LeBron James' and Lon Babby's new jobs tell us more about ourselves than about them.
Imagine a man voracious for power and approval making a spectacle of himself and offending millions during his successful coup of an NBA franchise, putting him in a position to boot others out and insert his friends and acquaintances in positions of power during a highly questionable process that showed a distinct lack of media savvy and sensitivity to others.
Now imagine a man who acted as a power broker quietly setting the table behind the scenes for a long time to complete a successful coup of an NBA franchise, putting him in a position to allow others to find success in other organizations and insert his friends and acquaintances in positions of power during a highly structured process that showed a distinct plethora of media savvy and sensitivity to others.
Go back to that first man. He conspired for weeks, months, or possibly years with his friends to pull off this coup in an uncomfortable gray tangle of rules, regulations, understandings, and customs and then pretended the decision came very recently and completely above board despite all signs to the contrary. (Those three gentlemen have had more slips of the tongue than the reptile house at the Phoenix Zoo.)
Return to the second man. He discussed this civilly for weeks, months, or possibly years with people (or just one person) in power to pull off this coup in an uncomfortable gray tangle of rules, regulations, understandings, and customs and then asserted the decision came very recently and completely above board with supporting documentation despite multiple signs to the contrary. (Amar'e's contract couldn't be completely guaranteed? Kerr gets low-balled, but now both a President of Basketball Operations and a General Manager can be afforded? All his rowdy friends are now part of the franchise?)
The first man gave up the opportunity to be "the man" to join a larger team so he could hide behind other talented people. The second man gave up the opportunity to be the independent power broker to join a larger team to prove he could be more successful in that environment. The first is a clumsy jester in star's clothing. The other is a deft back room dealer and polished businessman.
So which is the man we despise with all our being and which is Lon Babby?
We've become obsessed with process. It's not enough to make a great movie; it has to clear $60 mil in the first weekend or we feel less confident in our affection for the film. We speak confidently that Mel Gibson could violate a wallaby but return to the big screen in three years if he follows the proper apology-rehab-public weeping dance, all understanding that he probably hasn't changed fundamentally in his fading years.
Therefore, we roil about LeBron James' disaffection for Cleveland and his callousness and deafness to the needs of others while nodding at Lon Babby and consider him to have made the best of a bad situation where he just couldn't turn down the opportunity to join the Phoenix Suns.
Of course, it didn't hurt that James wanted to be in the public eye and Babby laid back behind the scenes for the general fan. It's hard to form an opinion about someone if you don't know they exist.
Consider this third man: World Wide Wes, who spent the last 10-15 years as a behind-the-scenes power broker for LeBron James and others in the NBA and became a mythical figure in NBA circles, stepped into the limelight during LeBronukkah and was promptly squashed by LeBron's friend and manager, Maverick Carter, for clumsily grabbing for attention (as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports). Wes turned from Babby into James and has been left to lick his wounds.
Consider this fourth man: Steve Kerr probably won't use his national TNT platform to attack the Suns or Babby, which is just as well. He knows the dance. Despite knowing for weeks or months that Babby had been chatting with Robert Sarver about replacing him, he'll speak well about the Suns players and defer about management.
He'll be the one passing through town when some team starts rooting around for a new general manager behind their current man's back and asks Kerr to come up for tea. Quietly. And we'll be the ones judging him. Loudly.