- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

LeBron James apparently wants to be a cliche when he grows up.
He is motoring around in Akron, Ohio, in a 2003 Hummer H2, equipped with three TVs, computer hookups, seatbacks with "King James" embroidery and impressive rims, and the proper authorities are conducting a thorough investigation to determine if the loan is on the up and up, if the world is flat and if O.J. Simpson remains in hot pursuit of the "real killers" at the Orange Bowl.
There is nothing wrong with any of it, nothing wrong whatsoever: the Hummer H2, the world and O.J.'s never-ending search to find the "real killers." Go, O.J., go.
The high school player's unemployed mother undoubtedly walked into a bank, whereupon the loan officer decided she looked like a very pleasant woman and said: "You want a Hummer H2, with all the extras? You need what, $75,000? It is done. Go. Get out of here. Enjoy yourself. And remember: An eye for an eye and the world goes blind."
This is how it works with most lending institutions. You walk into one and the staff gives you a manicure and a rubdown, while a loan officer endeavors to give you all the cash you need, in good faith, of course, and with a low, low, historically low interest rate.
So what is the problem? Why is everyone so uncomfortable with the Hummer H2?
Is it the color, the money, the conspicuous consumption, what?
Aside to ESPN: Would you guys please send a camera crew to Akron, pronto, so we can peek inside the Hummer H2? Who knows? Maybe this is a talking Hummer H2. ESPN could interview it, live, uncensored, as well as check to see if it has a kitchen, a bath and wood flooring.
Another thing: How did James and his mother decide on three TVs? Why not two TVs? Or four? Or five?
However many TVs, James, in a Hummer H2, is working from a tired script.
What's next with James, the 400-pound bodyguard or the barbed-wire tattoo on the bicep?
The barbed-wire tattoo is almost as mandatory as the tattoo with the Chinese lettering, one or the other, or both. Then again, it is hard to keep up with NBA fashion. One day the crotch of the pants are required to fall below the knee and the next day they are required to fall just above the knee. It is kind of confusing, like keeping up with the hemlines of skirts.
By the way, have you ever wondered about the tattoos done in Chinese? It is not as though you are apt to meet many bilingual types in tattoo parlors, and even if you meet the occasional one, Chinese is probably not their second language. Chinese is a difficult language to master, after all. You could ask Shaquille O'Neal.
But lots of NBA players like this sort of stuff, the Chinese stuff, even if the tattoo artist is copying the lettering from the menu of a Chinese restaurant.
Yao Ming probably has a good laugh when he sees these tattoos. The poor player with the Chinese tattoo thinks it reads, "I'm the toughest man in the history of the world," when it reality it reads, "Hunan Shrimp, $9.95."
James already has a tattoo, God bless him, plus the obligatory male figure in his life who is going to prison. He also has shown potential with the bad-man strut after making a play in the first quarter, and now he has the shocking, just shocking, Hummer H2.
Gold chains, anyone? Where is the 18-year-old basketball flavor of the moment on the issue of gold jewelry? A serious player can't have enough gold jewelry, starting with the 50-pound medallion that leads to lower back strain, irritable bowel syndrome and assorted other health problems.
James is expected to land a staggering endorsement deal from a shoe company. No word yet on when he will make his first rap video, star in his first motion picture and be named in his first paternity suit. This is all part of the maturation process, and in the case of James, the process is in overdrive. No one seems to mind too much, least of all the officials at his high school.
It also is important that James surround himself with a quality posse, crew or entourage, or whatever it is hangers-on are being called nowadays.
Some people think life in the NBA is glamorous. Believe it or not, NBA players have their problems just like everyone else, like the requisite marijuana farm a hanger-on cultivates in the backyard of a player's home. What can a player do? He goes away on a 10-day road trip and comes home to a court appearance after the pizza-delivery guy notices the bales of marijuana stacked to the ceiling in the living room.
James is not there yet, fortunately, just in an awful hurry in his Hummer H2.

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