Shayne Looper: A ring on his finger and dissatisfaction in his heart?

Shayne Looper

Before Thursday night’s game, sports writers were ready to place the NBA crown on the head of LeBron James. Though the best-of-seven series had not yet even made it to Dallas, James and the Miami Heat were heavily favored to win the championship.

LeBron has worn a crown of sorts before. Dubbed King James by fans, he was the hometown hope of Cleveland. Widely reputed (and disputed) to be the game’s best player, he brought the troubled city of Cleveland hope that their lowly Cavaliers might one day win an NBA championship.

Then came free agency. Would LeBron stick to the Cavaliers and patiently build a championship level team around him, or would he succumb to temptation and abandon his hometown for a bigger paycheck? 

He did neither. While the sports world waited and Cleveland held its collective breath (and I, a Cleveland-area native, assured friends he would stay), King James made his decision. He would go to Miami — even though it meant a pay-cut — to join his superstar friends and pursue the one thing he always wanted: an NBA title. 

That was the day the crown slipped from LeBron’s head. His hometown felt betrayed. People started calling him LeQuit and Queen James. And when he and superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosch struggled to find chemistry on the floor, soothsayers around the league began predicting a disappointing season in Miami.

But all that changed in the playoffs. Even James’s critics were polishing his crown. No one expected the series to go all seven games, and some were prematurely talking sweep. 

Suppose the talking heads are right and the Heat triumphs over Dallas. Miami takes home their second championship trophy and, after a year in exile, the crown is placed on King James’s head. Interviews, speeches, parades and honors follow. Then what?

Once he has achieved his dream, what will James do next? Will he try to win five more, like Mike? Or will he try to win 10 more, like the great Bill Russell? Perhaps winning basketball championships will become blase, and he will turn to baseball or golf, a la Jordan, or to politics, a la Bill Bradley. 

What does a 26-year-old do when he’s conquered his world? Alexander the Great wept because their were no more worlds to conquer; does a similar fate await King James?

In the playoffs, LeBron has had to reach deep to find the resolve needed to win close games. He’s now positioned himself to reach up to grasp the championship trophy. But even if he manages it (and Dallas will do everything they can to stop him), LeBron will go right on reaching.

It is the human condition. So the poet Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Perhaps a better question, the one LeBron must ask, is “What’s a man for?”

C. S. Lewis once pointed out that “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. ... If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

LeBron may have left Cleveland thinking that only a championship would bring him satisfaction. He may wake in Miami someday soon to find a championship ring on his finger and dissatisfaction still in his heart. God, according to the ancient biblical text, “set eternity in the hearts of men,” and not even a championship trophy can takes its place.

Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church. He can be reached at salooper@dmcibb.net.

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