They partied together last October a day after the Yankees lost in the playoffs, so I guess it only makes sense that Alex Rodriguez would come to LeBron James’ defense after his dismal performance in the 2011 NBA Finals.
Asserting that it’s hard to win a championship regardless of how talented one is, A-Ro(i)d added that fans should celebrate James’ skills and remember that he is a wee lad of 26 years.
Whether the often-derided Rodriquez’s point has merit is debatable.
But what is not in doubt is that a strong argument can be made that LeBron is A-Rod 2.0.
Consider the following:
Both have been blessed with otherworldly gifts that they have honed.
Both broke into the league as earnest young “good guys.”
Both left winning teams in a way that left a bitter taste in the original team’s fan base that has lingered for years.
Both eventually joined teams where, despite all their ability, they were considered the second fiddle-a move that ultimately diminished the luster of Rodriguez’s World Series triumph because it was not considered fully legitimate, and that may well do the same for James, should the Heat eventually triumph.
Both had initial periods where they performed at high levels in the playoffs-even with the Finals debacle, James has some of the most gaudy statistics in basketball history, while Rodriguez hit .366 with 4 homers before the Red Sox-Yankees 2004 classic-followed by spectacular possibly career-defining failures.
Both seem at once utterly self-absorbed and narcissistic-qualities that have led to bizarre moments-A-Rod as a half-man/half horse; the piece about LeBron partying in Vegas that was pulled, anyone?-and bewildered by the negative reaction they receive.
The latter is another key similarity.
I wrote yesterday about how LeBron is not Bill Laimbeer, someone who, at least in the sports context, was comfortable being a bully and a villain (Note how I said “being,” rather than “playing a role.”).
But while the actions of both James and Rodriguez have gathered considerable enmity, neither seems at home either in the position Laimbeer filled so willingly, nor, ultimately, in his own skin.
James can take heart in the at least partial redemption his erstwhile partying buddy and current defender earned through his performance in the 2009 playoffs, when his dominant performance played a pivotal role in propelling the Yankees to a World Series victory that earned him his long-coveted ring.
Whether James ultimately arrives at the same destination remains to be seen.
But what is almost certain is that his failures, accentuated by the magnitude of his gifts and his arrogance, will continue to follow him until he does indeed reach the pinnacle by winning a championship.