So LeBron James just signed an endorsement deal with Nike for $90 million. Rumor has it that he turned down more money from Reebok to go with Nike because he felt more comfortable with them. (Translation: greatest players ever do not sign with British shoe maker; Michael Jordan wore Nikes). The Cleveland Cavaliers won the first draft pick in the NBA lottery, and ticket sales representatives in Cleveland supposedly became available minutes after the draft announcement. ESPN pundits have already begun arguing whether Cleveland will sell out every game next year. This from a franchise whose greatest claim to public knowledge is having the player with the most-difficult-to-spell-name in the league.

LeBron James has the nickname “King James.” He won’t graduate high school for another couple of weeks.

I do not particularly care for the idea of wishing others ill will, but I have to admit a sizable part of me hopes that LeBron James becomes an abominable failure.

The kid has a world of talent and I fully expect that he will become a star. How much of one we will have to wait and see. And just for him, and maybe even for the beleaguered sports city of Cleveland, whose championship drought and pox of crappy teams rivals my own collection of favorite teams, I hope LeBron turns into the player into which everyone has hyped him. I also hope he grows into an adult and a respected, hard-working player, like Kobe Bryant has started to become, rather than most of the NBA who act like the world is their Wal-Mart and all the authorities are sucking oxygen by the doorway and wishing them a pleasant afternoon. I don’t say I sort of hope that LeBron bombs because I wish hold any personal enmity against him. He does act like a pompous, immature 18 year-old spoiled prince, but no one has told him he’s anything else, so I cannot fault him for that.

No, I sort of hope he fails because I wish everyone around him ill will. Honestly, I think ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and anyone else turning his every move into national news should have an enormous egg on their face. I think the administrators at his high school should have to take a nice 15-minute adult swim in a boiling vat of vegetable oil. I think the guy who became his agent should let Mia Hamm come charging up and corner kick his balls into unconsciousness for starting to build a relationship with the James family when LeBron had not yet reached 16 years of age. I want everyone who stole LeBron James’ opportunity to live a relatively normal life as the coolest guy in high school to look like a complete asshole.

Yeah, everyone just looking out for Number One, I know. The news publications got their big stories and lots of people got interested. His high school made a lot of money selling the rights to watch James. His agent got himself chosen because he took the time to suck up to the James family more than anyone else. It all worked out for them, and they all stand to make or have made a lot of money. And ultimately, our modern athlete-centric popular culture made all of this happen.

And that’s why I want to see the LeBron phenom fail. I want to see great athletes try and establish dynasties at their colleges, and I want to see athletes do more than make appearances at various charities, show up at MTV Rock and Jock games or perform color commentary. I want to live in an era where people remember Bill Bradley as much for the great basketball player he was as for the extremely intelligent politician into which he made himself. (For that matter, I’d like to live in a time where a man like Bill Bradley can win the presidential nomination instead of not connecting with the people because he was too smart for them.)

Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of culture anymore, and I think every day we move a little further away from it. So the agents will start visiting hospitals in a few years when Andre Agassi-Steffi Graf couples have kids, and more schools will look to cash in on their students by selling rights to watch them, and Sportscenter will progressively show more stories about kids who still don’t drive very well but stand to make way more money by signing their name one time on a dotted line than most families will in ten lifetimes. This will just keep on happening.

But one colossal failure would, just for a moment, give everyone cause to think about going through the whole routine the next time. But just for a moment.