PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — You know the story by now. America isn’t owning these Winter Games. America isn’t even renting these Winter Games. America is a guest at these Winter Games, and not even one of the cool guests. We’re the work friend, the one that shows up for a few minutes and leaves after some awkward forced conversation. We’re getting shown up by freaking Norway, for heaven’s sake.
Folks, this will not do. We’re AMERICA. We don’t just own the party. We ARE the party. It’s time to take control these Winter Games the way we take control of pretty much everything else we want and reshape it in our image — rock n’ roll, superhero movies, burgers the size of your head.
Enough of this finishing-off-the-podium garbage. It’s time to call in the big dog.
It’s time to draft LeBron James into the Winter Olympics.
You know the LeBron Theorem, right? It holds that whenever America doesn’t win a sport, it’s only because we didn’t dedicate the proper resources to it along the way. But we totally could have won if we wanted to. If LeBron James played soccer growing up, for instance, we would have ourselves three or four World Cups by now.
But wait, you’re saying, LeBron James will be 37 the next time the Winter Olympics come around! He’s too old! To which we say: open your mind. Four years till the next Olympics means four years for LeBron to train. He’s already a three-time medalist, two golds and a bronze, so he knows how to find the podium. We just need to figure out the fastest way to get him there.
So we reached out to Olympians across the spectrum with a simple question: How would LeBron James fare in your sport?
“He’s an athlete, I think he’d do well in any sport,” Team USA goalie Brandon Maxwell said. “He’d be a pretty big goalie if he wanted to strap the pads on. Or if he wanted to get in front of the goal, he’d be tough to see around.”
Louie Vito, a 2010 Olympian in PyeongChang as a Team Toyota brand ambassador, didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic about James’ odds on a snowboard. “The fear might not get him until he actually steps to the halfpipe, but I think it might be a different kind of coordination than he’s used to and I don’t know if he’s able to get that 6-8 frame flipping around in time to land, so I’m going to have say LeBron James would not be good at snowboard halfpipe – and not by a long shot.”
As for slopestyle? Yeah, same problem. “I’m not gonna lie, I don’t think he has a chance at slopestyle either. He’s got some vertical on him and the distance they do in snowboard slopestyle is a little bit different than going from baseline to the rim or going through traffic. The slams are a little bit harder in both. There’s a little more risk involved … Snowboarders are spinning and landing on a very thin rail while jumping big gaps like what? 30 feet? 40 feet onto the rail. It’s just very different [from basketball]. I don’t think he’s got it.”
Vito did say that LeBron could have a good chance at bobsled, and Team USA’s bobsledders, naturally enough, welcomed LeBron … but with a warning. “He’d do all right. He’s big, strong, powerful,” said pusher Chris Fogt. “But if he ever wants to take a bobsled ride, come on up to Lake Placid.”
“I’d dust him!” gloated brakeman Nate Weber. “I’d kick his ass. He’s a great athlete, but maybe a little too tall.”
Ashley Wagner, 2014 Olympian, had some cautionary words for LeBron. “Figure skating is not a sport dominated by tall people, so I feel like gravity wouldn’t necessarily be on his side,” she said. “Weight is never an issue. If you’re strong enough and can haul it up into the air, more power to you. I think the 6-8 part is going to be what actually brings him down.”
As for style? “I feel like honestly just the more glitz and glam he goes, the more respect he’ll get from me,” Wagner said, “so why not go all the way?” Yeah, let the image of LeBron James in a glittery singlet skating to the theme from “Titanic” sink in for a bit.
Out in the Olympic Village, American fans were ecstatic at the prospect of LeBron James, winter Olympian. They added their suggestions to the mix: “Curling with his shooting precision, it’s got to be up there,” said Mark — no last name given, maybe he was skipping out on work — from Los Angeles. “If he puts his mind to it, he can play any sport.”
“He could be a downhill skier. He’s got the weight,” said Chris Costales, from San Diego, roaming Pyeongchang with his wife Kelly in matching stars-and-stripes overalls. “Either that or a ski jumper. He gets his chest out in front of those big old feet and 19-foot skis? King James would crush it on the skis.”
There you go. The options are endless, the goal is singular. LeBron James, your country is calling. Beijing 2022. Bundle up and step up.