Friday, March 4, 2016

Fraternizing with the enemy

This isn't 1914, and it's only basketball. So the obvious parallels -- or at least, obvious to unrepentant history nerds -- will not be drawn.

This was no Christmas Truce, this off-days getaway by LeBron James to Miami to work out with his former teammate, Dwyane Wade. This wasn't men induced to slaughter one another for the ambitions of kings and potentates putting down their weapons, venturing out of the trenches and spending the birthday of the Prince of Peace proving that all wars are essentially a sham, orchestrated by the powerful and fought by the un-invested powerless.

This was just LeBron and D-Wade hangin', which likely got the Old School Joes fuming in much the way the kings and potentates fumed about the Christmas Truce. And in a sense, you can understand why.

The Old School Joes played in a time when, if you were a Knick or a Celtic or a Laker, you were a Knick or a Celtic or a Laker for life. Your boys were your boys, and their boys were their boys. You could no more envision yourself palling around with them than you could envision, as an American, palling around with Josef Stalin.

Perhaps that's overstating it. But not by much.

Here's the thing, though: If this is not 1914, it is also not, say, 1968. The game has changed, and the relationships within it have changed. Players switch teams all the time now -- LeBron, of course, being the most notorious example. Loyalties therefore shift. Friendships are fluid. Corporate influences make allies of men who, back in the day, would have regarded one another as blood enemies.

Now they're business partners. Now they have mutual interests.

Maybe that makes the modern NBA less intriguing than the Old School NBA, when the Lakers and Celtics went at it like the Jets and Sharks, and never the twain did meet. But the world turns, and things change. It was changing even 30 years ago, when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were cast as mortal enemies but found more common ground than uncommon ground, and Isiah and Magic once famously traded air kisses before a playoff game.

And so LeBron choosing to use his days off to hang with a guy with whom, lest we forget, he shares a couple of rings?

Hey, it's his time off. It's his life. His choice of friends belongs to him.

Deal with it.


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