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KING JAMES VERSION

Are you there, LeBron? It’s me, LeBron—a superstar’s ultimate pep talk

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
An audience of one.
  • Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill

Reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

ESPN.com, Jan. 23: LeBron James, never short on confidence, congratulated himself for reaching 30,000 career NBA points on Tuesday before he actually reached the milestone.

A post on James’ Instagram account that included a photo of a young James in his high school uniform starts: “Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach!”

Dear 12th Grade LeBron,

It’s me. Well, you. The 33-year-old you. I’m exactly who you hope you’re going to be: one of the greatest NBA players of all time. I’m a few hours away from becoming just the seventh man in this game to score 30,000 points in a career. I thought about you today and thought I’d go congratulate you on Instagram, which is a thing that lets you show 35 million people a picture at the same time.

Look at you. You’re just a kid. A kid who has already been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the youngest-ever member of the USA Today All-USA First Team, and Ohio Mr. Basketball in 2001, 2002, and 2003, sure, so it’s not like no one saw this coming. But still.

Even for all of your obvious talent, the gulf between who you are and who I am is staggeringly wide, and the likelihood that you will make it here to my side is vanishingly small. A bad rookie season, a snapped tendon, and it’s all over. Ohio Mr. Basketball 2000 last played for BC Novosibirsk in the Russian Basketball Super League. Ohio Mr. Basketball 1999 is dead, gunned down in the parking lot of Mrs. Rennison’s Donut Shop. You don’t have anything close to a guarantee that the dream you have for your life is going to come true.

But yet, it does. And it is great. You make $31 million a year. You have three NBA championships, four MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals. You have two mansions in Los Angeles and another one in Cleveland. Remember Kevin, the kid who made fun of you for being skinny in the fourth grade? In 2018 Kevin is going to order a slice of pizza after a late night of drinking only to realize at the cash register that he’s lost his debit card. Whereas you, LeBron, will own a 10% stake in the fastest growing pizza chain in the US and need never have a pizzaless moment for the rest of your life. And you won’t even eat pizza that often, because of the private chef who prepares you ketogenic meals.

Ha, Kevin.

And here is the best part: It feels good, even while it’s happening. There are people at the height of their game—and not just this game, but whatever their thing is—who spend the best years of their lives convinced that they’ve got nothing until they get the next thing, and then they get it, and the hunger just starts all over again. I have a lot, but I also have the ability to realize a good thing when I have it. Knowing that is worth more than pretty much anything else I own.

I’m still hungry. I’m not okay losing, and I never will be. But I don’t want to wait until it’s all over to think back on you, little Me, and thank you for putting in the work then to get me here now. Tonight is a big game. Thinking about how happy you’d be to know that we’re here gets me pumped like nothing else. There are a lot of people to thank, and I’ll get to them too, but even I can’t buy what it feels like to look back and tell you that I got to the place you wanted so badly to be. It took only a second and it was free, which is great, because I am still cheap and I’m not sorry.

People are going to say that it’s crazy to issue yourself public congratulations for a thing you haven’t yet done, and kind of it is. But so was believing that you’d get here in the first place.

Congrats again, young King.

LeBron

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