It is dawn on January 11th, 1894. Miami Heat fans array in battle formations, ready to take back their land from the Daewon-gun who has been corrupting their king. Foreign powers have moved in; Japan has gained unprecedented influence in the Korean peninsula, capsizing the previous singular Chinese singular suzerainty, which uncertainty fomented nauseous anger among the masses and in turn unrest. It was corrupt officials and advisors, the Heat fans of the nation knew, who were responsible for the ills that have overtaken their country. ‘If only,’ they clenched, ‘if only King Gojong were surrounded by upright and virtuous advisors, Korea would thrive. But his wicked and cruel advisors and officers thwart his heavenly will and allow foreign powers to take spindled root in the nation of Korea.’ Heaven determines the king; the people must look after his advisors.
The blood sun that rises is that very purification; the furor of Miami fans toward Daewon-gun Rich Paul in corrupting their king is righteous.
The fixation on LeBron James’s circle as a group of sneering illuminati is part fascinating, partially grounded in the zeitgeist of the 19th century Korean populace. Because the Korean peasantry could not find it within themselves to blame their divinely-guided king, the Donghak Peasant Revolution of 1894 was outrage directed at the yangban literati, the buffer zone between Korean policy and its consequences, as well as the Daewon-gun, Gojong’s regent and chief confederate.
In the case of the 1894 peasant rebellion, iconoclastic Choe Jeu’s diagnosis was based in nonsense. There were minor insurrections in the 1880s that occurred when King Gojong was merely in his early 20s, but by the inception of the Donghak rebellion, Gojong was in his thirties. The assertion that Gojong was not responsible for the ills afflicting Korea was to deny that the King had any authority.
The parallel is remarkable.
The responsibility for The Decision, according to one particular source and to the public zeitgeist generally, falls upon LRMR. There was dislike for King James, of course – typically, setting jerseys ablaze helps stir a jumbo pitcher of haterade – but the blame for The Decision has been remarkably focused on LRMR. One could play Mad Libs with the line of Korean rhetoric with LeBron James’s advisors: ‘Would that he had surrounded himself with better advisors; our long metropolitan nightmare would not have been capped with such sorrow if LeBron had better advisors,’ we cried in 2010.
Flash forward to the marshalled forces on Miami’s sports talk phone lines. ‘If LeBron were not letting himself be influenced by the deleterious influence of Rich Paul,’ they mourn, ‘LeBron wouldn’t even be thinking about returning to Cleveland. Paul is self-serving; King James is being driven away by wicked, selfish advisors.’
The characterization of these Miami and Cleveland viewpoints is inelegant, as is the dialogue I have placed in their mouths. This is intentional; the word choice is approximately as inspired as the line of reasoning. Blaming advisors for a decision conducted by a Sovereign that they have no choice but to love is a trope as old as time itself; any articulation thereof must in turn needs be stale.
LeBron James is an empire unto himself. All responsibility – good and bad – for his own actions. If LeBron returns to Cleveland, it will be on him, and Miami fans must come to terms with the central responsibility of LeBron. If LeBron returns once more to Miami, LeBron will be the sole driver of this decision. This has been detailed before: LeBron’s decision-making is determined by James and James alone; whatever he deems the best mix of short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals will be LeBron’s decision. The Empire cannot push responsibility onto someone else; the most powerful athlete in the world did not acquire this power simply by being a physical freak the likes of which the NBA has never before seen. LeBron James is the focus of his proverbial kingdom; all justice and injustice flows through him.
Rich Paul pushing LeBron to Cleveland matters little; his inner circle’s affinity for the Miami weather. The consequences of decisions fall on one man alone; an empire will not flutter around at the whims of advisors’ winds.
King Gojong escaped judgment of his contemporaries. The fall of Korea may have fallen more upon the decisions of his predecessor or on circumstance than Gojong himself, but all responsibility for the decisions of his majority fall upon Gojong alone. Blaming his advisors was only ever self-deception.
It is a toxic sleight, one that compelled misplaced outrage over a century ago, and one that will doubtless be the motif of outrage after LeBron decides in 2014. Whether this fall’s in Cleveland’s favor or in Miami’s favor is, it is imperative that one bear in mind that the responsibility – all of it – falls on one man alone. The King’s coronation demands it.