[Originally published July 13, 2010.]

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[ On July 1, 2010, LEBRON JAMES becomes a free agent. NBA executives and owners immediately besiege him with rationales for joining them.]

PAT RILEY

You want a ring?
Can’t bear to fail?
Join Dwyane and Chris
And get the Grail.
Come South, young man
Play for the Heat
The weather’s great
And winning’s sweet

JAY-Z

If you’re having choosing problems
I feel bad for you, son
You got 99 problems
But the Nets ain’t one

I know that it’s not fair of me
To lure you with a parody
So also I broke you off
Tons of cash from Prokhorov

JERRY REINSDORF

Forget about the Nets and Knicks
Be like Mike; we won him six
They say I hold the purse strings tight
But Derrick Rose will treat you right

DAN GILBERT

Why oh why oh
Won’t you stay in Ohio?
Please don’t do this to the Cavs
We’ll be have-nots instead of haves

DAVID KAHN

Come to Minneapolis
We have a thousand lakes
Though if you chose to do this
It would rank among your worst mistakes
Crap, I can’t believe it
Did I say that out loud?
It was my conscience talking
I can’t say that I’m proud

[ As teams court LEBRON JAMES, MEDIA speculation mounts.]

MEDIA

LeBron and Bosh?
Oh, golly. Gosh.
LeBron and Dwyane
Would be insane.
LeBron and Dirk?
It just might work.
LeBron and Rose?
Excitement grows.
LeBron and the Clippers?
They’d pop their zippers.
Elena Kagan?
The Gulf oil leak?
Who cares about that?
It’s free agent week!
LeBron is the story
LeBron is the thing
And who knows which kingdom
Will take in the King?

[LEBRON JAMES is in his mansion in Bath, Ohio, watching coverage of NBA Free Agency 2010 on TV.]

LEBRON JAMES

When I’m on the court
A split-second decision
Is easy for me
It’s like an incision
Made by a surgeon
With a perfect physique
I’m a cross between Magic
And Michael and ’Nique

But picking a place
Where I’ll play ball next year
It isn’t so easy
It fills me with fear
So many cities
So many choices
So many committees
And visits and voices

[LEBRON JAMES stands suddenly. The report appears on ESPN’s Bottom Line: “LeBron James stands suddenly.”]

LEBRON JAMES

The pressure is mounting
It’s like a sick joke
When the smoke clears
There’s only more smoke
I am in a cage you see
And it is called free agency
The choice I have oppresses me
It worries and it stresses me
My brain, it full court presses me
My poor mind feels like soggy bread
I think I need to clear my head

[LEBRON JAMES steps toward his driveway. The report appears on ESPN’s Bottom Line: “LeBron James steps toward his driveway.” LEBRON JAMES sets up a game to help him solve his dilemma.]

LEBRON JAMES

I made a game. I call it C-O-U-R-S-E.
It’s pretty much the same as H-O-R-S-E.
I’ll attempt shots that no mortals could make
If they don’t fall, I’ll know which path to take

[LEBRON JAMES begins to play. A neighbor boy watches through a hole in the fence.]

LEBRON JAMES

This is an eyes-closed
Reverse-flip one eighty
If I miss this shot,
Then I’ll go to Haiti

[LEBRON JAMES makes the shot. The neighbor boy gasps.]

LEBRON JAMES

This is from half court
I’ll shoot on my knees
If it rims out I’ll move
And play for the Chinese

[LEBRON JAMES makes the shot. The neighbor boy gasps.]

LEBRON JAMES

I’ll go upside down
I’ll shoot with my feet
I’ll carom the ball
Off the fence down the street
If this one misses
And that’s not the rule
I’ll leave the pro ranks
And I’ll go back to school

[LEBRON JAMES misses the shot. The neighbor boy cries out and claps his hand to his mouth in horror.]

LEBRON JAMES

The die is cast
A stranger squealed
It’s back to school
Like Rodney Dangerfield

I’ll trade my PPG
For a GPA
It’s like that show Community
Crossed with the NBA

I will go to class
To the best of my ability
I’ll even forgo
All my eligibility

[LEBRON JAMES enrolls in college. Fairly quickly, he gravitates toward philosophy.]

LEBRON JAMES

Guarding Rondo or Kobe is hard
But it’s nothing compared to Kierkegaard
What a dense and recondite writer
I read “Either/Or” with a yellow highlighter
After that, Wittgenstein, and the Tractatus
I admire his logical apparatus
And unlike a steal or an offensive board
Studying thought is its own reward

[ Even as he gets his academic footing, LEBRON JAMES learns to appreciate campus social life. He meets BRAD, a prospective fraternity brother.]

LEBRON JAMES

I want to join a fraternity
If I don’t I might regret it

BRAD

There’s no Phi Slamma Jamma here

LEBRON JAMES

What? Well, then, forget it.

[BRAD starts to walk away.]

LEBRON JAMES

Wait a second
I was kidding
I’ll be a pledge
I’ll do your bidding

[ At the frat house, LEBRON JAMES stays up all night, talking to his friends about girls, family, and the meaning of life.]

BRAD

There’s a girl in my econ section
Who’s the model of perfection
When I look in her direction
I feel the start of an erection

LEBRON JAMES

How do I know
That the color blue
Is the same to me
As it is to you?

BRAD

Dude, pass me another beer.

LEBRON JAMES

I feel so safe, so wanted here.

[ Despite LEBRON JAMES’s success and popularity on campus, one administrator, DEAN GRADJOWSKI, summons LEBRON JAMES to his office.]

DEAN GRADJOWSKI

Mister James
I doubt your claims
That you’re in earnest
About your classes
Inherently
You seem to be
Concerned with threes
And no-look passes
You say you love
The main library
And yet, Mister James,
I remain wary

LEBRON JAMES

But Dean Gradjowski,
It is all true!
I love my studies.
I will show you.
My final paper
Is due next week
I’m writing on
The Third Critique
In which Kant lays out
A new teleology
I’ll do a great job.
You will see, Dean, you will see.

[LEBRON JAMES works hard on his paper. He does not drink with BRAD. After he finishes his paper, he brings a copy to DEAN GRADJOWSKI.]

LEBRON JAMES

I turned in the paper
I stayed up all night
My argument sparkled
My sourcing was tight
I think that Kant’s ethics
Were explained with great skill
And a dash of panache
To sugar the pill

[DEAN GRADJOWSKI scrutinizes the paper.]

DEAN GRADJOWSKI

Wrong wrong
You got it all wrong
You’re just a dumb baller
You’ll never belong
Go back to the locker room
Back to the court
You can’t cut it here
You’re not the right sort

LEBRON JAMES

But Dean,
I mean—

DEAN GRADJOWSKI

Begone,
LeBron!
Your departure is vital!
Get out of here and go win a title!

[LEBRON JAMES leaves DEAN GRADJOWSKI’s office. He sits on the steps and weeps.]

LEBRON JAMES

I thought I made some progress
My mind was getting bigger
I was feeling transformed
By transcendental vigor
But maybe the dean’s right
Perhaps I’m not the guy
Goodbye, my lovely campus,
Frat house, Brad—goodbye

[ Inside, DEAN GRADJOWSKI pulls off a mask to reveal he’s NBA commissioner DAVID STERN.]

DAVID STERN

LeBron as a student
Was not the best thing
For NBA coffers
So I severed the string.
Now that we’ve handled
The matter of flunking
Let’s get back to business
Bring on the dunking!

[LEBRON JAMES is stung by his rejection from college life.]

LEBRON JAMES

My heart is shattered
My spirit is crushed
I love all my classes
And the frat that I rushed
But if I must be branded
As a blockheaded jock
I’ll come back in a fashion
That will sicken and shock

[LEBRON JAMES schedules a one-hour national television special, on which he announces that he will return to the NBA and sign with the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.]

LEBRON JAMES

People can lecture and people can preach
But I’m taking my talents to South Beach.

[ Cavs owner DAN GILBERT lambastes his former star in a letter that includes the words “cowardly,” “quitter,” “betrayal,” “sadist,” and "genocide."]

DAN GILBERT

You’re reprehensible, the worst man
I’ve had the displeasure of meeting
I look forward to Cavs versus Heat
You’ll be the team we’ll be defeating

[ National African-American figures like JESSE JACKSON come to the defense of LEBRON JAMES.]

JESSE JACKSON

He’s not your boy
He’s not your slave
He’ll play where he wants
You should learn to behave
Go say that in Hough
If you’re feeling brave

DAN GILBERT

LeBron let down a team, a city,
Committed an abhorrent sin
Stop bringing race into the picture
My skin’s not black or white: it’s thin!

[LEBRON JAMES is stung by DAN GILBERT’s disloyalty and his rude ejection from college. Before he reports to the Heat, he moves all his college textbooks into a spare bedroom in his mansion, vowing never to enter that room. Midway through the season, the Milwaukee Bucks come to town. In the closing minutes, they insert a journeyman forward named Gilbert Kant. LEBRON JAMES posterizes him with a terrifying dunk. After the game, Kant tries to shake his hand, but LEBRON JAMES won’t even look at him.]

LEBRON JAMES

What’s in a name?
Pain, some would claim
Memory, sadness,
What I almost became.
When I dunked on Gilbert Kant
I felt a self-directed taunt
The specter of the life I lost
When I left school. What it cost
Me was only everything.
The cruelties that fear can bring!

[LEBRON JAMES leaves the team after the All-Star break. He goes back to school. The real DEAN GRADJOWSKI welcomes him with open arms, as does his once and future frat brother BRAD. LEBRON JAMES rejoins the philosophy department. His thesis, “‘To Dare is To Lose Footing Momentarily; To Not Dare Is to Lose the Self’: A Comparison of the Motivational Poetics of Wooden and Popovich,” wins an undergraduate prize. BRAD throws him a party.]

BRAD

Hey jackass, don’t hog the bong.

LEBRON JAMES

This is surely where I belong.