More worry over McMansions than LeBron’s teardown that replaced a midcentury modern

Are McMansions in Los Angeles disliked because of who might live in them or because of their architecture?

Newly signed Laker LeBron James’ $23 million digs on Tigertail Road in L.A.’s Brentwood come with a deep roster of industry neighbors, from stars (Jim Carrey) and execs (ABC’s Ben Sherwood, Scooter Braun) to reps (CAA’s Fred Specktor, Lighthouse’s Margaret Riley), writers (John Sacret Young) and movie royalty (or at least movie royalty-adjacent: John Goldwyn’s ex Colleen Camp)…

The tony community is taking well to its new neighbor, says one homeowner, who adds that there’s more concern about the explosion of “McMansions” in an area that boasts so many architecturally significant houses, like the William Krisel-built midcentury modern that was torn down in 2014 on the lot where James’ new home sits.

While James’ new-build eight-bedroom home has been under renovation since May as he adds a basketball court and indoor wine tap, the construction hasn’t been particularly disruptive, says the resident, given the large number of homes being built and updated throughout the neighborhood. “[His house] is set on the hillside, very tasteful and pretty, and it’s been low-key so far,” says the neighbor. “People were a lot more upset when Justin Bieber was looking around here.”

Even though James now lives in a large house that replaced an “architecturally significant house,” at least one neighbor does not think it is a problem for three reasons:

  1. The new house is “very tasteful and pretty.”
  2. LeBron James is not Justin Bieber. Not only is Bieber less popular than James, he has a Los Angeles reputation for parties and fast driving.
  3. The construction “hasn’t been particularly disruptive.”

So because Lebron James is simply a better-liked neighbor than Bieber, the construction of a mansion (or McMansion) can be overlooked? According to some, midcentury moderns are worth celebrating compared to McMansions.

Again trying to link the fate of Cleveland with LeBron James

With LeBron James returning to Cleveland, ESPN has another story about how Cleveland has suffered. But let me take a few pieces of this story and offer an alternative explanation of what has happened to Cleveland:

The issue is not really sports – LeBron James is just the symptom. The real issue is similar to that of many Rust Belt cities – manufacturing jobs left, the population shrunk, and the city’s glory disappeared. The city has tried some various tricks: funding new sports stadiums and building the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

So when LeBron James, a local kid become star, joined the Cavaliers, the city perked up. Having James meant recognition, new money, and a chance for lasting glory with championships. When James left without bringing the championships, it turned into a cruel joke – the city is still recognized but as the place with terrible luck.

Having James for as long as they did masked the true problems of Cleveland. In fact, if James hadn’t played for the Cavaliers, there may be no one writing anything about Cleveland at all. For almost a decade, Cleveland could dream of sports and glory rather than thinking about what should be done to turn the city around. It won’t be easy: some of the ideas associated with reviving Detroit, which has drawn its own share of attention, are pretty drastic. Some other ideas that could be tried: developing park land along the water, building upon academic institutions, or trying to attract or develop newer industries.

Ultimately, the losing sports teams aren’t the issue. Sure, most cities would like to win championships. But the bigger issue is coping with or reversing the Rust Belt decline. LeBron wasn’t the answer – and Cleveland is still searching.

Comparing greatness of players past and present an enjoyable part of sports fandom

As the NBA season approaches, discussion this week has centered on the relative status of several players: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan. While the first three players in this list were involved in a question about who is the best current player and potential MVP, Jordan also has been inserted in the discussion due to his starring role in NBA2K11 and comments he made about the number of points he could score if he played today when more fouls are called.

Several quick thoughts come to mind:

1. The new era of statistics in sports offers more opportunities to make comparisons of players across different eras, particularly if you can control for certain features of the game at each time period (like the average pace in basketball).

2. I wonder how much current players think about issues like these. Fans seems to like these discussions. It allows the average guy sitting on the couch to say, “my guy, whoever that may be, can match up or beat your guy.”

3. Jordan, like some other old players, still likes to be part of these discussions.

4. All of these discussions are magnified by the non-stop media attention for sports these days. I can hear it on local sports talk radio which all sound like the CNN of the radio airwaves; stories are repeated all day long with slightly different interpretations.

LeBron James, “the decision,” and race

Comments made by LeBron James several days ago are drawing attention. James suggested in an interview with CNN that race played a role in people’s reaction to his choice to play with the Miami Heat. A commentator at Salon suggests that James is just stating the obvious:

Now, the Aggrieved White Guy funnels rage to the comment boards, as LeBron is shredded for this latest transgression of truth. While many pundits white and black want to pretend that ego alone stoked this bubbling hate cauldron, Henry Abbott, who presides over ESPN’s network of NBA blogs, noticed a unique phenomenon:

“It is literally the strangest thing I have ever seen NBA fans do. If you look at most NBA stories online, there will be some comments on each that are either racist, coded racism, or in line with racist thinking. On the night of LeBron’s decision, those kinds of hateful comments — whether hateful or not — became the dominant narrative, which blew my mind.”

Fans were uniquely angry at James for showing up a mostly white NBA power structure. His race played a role, how could it not? And if you’re still mad at LeBron, if you’re screaming at him for pointing this out, I don’t think his “ego” is what irks you.

It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out. The Q ratings demonstrated that blacks and whites have different opinions about James.

Several things to note about this argument in Salon: it is partly based on evidence from Internet message boards (where people seem willing to say all sorts of things they wouldn’t say in-person) and it provides a typical defense of “the Aggrieved White Guy” who claims he didn’t bring up race at all. On the whole, such discussions need to acknowledge the larger issue: we live in a racialized society where both overt and covert racism take place and have large social consequences.

Examining the backlash against LeBron James through the prism of race

After making “The Decision” to join the Miami Heat, LeBron James has suffered a backlash from many fans and pundits. This backlash has led to a lower “Q score,” a rating that compares the public’s favorable versus unfavorable image of a public figure.

However, how much his Q score dropped is dependent on race: overall, whites were moved more to think negatively about LeBron after what happened this summer. Henry Abbott at Truehoop argues that something deeper, fear, might explain why whites reacted as they did. Also at ESPN, Vincent Thomas argues that James’  relatively unchanged Q scores among blacks is the result of “black protectionism.”

The anger in Cleveland over LeBron

While the story of a fan dressed in a LeBron James Miami Heat jersey being escorted out of the Cleveland Indians game last night makes the rounds, Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated writes about the anger present in the city of Cleveland. According to Posnanski, what makes this anger different from anger after  sports letdowns of the past (of which Cleveland has seen its share) is that the anger seems to be growing.

Those who don’t watch or follow sports sometimes say that it doesn’t matter who wins or loses or how the local team finishes. Posnanski is suggesting the opposite: this anger about an NBA transaction is present all over a large city.

My questions: how much does this sports move really diminish the quality of life in Cleveland? Are workers less productive or are fewer business deals made? Do less visitors come to Cleveland now that it is not the city of LeBron? Can the image of Cleveland across the United States sink (even with Forbes already earlier this year naming it the most miserable city in the United States)? Would residents move away from Cleveland because LeBron also moved away?

LeBron and the 2008 Olympic team

As we continue to sort through what happened in the first three weeks of NBA free agency, Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo provides more details. Here is part of the story of LeBron and playing for Team USA in the 2008 Summer Olympics:

From Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski to managing director Jerry Colangelo to NBA elders, the issue of James’ immaturity and downright disrespectfulness had become a consuming topic on the march to the Olympics. The course of history could’ve changed dramatically, because there was a real risk that James wouldn’t be brought to Beijing based on fears his monumental talents weren’t worth the daily grind of dealing with him…

No one could stand James as a 19-year-old in the 2004 Athens Olympics, nor the 2006 World Championships. Officials feared James could become the instigator of everything they wanted to rid themselves for the ’08 Olympics.

The whole story casts LeBron and his friends in a less-than-positive light. Olympic officials called his group “The Enablers.”

Fascinating backstory and look into the life of a player who has been a national celebrity since high school.

One hour in…and no free agent movement

The greatest class of free agents in any major sport has now been officially free for over one hour – but it will likely be some time before LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and others sign with NBA teams.

At this point, the NBA couldn’t ask for better publicity. This free-agent bonanza almost overwhelmed an actually interesting seven game NBA Finals, completely overshadowed the NBA draft, and it is likely to drag out for some time as teams throw the kitchen sink at LeBron and others.

But with all the hype, I feel underwhelmed with the lack of activity thus far…