the need to say something after hinting he might hang up his sneakers following the Lakers’ playoff exit. But we can all rest assured that the surprise retirement nobody expected to happen will not, in fact, happen.
Dan Patrick had some strong thoughts on the announcement the day after. During Thursday’s edition of the Dan Patrick Show the former SportsCenter host said the announcement felt “needy” and a way to get people to give LeBron his flowers before his career is even over. Patrick ended up in a brief Jordan v. LeBron monologue before asking that we finish out the race before giving anybody their flowers.
A measured take and one that feels right. The night LeBron said he might retire felt like an extremely transparent attempt to direct everybody’s attention away from the sweep he just suffered. Then he choose the ESPYS as the platform on which he would reassure everybody it’s not happening. We’ve known for a long time that LeBron was a showman but this felt over the top and unnecessary, even for him.
This very well could be the first glimpse of an affliction that has reared its ugly head in pretty much all truly great players — an attempt to hold onto the attention that has followed him his entire career. Nobody like LeBron has ever gone quietly into the night when their time was up. That isn’t to say LeBron’s time is up, of course. He’s clearly still very good. But all this started because he got smoked at the hands of a great younger player. Perhaps he felt mortality for the first time in his basketball life and this was the result.
Patrick is not far off the mark here and it’s hard not to wonder what it portends.