What a contrast Tiger & LeBron celebrated mutual birthday yesterday

Fanhouse’s Kevin Blackistone has penned a great tribute to LeBron James who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday.

On Birthdays, LeBron’s Candle Burns Bright as Tiger’s Flickers

Kevin Blackistone is a national columnist for FanHouse
“One grew up as the only child in a traditional family. The other was born to a teenage mother who remained a single mom.

The first of this pair to call Dec. 30 his birthday was reared on the edge of prosperity. The second survived at the precipice of poverty.

The eldest of these two graduated from high school and enrolled in one of our nation’s most prestigious universities. The youngest, by nine years, ended his formal education after completing the 12th grade.

And Wednesday, as the older Tiger Woods and younger LeBron James celebrate their 34th and 25th birthdays, respectively, they still couldn’t be more dissimilar in their lives. Tiger is suddenly a recluse hiding from an avalanche of his personal life caused by immaturity and stupidity, while LeBron is living a prosperous trouble-free life more expected of someone from Tiger’s background than from his own.

Besides their birth date, the only thing these two titans of the Nike industrial athletic complex have in common is domination of their respective endeavors and the outrageous wealth that has brought with it.

Where Tiger and LeBron are today is not a bet most of us would’ve taken years ago unless we were expert at shorting stocks. Tiger was different, a modern-day multiracial kid with a golden golf club in his hands who waved it more magically than we’d ever seen before. Tiger allowed himself to be sold as something we now know he didn’t fully embrace, being a contestant of color in a historically and controversially virtually all-white game.

LeBron was just another black basketball prodigy from the hardest knock of some hard-knock city. We’d seen his likes before.

Tiger had it made. LeBron had to make it.

Tiger was a personality for which golf was dying. LeBron was a stereotype from which pro basketball was trying to distance itself. Three years after LeBron was drafted into the NBA straight out of high school, the league passed a rule forcing kids to spend at least a year in college — or elsewhere — before being eligible to earn a living playing in the league.

Now in his seventh NBA campaign, all with his home state Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron is a poster image for all the NBA wants to celebrate and little that it fears. He’s been in trouble. He got a speeding ticket for going 101 mph in a 65 mph zone.

LeBron has yet, as far as we know, been found knocked out anywhere in the wee hours of the morning. No police departments have reported that he’s refused to talk to them concerning some incident in which he was involved. His high school sweetheart, Savannah Brinson, with whom he has two children and is rumored to be expecting a third, hasn’t been seen wielding a dangerous instrument around him in the wake of reports that he was cheating on her. The pair isn’t married but we haven’t heard that she is so unhappy with him that she is trying to get away from him and end their relationship.

e thought that LeBron would be the better role model than the other global sports icon with whom he shares Dec. 30 as a birthday? Who would’ve figured that LeBron would be more mature and upstanding than the clean-cut Tiger, who took to living a life of secluded luxury in the cocoon of his sports’ country-club trappings?

LeBron never abandoned the city of Akron from where he hails. He hasn’t hidden from the public on a personal yacht named Privacy or in an enclave as exclusive as is Isleworth, the gated golf community not far from Orlando where Tiger lives. LeBron built a home between Akron and Cleveland, where he’s leaving his imprint as one of the best basketball players we’ve ever seen.

“As a high-powered athlete, you have to manage keeping your family away from some things, but at the same time keeping it open enough where people aren’t trying to dig deep into your personal life,” James explained to The Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this month after the Tiger tales began to grow. “You want to be loyal to your family, but at the same time you don’t want to blind them. We do live in a life of media things and stardom.”

I was on a radio show a few weeks ago with John Feinstein — long-form chronicler of all things sports, particularly golf — who said he’d never heard Tiger’s wife Elin Nordegren Woods’ voice. Tiger has kept her and his kids in the blind, not unlike another global icon that got snared in all manner of embarrassing public incidents, the late pop music megastar Michael Jackson.

LeBron isn’t supposed to be as mature as he’s become. Ever since Christmas Day 1987, when his maternal grandmother Freda James died of a heart attack, his mother Gloria, 19 then, reared him mostly on her own. That meant moving frequently because she couldn’t afford to keep her grandmother’s house, where she and LeBron had lived since the day he was born. LeBron has said a number of times that his mom moved them at least 10 times by his eighth birthday and that most times the next place was worse than the last. LeBron has estimated he missed upwards of 100 days of school.

Tiger wasn’t supposed to be at-risk; LeBron was supposed to be at-risk. LeBron was supposed to be at risk of winding up in trouble with the law and with drugs. He was supposed to be less likely to achieve. He was supposed to be more likely to drop out of school. LeBron was supposed to be the one with behavioral problems.

It’s enough to make me wonder if Tiger Woods wouldn’t have wanted to open his birthday present Wednesday and find LeBron James’ life to put on.

Happy birthday, LeBron. ”

Having been a supporter of the Forum in LA before the opening of the Staples Center I saw groupies hanging out during half time or after games at the club and recognized the temptation every professional sports jock needs to avoid.  While LeBron and his girlfriend have children out of wedlock apparently he is a better role model today than Tiger Woods.

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