LeBron James' Twitter Presence Is A Delight, And He's Right About Karma And The Cavaliers

Condemning LeBron James is easy, especially with the jaundiced eyes of Clevelanders or the hearts of those who feel for them. But it gets harder to do that when one tries to have sympathy for LeBron.

Last night's tweet, already noted by our Brian Floyd, is no exception:

Crazy. Karma is a b****.. Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!less than a minute ago via ÜberTwitter

 

First of all, it is hysterical that LeBron censored the "bitch" in his "Karma is a b****" statement. (LeBron is for the kids!) But, on a more serious note: LeBron is probably right about the Cavaliers dealing with karma coming their way.

One thing we don't always get about the concept of karma, as Americans, is that it's not really the "payback" we think it is. In Buddhism, karma is not the result of an action, but more like the action itself and then the reaction; you can have good karma and bad karma, and good karmic results and bad karmic results.

But the way to create good karma, many think, is through metta, which loosely translates as "loving-kindness." Good feelings, in other words, are what generate good actions and good results.

Neither LeBron nor the Cavaliers he left this summer did a whole lot out of metta for each other. LeBron left the city where he played basketball by announcing his decision to sign with a different team on national television; Cavs owner Dan Gilbert responded by blistering LeBron with an open letter written in Comic Sans.

But while I can understand LeBron's actions being a self- or inner-circle-centric form of metta — hey, Miami was pretty happy to give him a contract, and I'm pretty sure those close to LeBron don't mind him making money — I can't say that Cleveland's reaction to LeBron's decision to leave is anything more than a self-involved form of metta, as their love for team and region was perverted into hate for the person who dared to leave both. LeBron didn't reach out to his former teammates, at least that we saw; those teammates didn't reach out to him, either.

So is a terrible Cavaliers season, topped by a miserable loss, a sort of bad karma for the vitriol thrown LeBron's way? In LeBron's mind, probably — but I would tend to agree.

Want to talk about LeBron's karma? Sure, he's at least inviting bad karma upon himself by visibly saying the Cavs are getting hit by it. But consider this: why would anyone respect the Cavs in LeBron's shoes? How would you treat an employer who waited less than six hours to lambaste you publicly after you chose to leave? And how would you react to fans who hate you? Would all of that make you feel a sort of "loving-kindness" towards those who hate you?

Plus, I think LeBron's tweet on Tuesday night was less about rubbing it in and more about wondering at the way things have worked out.

LeBron wasn't laughing at the Cavs, I don't think, except in the way a person laughs while shaking his or her head when something incredible happens. And the way the Cavs have fallen off without LeBron is stunning: they're the worst team in the NBA, at 8-30, one year after earning the best record in the NBA.

But LeBron can't say any variation on "Wow, the Cavs are bad" — something, it should be noted, is more or less fact — without it coming off as gloating that he got out. I'm fond of a certain phrase about revenge — "The best revenge is success and a smile" — but the problem with it is that if people see you smiling, you run the risk of being slammed for reveling in the revenge.

So it goes for LeBron: he can see the spite on Twitter, but he's the one who would get criticized for lashing out. He is expected to keep a stiff upper lip and be the bigger man; fans are expected to make that as hard as possible. That's the sort of thing that makes being the villain appealing.

LeBron recently mentioned that he has accepted his villain role, which is smart: the average NBA fan is clearly more miffed by LeBron leaving Cleveland than I am, meaning LeBron's going to get showered with boos and seen as a villain everywhere but Miami.

That villain role, though? In a form of entertainment based on passion, it is almost always just as good as the hero's cloak. Ask any WWE heel about that: people who hate, in a sports context, care about as deeply as those who love.

People care about LeBron James deeply. So many of them wanting to see him fail and fall proves that point, and another one: if he weren't so great or important, he wouldn't be missed or blamed or hated so much. On Twitter, his location is "Wherever Haters Are," and there's likely no shortage of folks who sent LeBron hate last night. Reveling in that hate and noting how sad some of it is, to me, is natural. To further the breakup analogy Brian Floyd made this morning: LeBron was the one who broke up with the Cavs and Cleveland, but it's the Cleveland fans who are still cursing the one that got away.

Twitter's going to be the conduit for all of that: LeBron's very visible on it, and knows how to use it, and knows full well that people are paying attention. If he wants to play up the villain role, he can needle Cleveland; if he wants to downplay it, he can do that, too, with apologies. Cleveland fans will just go on hating him either way.

Buddhism might say that subliminal and open shots on Twitter great way for the senders to invite bad karma upon themselves. But for LeBron, embracing that hate and wryly smiling about the way things have worked out just seems to me like success and a smile.

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