I loved the Redeem Team. That squad that restored the United States to the top of the international basketball hierarchy fused talent, teamwork, and a relentless commitment to outworking the other side into a truly fearsome force on the court.
And now, the nearest thing to basketball Voltron since the original Dream Team may have a few loose fuses, because LeBron James isn't brooking this "play in the 2010 World Championships if you want to guarantee a chance to play in London in 2012" nonsense.
The backstory: USA Basketball honcho Jerry Colangelo warned earlier this week that players who wanted to skip this summer's World Championships would not be guaranteed a roster spot in 2012.
The Chosen One's reaction: Pfft.
â‡¥"There's a lot that goes on with being a professional athlete other than just basketball," James said. "I think everyone in the USA knows what type of commitment these guys have made, including myself, since 2003. I'm not trying to bash Jerry or anything like that because he's a good guy and I respect him. I don't respect that because of the commitment we've all given to the USA."â‡¥This reluctance to commit to anything has something to do with James wanting to film a movie, and might also have something to do with King James wanting to be the biggest star in the basketball universe.
â‡¥James has said he hopes to play in London in 2012 to defend the gold medal. But he doesn't sound like he intends to back down on this summer's issue despite Colangelo's statements.â‡¥â‡¥
â‡¥"If that is the case, we'll have to see when it happens," James said. "If we're jeopardizing being in London, what can we do?"â‡¥
Think about it: For a guy who has strung along the basketball world on his choice of team for 2010 and beyond, millions waiting on his whims, being challenged by Colangelo seems like a undervaluation. No one's foolish enough to believe that there's a player that can replace James -- Colangelo's gestures towards Kevin Durant as a replacement are cute, but James is a more complete player and likely always will be -- but can you imagine even the insinuation of such a sentiment about Michael Jordan?
Everyone has a pet theory about LeBron James: Mine affirms that he wants to be remembered as the very definition of an athlete. And for James, a child of a world where Jordan and Tiger Woods were global icons, that means an accretion of fame and fortune, in addition to plaudits for on-court performance.
Does a movie further that more than another Olympic gold could? Maybe. LeBron would be breaking new ground on the silver screen, and repeating himself as an Olympian. There's also significant potential for LeBron to be overshadowed by Kobe Bryant, who was the Redeem Team's fan favorite in Beijing, which would be a poor way of asserting himself as the colossus of the sporting world.
But I think this is mostly LeBron asserting his alpha dog status to Colangelo and others: "I'll do what I want, and you'll deal with it," this kiss-off says, "And you'll deal with it because you need me and I don't need you."
It's not a matter of LeBron not respecting Colangelo, or the USA Basketball enterprise in general. It's exactly the opposite.
And if LeBron James wants to follow his own dreams, he will, whether the Redeem Team suffers for it or not.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.