On Wednesday, the greatest rivalry in sports came to a sudden close. On the day the Golden State Warriors celebrated their championship with a parade through sunny Oakland, LeBron James at last defeated his greatest foe: his own hairline.
This day has been a long time coming. For an idea of when the 32-year-old James last had a full head of hair, refer to this 2003 photo, which shows him sprinting away from Toni Kukoc, who won three NBA championships in the 1990s playing alongside the bare-headed Michael Jordan. (Kukoc, it should be noted, had an enviable mane throughout his 13-year NBA career.)
Most sufferers of male-pattern baldness are allowed to confront their follicular battle on their own terms. Whether they take the loss with grace or rage, rage against the balding of the pate, these men have the luxury of anonymity—no one cares about their plight more than they do themselves. LeBron, on the other hand, has been on live television at least 82 days a year since he graduated high school. The national conversation about his hair has spanned the terms of three presidents.
In 2012, Charles Barkley urged the superstar to “come on home”—that is, embrace the inevitable and shave his head. At that point, James’ headband, which had gamely followed his hairline throughout his career, was at a position reminiscent of the Prime Meridian. When he ditched the headband in 2014, a topiary renaissance followed that was so suspicious that LeBron’s personal barber had to go on record to deny any shenanigans. "There is no dye. No additives. No preservatives," the barber told Yahoo Sports.
LeBron’s decision to shave his head marks the end of a 14-year tonsorial journey. It’s a retirement of sorts, and the NBA will surely be feeling the repercussions of this astounding loss for years to come. On Wednesday, though, LeBron’s newly hairless head was treated more as a punchline than an object of reverence.
Earlier in the day, Draymond Green appeared at the Warriors’ victory parade in a “Quickie” T-shirt, a play on Cleveland’s Quicken Loans arena and the speed with which Golden State dispatched the Cavs in this year’s finals. In an interview, Green said he was getting revenge on his good friend LeBron for wearing an Ultimate Warrior T-shirt after the Cavs beat Golden State in the 2016 Finals. He also mentioned the notorious tombstone cookies at LeBron’s Halloween party. “I was waiting on this moment,” Green said.
LeBron responded by channeling The Office’s Michael Scott:
Then Draymond went for the kill:
With the needless distraction of basketball out of the way, we finally get to see these guys in their element, which is on social media and engaged in catty tiffs. The offseason couldn't have come fast enough.