Friday, July 11, 2014

LeBron James and the American Monomyth or Why I Love LeBron's Return Home

"I’m coming home." With these words, LeBron James completed the narrative cycle that began half a decade ago. The NBA's biggest star's decision to return to Cleveland is being called, "The Redemption", but his choice resonates with NBA fans across the league for a larger reason: the most powerful person in the game has finally lived up to the hero trope that we have projected on him.

By returning home, James becomes the embodiment of the Campbellian archetypal hero, having completed his hero's journey and riding to the aid of his home town. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the monomyth, or the basic pattern in storytelling around the world. In summary, the monomyth story is as follows:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day at the urging of a wise man, into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man

In James we see each part of this story fulfilled. The year before the infamous decision to leave Cleveland, James watched as he was surrounded by players who can only be described as common. These were players of inferior talent or players who's prime had passed them by. There were rumors of James wanting to see major changes or he would consider leaving.

Next we see the entrance of the wise man who encourages the hero to embark on this journey, a roll neatly filled in by Pat Riley.

Next the hero must enter a region of supernatural wonder with fabulous forces. I would submit that Miami would seem like a supernatural paradise when compared to Cleveland and the combined powers of Wade and Bosh as fabulous forces when compared to the level of talent James was surrounded by.

A decisive victory must be won. you could argue that James tenure in Miami was not decisive, however I would say that 2 championship and 4 finals appearances were major victories for a player who's greatness was continually questioned until he became a champion.

And here the story ended, until today. The monomyth unfinished, the narrative circle left open, and the tenuous existence of the monomyth parallel teetering on the edge of destruction should James go somewhere other than Cleveland or stay in Miami.

But today the journey arc of the story closes and James brings not only his talent but his knowledge of how to win, and his ambition to find success in his hometown. I wish him well in the next part of his story, for the bestowing of boons will not be a simple path, but I know that he has made the right choice. He has upheld the highest tradition of being a hero, coming home again to change to common world.

Good Luck LeBron. (I still hope my Bulls beat you)