King James and ‘King Bey’

by Steven J. Gaither

The comparison game is tiring and sometimes overplayed, especially when it comes to LeBron James. LBJ is definitely tired of it. “Why won’t you just let me be great?” he seems to be asking the world as he continues to take his game to new heights.

Because, LeBron, we have a 24-hour internet/mobile/social media need to have something to talk about, and that’s just the price that comes with being great during this time period.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, allow me to make the most liberal but fitting comparison of all. As a complete package, LeBron James has more in common with Beyonce than he does with Magic, Michael, or any other baller to lace ’em up.

Anyone paying attention will tell you that for the first two months of 2013, LeBron and Beyonce have both been the talk of social media day in and day out. Even before King James and ‘King Bey’ took over this year, their paths have been eerily similar. Allow me to explain.

Both were childhood prodigies. By the late-‘90s, Beyonce was the face of one of the Millenial Supremes, Destiny’s Child. The Houston-based girl group first burst onto the national scene with the sassy “No, No, No,” and as the cute light-skinned chick who sang all the leads, Beyonce definitely stood out. By the time the group’s second album, Writing’s On The Wall, was released, she started to shine as a songwriter and perhaps the first new black sex symbol for Millenial-era kids like myself.

By the summer of 2002 and definitely by the end of that year, word started to float about a 6-7 kid with an awkwardly curly ‘fro from Akron, OH, who was supposed to be the next big thing. Those kinds of labels come and go year by year, but folks were saying this kid might be good enough to play in the League as a high school junior. The next two years showed that LeBron was not only legit, he was transcendent. The kid appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 17, had his high school games televised nationally on ESPN. We were witnesses before Nike told us we were.

In the next phases of their careers, both stars spent their time holding subpar teams together. No disrespect to any of the girls in the DC rotation (especially not you, Kelly), but Bey was clearly pushed upon us as the face of Destiny’s Child, and who were we to argue? Even as DC underwent lineup changes, nothing could stop the Beyonce-centered momentum. By the time songs like the silly “Bootylicious” and 21st Century single ladies anthem “Independent Women” dropped, it was clear this group was only going as far as Ms. Knowles wanted to take them.

LBJ faced the same situation upon entering the League. He ended up playing on his hometown team, quickly becoming the League’s biggest attraction. James piled up on personal accolades while driving most forgettable Finals team this side of the ’01 Sixers to a Finals appearance in 2007. That immortal Cleveland Cavs team featured an over-the-hill Eric Snow, an erratic Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ 3,000 year-old knees and a young Boobie Gibson.

Eventually, both LBJ and Bey knew they had to surround themselves with a better supporting cast. In 2003, Beyonce launched her solo career with Dangerously In Love, which included the hit single “Crazy In Love,” featuring her real-life love interest Jay-Z. The two have been an item for a decade and are probably Black America’s third favorite couple after the Obamas and the Huxtables. LeBron, meanwhile, took his talents to South Beach in 2010, teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in an obvious and successful power grab. Both stars’ transitions were painful and personal—Beyonce eventually letting her father go as manager and LeBron leaving fans red-eyed in Cleveland—but ultimately necessary.

It turns out 2012 was the incubator to both stars reaching what could be the peak of their dominance in 2013. Beyonce birthed baby Blue Ivy, and LeBron finally got the monkey off his back and won a Championship. With Beyonce’s motherly destiny fulfilled, she quickly eased back into shape and has hit us with an inaugural national anthem, a Super Bowl performance for the ages, and the announcement of The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. And LeBron has taken his already ridiculous game to levels of dominance not seen in decades, if ever.

Finally, both LeBron and Beyonce are ‘80s Babies-Hybrids of the players they patterned their games after. Check out Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance. She’s giving you Janet Jackson style-precision in her dance moves, hitting notes that Alicia Keys couldn’t find in her dreams and providing that Tina Turner your-kids-will-still-think-I’m-hot sex appeal, all while giving Kelly (Wade) and Bosh (Michelle) some shine. And LeBron has found his lane as a Jordan-Magic-hybrid in Karl Malone’s body while the rest of the League is damn near begging him to slow down.

And somewhere at All-Star Weekend, at some exclusive spot you and I can only dream of partying, Shawn Carter smiled knowingly at both of his confidants.