Decoding LeBron

LeBron James' 10 most passive-aggressive social media moments

November 7, 2017

LeBron James seems to create chaos for the same reason a few of my exes would: It's what he grew up with and what he's comfortable with. James thrives under pressure because he can focus himself in chaos. He needs to keep climbing the mountain, but to do that you've got to have a mountain to climb. If you're at the top I guess sometimes you've got to keeping building it.

James creates chaos when he needs it in many ways, with memes and social media being the most stupid but also the most readily available. And so, as I endured scream sessions about baked potatoes and poems, we must endure memes and Twitter wars.

This weekend James posted this "Arthur's Fist" meme on Instagram for his 34 million followers, which include prominent sports journalists, to discuss amongst themselves.

Not "Mood," you see; "Mood..."

"..."! What ever could he mean?

He probably means he's frustrated. The Cavs aren't doing so hot. Kyrie Irving looked real good taking down the Hawks, and a few nights later the Cavs lost to the Hawks. Then came the meme. It's not difficult to piece this together. If you need a map, here's James describing why he does what he does: "I think conflict, it builds character. It builds even more trust. You're able to get on someone, someone's able to get on you, and then the whistle blows and, let's get out and let's execute what needs to be done. I've always been like that since I was a kid."

Maybe this is why he's taken pains to grow his social media audience to around 90 million followers, about 50 million more than the player behind him, his buddy Dwyane Wade.

And yet we ask why.

So, mostly to slap certain sports reporters upside the head, but also because it's fun, let's take a look at James's passive-aggressive social media history. It'll back upthe thesis: James does this to maximize his fame to sharpen his game.

1. Zero Dark Thirty-23

During the 2012 playoffs, when James took his first championship with the Miami Heat, he gave up social media, and he's done it during the playoffs ever since. He even gave it a dramatic name, "Zero Dark Thirty-6," likening it to the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. He kept it up back in Cleveland, changing it to "Zero Dark Thirty-23" to reflect the number change. Here's this year's gem.

The drama of the playoffs affords James the ability to leave social media. But wait about three seconds into the post-season you'll get something like this.

And about three seconds before he Zero Darked the world that year, he gave us another gift.

2. Feud #1, in which James seems to praise Wade and irk Irving.

In March 2016, just before Zero Dark and the playoffs, James dropped a couple tweets that dug at someone who made a mistake. Not a leap at that time to assume that someone was a teammate, e.g., Kyrie Irving. nod to his friendship on- and off-court with the Heat's Dwyane Wade.

Then a few days later he visited Miami to see his old friend and teammate Dwyane Wade, now a rival of the Cavaliers, and during the visit dropped videos of the two of them working out (more on this in a bit!). James followed this up with another tweet also apparently expressing his affection for Wade. (No one will ever know for sure!)

A few days after that he tweeted "cryptically" his displeasure with someone near him, which one could, and many correctly did, assess as being a teammate (the Cavs had just lost three of four games), most specifically Kyrie Irving.

The flat-earth truther finally took the bait and replied with the bold truth.

James helpfully clarified our misunderstanding, explaining his tweets weren't for Irving, but a product of his "beautiful mind" designed "for the educated mind. So if you have an educated mind, they hit home for you."

It's not the only time James would puzzle us to unravel his displeasure with a teammate, or with Irving in particular.

3. No Love

In 2015 after a few midseason games where teammate Kevin Love ran cold, James put this enigma out there.

Love had ​recently told ESPN in an interview he wasn't exactly trying to "fit in" with the team.

4. Feud #2, in which James trolls the Warriors

Not really on James's Insta, but for his 2016 Halloween party he had a drum head on stage that read "3-1 Lead," a reference to the Cavs historic championship comeback against the Warriors earlier that year. He didn't have the temerity to post it, because it would have been aggressive and not passive-aggressive, but he sure knew others would.

Instead, he put up a completely innocent picture of the desert table.

Right.

5. Feud #3, in which the Warriors troll LeBron

That year the playoffs didn't work out so well for James's feud positioning against the Warriors. After the Warriors burnt the Cavs in five games, Draymond Green wore this shirt for the victory parade.

It being the offseason, when drama is a desert, James took the bait.

Green got back by making fun of James's bald head, which James had celebrated in a recent offseason workout video (more in a bit!).

6. Feud #3, cont'd

The Warriors might be able to defeat King James at basketball, but he made sure they know they'll never beat him at passive-aggressive social media. Not long after the above social media war, James pulls this subtle stunt.

7. The Workout Video

James, still broken by the Warriors in spite of his underdog Phil Jackson victory, broke out a bunch of workout videos during the offseason. Here's the first one, which we saw Green mock.

It is indeed highly mockable. Here's Steph Curry getting in on the fun.

And yeah, that is Kyrie.

8. Feud #4, in which LeBron James once again goes at Kyrie Irving

A few days before the Curry-Irving video made the rounds, Irving unfollowed James on Instagram. Yuh-oh!

And a few days after the Curry-Irving video, James dropped a video with a mystifying caption. Whosoever is this "they" of which the King doth tweet?​

He waited three days and followed up with this.

Whosoever is this "another" of whom the King doth tweet?​

It is likely none other than he, Kyrie Irving, who verily left the Cavaliers a few weeks later.

Which brings us up to today and Arthur's fist.

9. Oh yeah, James once unfollowed his own team for no reason

After all those mysterious tweets in March 2016 about Kyrie and Dwyane, LeBron unfollowed his own team on Instagram.

It's not clear to me why he did this other than to send some kind of message, because he was about to go Zero Dark Thirty-23 in a few days, anyway.

10. The Man in the Mirror

But in case we were wondering where James truly puts the onus for his continued personal improvement, it's not on the drama created around him but definitely, certainly, verily on the man in the mirror.

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