The Miami Heat’s stunning comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Tuesday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals shocked the sports world two days ago, and the media, the world wide web and all corners of the sports watching universe are still talking.
Unfortunately, the thing they are talking about is LeBron’s headband.
That’s a shame, because lot of things happened in Game 6 that were noteworthy. We were finally treated to the instant classic we were all expecting from the best two teams in basketball. There were unreal performances from both Tim Duncan- who bathed in the Fountain of Youth for the first three quarters, then turned back into a 37 year old at the stroke of midnight- and Lebron James, who was abysmal for the first 3 quarters, then willed his team to victory with 18 points in the last one and a half.
It was between these two periods that LeBron got his headband knocked off, and he opted not to put it back on his head – and he got better. Like, lead the team to victory just 28 seconds after seeing them setting up the trophy for your opponents better. The fire returned to LeBron, the killer instinct that all great champions possess – even The Man With No Personality sitting on the opposing bench.
It was almost as if he remembered he was the best player in basketball for a moment.
While I don’t really feed into the hype or superstitions that fans regularly participate in (“See these socks? Haven’t washed em since 2000, and the Ravens have made the playoffs every year!”), there’s something about this particular brand of hooey that has me more intrigued than usual. You see, LeBron and I share something in common, and it isn’t the cars, the money, and the athletic ability – cause it’s none of those things. The two of us share the universal plague that affects a large number of men – male pattern baldness.
When my own hairline began to recede, it was gradual at first, like beach erosion. After a while, though, it got noticeable, and I was really self conscious about it, since I loved my hair and hated the judgmental eyes of strangers. I tried everything – I dyed my hair jet black at one point to make the finer hairs appear darker and more full, I bought a bunch of different hats, I had my barber cut all the hair around the thin spots so that it all looked even. After a while, none of that stuff worked, and I had no idea what I would do.
One day, as I was attempting to conceal the unintended side effects of puberty, I realized how much time I wasted trying to cover it up, and I just said f*@k it. I shaved it all off, and if it grows out, it doesn’t really matter to me – there’s nothing you can do about it, anyway.
Before this is chalked up to a mid-life crisis, let me steer back to the point: A lot of guys are self-conscious about their appearance, and LeBron obviously is as well. He wears his headband in a way that conceals the thinning hairline when he plays. He probably figures someone will snap an unflattering pic of it, and use it to make fun of him on the web.
When he let that headband go, he also let go of what people thought about him. Since the abysmal Decision special and arguably before, LeBron has shown a bit of a thin skin. It’s part of the reason the villain role was so ill suited for him – he wants to be liked. And in today’s world, where every criticism, jibe and misstep he makes are dissected and disseminated to all corners of the world in the blink of an eye, it can be a bit hard to block out all of the noise.
If the Heat had lost, if LeBron had not been the game’s hero – maybe not the one he wanted to be, but the one his team needed – his performance would have been the only story we would have heard today. Every time he turned over the ball – which he did 5 times – every missed jumper, every pass made to someone whose shot didn’t fall would have been ridiculed and criticized from here to the moon, and all parts in between. LeBron knew that, and in the past, that pressure would have been enough to make him give up, just as he did in his playoff loss to the Celtics in Decision summer, or shrink away, as he did against Dallas in his first Finals appearance in Miami.
But this time, he didn’t. He didn’t run away from the big moments – he took the shots he needed to, and made them when they mattered most. He answered those who question his mental toughness, who said he wasn’t clutch. This LeBron does not shrink away in the big moments – he plays like the unstoppable freight train that he is.
And this LeBron doesn’t give two craps about what you think of him – or his hairline.
Okay, that one may have stung a little.