LeBron James vs. Arnold Palmer: Who's More Fit To Be King?

Scott TiernanContributor IIIJune 14, 2011

LeBron James vs. Arnold Palmer: Who's More Fit To Be King?

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 07:  Arnold Palmer watches his ceremonial first tee shot to start the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images for Golf Week)
    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    I don't follow pro basketball much, but I did catch Game 6 of the NBA finals, where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company capitulated to a bunch of geriatrics in long shorts.  

    Watching LeBron clank shots of the backboard while being referred to as the King didn't sit well in my stomach.  In my sports lifetime, there has only been one King—Arnold Palmer.

    For fun, let's compare these two "Kings" on a special top 10 "King" rubric.  Here goes. 

1. Commands the Respect of His Army

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat wipes his face with his jersey against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 2, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Arnie garnered more respect from his Army than Robert E. Lee.  

    LeBron doesn't enjoy the respect of his hometown Miami fans.  He's like the Al Gore of pro basketball.  In Cleveland, fans burned so many LeBron jerseys, the city had to issue wildfire warnings.  Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich issued a proclamation declaring the Dallas Mavericks honorary Ohioans.  Not good.

2. Doesn't Shy Away from Responsibility

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 07:  Arnold Palmer hits the ceremonial first tee shot to start the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Arnie's Army demanded boldness.  They expected he hit driver on short par-fours, that he make charges on the back nine, that he win majors in dramatic fashion.  He embraced their expectations.  

    LeBron's subjects begged him to shoot the ball more in the finals, to be more productive in the fourth quarter.  His response: keep on passing the rock, keep on pushing responsibility for success onto his teammates.  Lame.  Arnie never had his caddy strike a putt to win a major.

3. Is a Proven Winner

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 07:  Arnold Palmer watches the ceremonial first tee shot to start the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Arnie won 62 times on the PGA Tour, including seven majors.  Those are Big League, Hall of Fame and King-like numbers.

    LeBron has won a few high school rings.

4. Walks the Walk

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 30:  The witness tattoo of LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat at Ford Center on January 30, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Arnie hitched up his pants and stalked around the course like a lion chasing an antelope.  He also had a bad ass crouched putting stance and a fierce follow through that showed he meant business.  His demeanor demanded attention.  

    LeBron sulks quite a bit and has lots of tattoos.  

5. Sticks Appropriate Things in His Mouth

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 21:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat enjoys a laugh after a timeout against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 21, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Royalty chews on royal things, like cigars and cigarettes and caviar.  Arnie looked like James Dean dragging on his cigarette.  Jack Nicklaus knew that if he got too close Arnie might burn his retina.

    LeBron chomps on his mouth guard like it's a piece of Big League Chew.  Maybe he soaked the thing in bourbon before Game 6.  How else do you explain the poor shooting?  Too often it dangles from his mouth like a fish hook.

6. Has a Drink Named After Him

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    The Arnold Palmer: half lemonade, half iced tea, to be drunk after a hard-fought battle.  Even got an ESPN commercial of it.

    LeBron?  Maybe they could melt down his mouth guards.  The LeBron Slobber Slushie.  

7. Doesn't Get Benched in Crunch Time

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  The victorious European Ryder Cup team are interviewed on stage during the European Tour Players Awards Dinner at the Heathrow Sofitel Hotel on May 24, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Team play in professional golf is The Ryder Cup.  Arnie holds the record for most matches won by a U.S. player.  You think the captain ever left him in the clubhouse?

    LeBron, however, was so deep in Erik Spoelstra's doghouse during Game 6 he rode the bench in the beginning of the fourth quarter.  I think I saw him thumb wrestling Erick Dampier to stay loose.

8. Shows True Enthusiasm for His Position

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat answers questions after the Heat were defeated 105-95 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expr
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Arnie relished being a King.  He embraced people with smiles and handshakes and genuine respect for the position of being a leader and a role model.  Arnie made golf accessible.  And cool. 

    Since leaving Cleveland, LeBron seems to hate his profession.  He's looked ridiculous and out of place in Heat promotional commercials, and I could've sworn he would rather have been playing golf than basketball the other night.  After the game he took cheap shots at all the fans who have to wake up the next morning and go back to their real lives.  That's a big chip to carry on your shoulder.

9. Shows Humility

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 07:  Arnold Palmer hits the ceremonial first tee shot to start the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Being a great leader means admitting when you've made a mistake.  Arnie was never a perfect golfer; in fact, he went out of his way not to be perfect (like Phil Mickelson), and his Army loved him for it.  No one wants an infallable King; how can the average man relate to someone who's perfect?  

    LeBron can't seem to accept his shortcomings, can't seem to understand why he's been vilified for The Decision.  It's going to eat away at him until there's nothing left to guard but his mouth guard.

10. Doesn't Share Power

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  Dwyane Wade #3, LeBron James #6 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat react after the Heat defeat the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER:
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Nicklaus may have surpassed Arnie on the golf course, but Arnie never deferred to him.  And Jack never commanded the same attention as Arnie.  Arnie's Army wouldn't have stomped Jack's Pack and buried them in a bunker.  

    Once upon a time LeBron was the leading man in Cleveland.  Now he's just a sidekick to Dwyane Wade.  He's Robin to Batman, Andy Richter to Conan, Silent Bob to Jay, Woodstock to Snoopy, Ethel to Lucy, Sam to Frodo, Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan, Tattoo to Mr. Roark.

    On second thought, LeBron may be third on the totem pole behind Wade and Chris Bosh.  That makes him Ron to Hermoine and Harry Potter, or Donny to Walter and the Dude.

11. Will the Real King Please Stand Up

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 06:  Arnold Palmer walks across a green during the Par 3 Contest prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Arnold Palmer.

    The Man.  The Drink.  The King.

     

    LeBron James

    He's more Viceroy material.

     

     

    More sports writing at http://sportsletters.blogspot.com.