A little dishing on sports

The Ben Affleck of Biscayne

In 1997, two young and gifted actors, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, starred in a film they had written called Good Will Hunting.  The men were in their 20’s and while they weren’t exactly waiting tables to get by, neither had attained the level of success they believed their talent warranted.  So they took the bull by the horns and wrote a script so well received, it earned them an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  If you’ve seen the movie, you will probably agree that it was what Robert McKee might call a relatively simple, complex story, well told.  Matt Damon was brilliant in the title role and has gone on to A-list success in Hollywood.  Ben Affleck, in a smaller and less demanding role, was excellent, and had one scene in particular that was revelatory of what he could bring to the table as an actor.

Ben Affleck was perfect in his role in Good Will Hunting and the role was perfect for him.  He was also quite good in supporting roles in films like Shakespeare in Love and Dogma.  The problem is, when you look like Ben Affleck does, and you showcase talent as Ben Affleck did in Good Will Hunting, you get pegged as a leading man.  Talent is a necessary but not sufficient component of success for leading men in Hollywood.  What is needed beyond talent is indefinable but plainly obvious to any fan of film when s/he sees it onscreen.  Ben Affleck has the talent, but whatever that thing is that one needs to be a great leading man, well, he just doesn’t possess.  It was missing in Pearl Harbor; it was missing in The Sum of All Fears; it was missing in Daredevil.  Ben Affleck was born to be a character actor.  Let’s be clear – this is not a criticism of Ben Affleck.  Some of our greatest actors – Christopher Walken, Walter Brennan, John Cazale, Eli Wallach – were and are character actors.  It wasn’t clear then, but is very clear now, Ben Affleck was born to play characters like that of Chuckie Sullivan in Good Will Hunting.  The problem in Hollywood is that when one is blessed with the great looks of a Ben Affleck, once you’ve shown talent, you are pegged as Will Hunting.  It’s sort of unfair, but to whom much is given…

What does this have to do with sports?  Well, LeBron James just signed with the Miami Heat to be Chuckie Sullivan to Dwyane Wade’s Will Hunting.  At some point, I will write about how disappointing this is to me as a fan of basketball.  At some point, I will write about how I have been wrong in my assessments of LeBron James.

Just know, that at this moment in his NBA career, despite being endowed with more basketball talent than anyone I have ever seen, LeBron James decided that whatever that indefinable thing is that makes a great NBA player a Jordan, a Russell, a Bird, a Magic Johnson, rather than a Gervin, a Wilkins, a Robinson (and there’s no shame in being any of those guys) is something that he does not possess.  I’m not mad at him for reaching that conclusion – and I’m also not saying it’s an incorrect assessment – in fact, I suppose by definition it must be correct.  All I’m saying is that NBA basketball is just a little worse today than it was before Thursday’s announcement.


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