Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals is going to be remembered for a long time. By Ray Allen, who hit the shot of his life to send the game into overtime. By hundreds of Miami fans, who famously left the game early, only to bang on the doors and plead for reentry upon learning that somehow, the Heat had come back. And of course, by LeBron James, who after having his trademark headband knocked off in the fourth quarter, went on an absolute tear to finish the night with a triple double: 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
By all accounts, Game 6 was a classic. And yet, the next morning, the main object of fascination wasn’t the Ray Allen shot. Nor was it the Miami Heat faithful abandoning their soon to be victorious team. No, instead the internet was abuzz with talk of LeBron James’ fallen headband. He had become a modern day legend, a reverse Samson, who with his hairline fully exposed, seemed to gain world altering powers, willing his team to victory when they looked to be on the brink of defeat.
It should come as no surprise, then, that after pictures emerged yesterday of LeBron’s newly shaved head, the internet broke. Hairline jokes, bald jokes and terrible jokes of all kinds spread across the web as everyone labored to be the first of their Twitter friends to zing the king. And while trending on Twitter hardly qualifies as a newsworthy story, the fact that everyone cares so much is not without significance.
Did anyone care in the slightest when Kobe shaved his head at age 24, already having won three championships? Granted, the advent of social media has upped demand for these kinds of ancillary news stories, but the very notion that a slight change in physical appearance could elicit such a strong and wide reaching response shows that LeBron James has already attained a Jordan-like cult of personality, if not his coveted six rings. What’s more, James has been able to achieve this status without nearly the visibility that Michael Jordan had. Magic Johnson said as much during the Finals, going on record that he’d “never seen an MVP, back-to-back winner…not have any endorsement deals. Every time I look at the TV, I never see any LeBron James commercials.”
Obviously, the debate as to who is the greatest of all time isn’t ending any time soon. But in the wake of bald-gate, it has become abundantly clear that LeBron James has, if nothing else, attained Jordan’s level of cultural significance. And if today’s Nike ad is any indication of what’s to come, he could very well eclipse it.