I work at a hotel, and every year, we are judged on multiple things. Payroll percentage, how happy our employees are, how much revenue we bring in. But nothing is more important than the Secret Shop. Every hotel in the company has one secret shop that stays in the hotel for two nights, uses every guest service, eats in every restaurant, judges every interaction; and your entire year builds up to those two nights. The thought is that if you treat every guest as if they are the secret shopper, you will give every guest the best service, and be sure to hit every step of service you could imagine. We got our secret shop results last week, and let me tell you. It was good. It was very good. The email came in, and my boss and I read it together, stressing each time we scrolled down; it turned out our hard work for the year had been rewarded with a high score on the last test that counted. What did we do? We smiled. We pumped our fists. Hell, we left early and went and had a beer. What did Lebron James do after he won the championship last night, after he had been rewarded for his hard work for the year? Did he smile? Did he smoke a cigar? Did he scream out in joy? No. He looked relieved.
When James made his jumper with 28 seconds to extend his team’s lead and make Game 7 a two possession game, he pumped his fist twice. How did he look when he stole the ball on an errant Manu Ginobli pass? He didn’t look happy, like he had made the biggest shot or defensive play of his career, he looked relieved. Finally he had worked hard enough to become the best player of our generation, and his jump shot didn’t betray him. Finally, they were going to win the Finals and he wouldn’t have to deal with the question of “How did Lebron fail this time?” It meant nothing that they won the title last year, every year that James does not win the title while he is in the league is a disappointment. During this playoff run they came close multiple times. Even coming close was enough to frustrate James, enough that he had to take over games, had to take it “back to his Cleveland days,” the Big Three became the Big Man during the biggest moments of the Finals’ last two games. Pay no attention to the fact that Ray Allen hit the biggest shot of the playoffs two nights ago–the initial play was a clearout for #6.
James has a lot to be happy for. He is by far the best player in the league. If you were redrafting the league, and could also clone James with each iteration losing 2 percent of his talent–a la Michael Keaton in the vastly underrated Multiplicity–how many Lebrons get drafted before another player? Eight? He has won back-to-back championships, League and Finals MVPs, but every shot he missed was followed by a “First Take” argument about wavering clutch. Every free throw he missed was followed by an eye roll and a “pssh, I knew it.”
Would this be how it would be if there was an Internet when Jordan was in his heyday? Probably. Buzzfeed would have been filled with “Top 30 Jordan Buzzer Beater Misses,” Deadspin would have a field day with his gambling habits, and even Shane would have hounded him on Twitter until he died. James is the best player in the NBA in a world where the “best” at anything is going to have to live up to their reputation at every turn, and if they don’t, they will be haunted by the 24-hour news cycle. Here is an article on WHY JANERO PARRGO DIDN’T LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS. Imagine what James has to deal with. Hell, his speech after he was awarded the Finals MVP came out a little defensive. Listen to this interview where he is ASKED HOW HE RESPONDS TO THE HATE IMMEDIATELY AFTER WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP .
So here’s my message to Lebron: You’re the best athlete on the planet, and you just won the championship. You’re 29 years old, have four MVP awards, two Finals MVPs, and two Olympic Gold Medals. I’m thirty-one, write for a blog with tens of readers and got a really good score on a secret shop. We have a lot in common. We should both be smiling.