By popular demand, the first-ever re-post of a G:TB entry. Consider this G:TB Classic:
Getting a job in the NBA is an incredibly competitive task. Only 60 people get drafted each year, and perhaps a handful (I'll ballpark it at nine) of undrafted players make teams.
An even more competitive job market exists in DC. Each year, the Justices of the Supreme Court hire clerks for one term. Each Justice may hire up to four clerks, and the Chief may hire five (but apparently he typically takes only four). So only 36 or 37 people get taken in this legal draft.
Hear me out before you scoff at this comparison. Supreme Court clerks command signing bonuses in the neighborhood of $250,000 if they go to a big law firm after their clerkship. Many just go to a firm for a year or two for the bonus, then go on to whatever career they want to have until they die. Many take cushy jobs like professorships or 9-to-5 government work and resign themselves that in exchange for the easy lifestyle they will never make baller money. But if they choose to stay at a law firm they are all but guaranteed to become partners with seven-figure earning potential. And even if they choose to work a government gig for ten or twelve years, many can get a partnership at a firm and make seven figures due in no small part to their SCOTUS clerkship.
In short, getting drafted by Scalia is just as much of a golden ticket as getting drafted by the Bulls. Perhaps even more so, given the length of a career in law compared to one in the NBA.
Getting drafted by one of the Supremes (or "the Big House" as some law students call it) may be the tougher task. The majority are pulled from the holy trinity of Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, with a fair number from Columbia, Chicago, Virginia, and Berkeley. Before earning one of these golden tickets, applicants must first complete another clerkship, almost always with a federal appellate court judge. Getting an appellate clerkship is very hard too, and even then you have to clerk for one of the "feeder" judges.
Most SCOTUS clerks are put on a track to the Big House early on in law school by attracting attention from famous professors. For example, Laurence Tribe writes one clerkship recommendation per year, referred to as "The Larry Letter" by HLS students. Anyone who gets The Larry Letter has an inside track on a SCOTUS clerkship.
How, you ask, does one make this happen? I'll tell you. First, you have to be smart, born that way as Lady Gaga would say. Second, you have to work your ass off for at least the first 26-or-so years of your life. You have to do well in high school and on your SAT's so that you can go to a premiere undergraduate program. Then you must earn excellent grades for three years. Then you must place in the top percentile on the LSAT. Then you will hopefully be accepted to one of the HYS trinity schools, where you must continue to assault your schoolwork and graduate in the top 10 or so of your class. Not the top 10%, but in the top 10. While doing so you must attract the attention of professors by showing genuine interest in the subject matter of their classes, and by proposing creative viewpoints on how the law should be. Then you land a top clerkship with a feeder judge and dazzle him or her with your brilliance, work ethic, and scholarly mien.
While everything in the previous paragraph is happening you can never fuck up. You can't get a DUI, you can't get busted for smoking pot, you can't get in a fight and break a potted tree over some guy's head, you can't be the summer associate who jumped into the Hudson River, you can't be the featured baby daddy on "16 and Pregnant," and you can't get caught spray painting an "A" between the unit letters on the frat houses across the street from yours. In fact, you probably can't be in a frat. Scholars look down on them and so should you, if you want your name called in the biggest of legal drafts. And you certainly can't be a really smart guy who never studied in high school but still managed to do well enough to get into one of the country's best schools with a top-notch biological sciences program, who, despite his interest in biology, instead went to a very-good-but-not-outstanding public school with almost no national street cred because his guidance counselor, who, incidentally, wore a very bad toupe, suggested it was the wiser idea, and then proceeded to do absolutely no work whatsoever in college, somehow graduated in 4 years, putzed around for 7 years, went to a good-but-not-very-good law school despite his undergraduate shortcomings, applied himself, beat the snot out of law school, and got a good job. That guy has no chance of even sniffing the chambers of the Big House, outside of a guided tour.
The NBA draft seems somewhat similar, if not a bit more forgiving. First, you must be born with insane athleticism and, ideally, freakish size, speed, jumping ability, and hand-eye coordination. Then you must work your ass off at the high school level to attract the attention of scouts from premiere undergraduate basketball programs. You might be fast-tracked to the pros via some AAU league, but you must sign with the right school, one where you can start, learn the game, and get plenty of TV time. You must work your ass off to be a starter, and then you have to do all the things that are now terrible sportswriting cliches. Show heart. See the floor. Make your teammates better. Be clutch. Feel the moment. Raise your game. Swing momentum. Be a leader. Be coachable. Be a student-athlete. Be a student of the game. Do the little things. Have a feel for the game. Have a high basketball IQ. Know how to put your foot on their neck. And so on.
The big difference is that athletes are allowed to fuck up as much as they want. They can take money from scouts, they can get in fights, they can smoke pot, they can get drunk and piss on the Dean's door. They'll still get drafted.
No one ever got a Supreme Court clerkship just because they were smart, and no one ever got drafted in the NBA just because they were tall. It takes lots of effort and God-given talent and people teaching you, coaching you, generally giving a shit about you and your success.
Which (finally, you might say) brings me to the point of this post. LeBron James is by all accounts a good guy. No DUI's; drugs; gambling rings; serial animal cruelty; manslaughter, murder, attempted murder, murder-for-hire, or murder cover-ups and the associated obstruction of justice; womanizing, bastardizing, or using public funds to cover up same; rape; brawling; drunkenness in a public canal; defecating in a laundry hamper; gunfighting; making it rain and then gunfighting; or anything like that.
But people still dislike him. I can tell you why.
Remember that hypothetical smart guy I mentioned before? I bet he would have hypothetical friends from his hypothetical high school days who lambaste him about how lazy he was when he was a kid and how he "could have done something" beyond whatever it is he did or does, like "you could have clerked for the Supreme Court." Kind of like in "Good Will Hunting" when Ben Affleck tells Matt Damon "Fuck you, you don't owe it to yourself man, you owe it to me. Cuz tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and I'll be 50, and I'll still be doin' this shit. And that's all right. That's fine. I mean, you're sittin' on a winnin' lottery ticket. And you're too much of a pussy to cash it in, and that's bullshit. 'Cause I'd do fuckin' anything to have what you got. So would any of these fuckin' guys. It'd be an insult to us if you're still here in 20 years. Hangin' around here is a fuckin' waste of your time."
Not to say that this hypothetical guy is a genius, but his hypothetical friends hold his intelligence in pretty high regard. Hypothetically. Whether he truly could have been a Supreme Court clerk is irrelevant. That his friends think he could is key. His failure to live up to their perceived potential irritates them, no matter how much he redeems himself through hard work as an adult.
It's safe to say that people envy LeBron James. He has unbelievable physical gifts, and, despite being born to a 16-year-old single mom, he managed to get enough love, support, coaching, and direction to avoid all the pitfalls that typically ensnare kids born to 16-year-old single moms. So not only is he physically gifted, he was lucky enough to be surrounded by people that cared about him. This convergence of good fortune, this embarassment of biological and social riches, allowed him to become the best basketball player on the planet, to make millions of dollars, to have legions of fans, and to become ragingly disproportionately important in public discourse.
When a guy with that much good luck fails to give, or appears to fail to give, 110%, people get pissed off. Squandering such gifts makes the average person angry, perhaps irrationally, but that's how it works, especially when these squandered gifts are bestowed upon someone who makes hundreds of millions of dollars via his squandration.
And that's why people write shitty things about LeBron James.