"The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James" (HarperCollins), by Scott Raab: Cleveland native and Esquire contributor Scott Raab doesn't try to hide his bias in this often laugh-out-loud diatribe against basketball star LeBron James.
"LeBron James is a fraud. No guts, no heart, no soul," writes Raab after James plays poorly and seems not to care when the Cleveland Cavaliers lose in the 2009 NBA playoffs to Boston. Months later, Raab watches in disgust as James tells the world on ESPN that he's teaming up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. Raab's reaction cannot even be printed in this review.
At this point, the book easily could have spiraled into something unseemly — one fan's bitter invective against a young man who plays a game for hundreds of millions of dollars. But Raab manages to engage readers by weaving in his personal story even as he travels to Miami to chronicle James' every move in his first season with the Heat. We're treated to flashbacks of Raab's alcoholic and drug-addicted past, all told with unflinching honesty and a sense of humor. A lifelong yo-yo when it comes to weight, Raab begins James' first season in Miami at 380 pounds, wearing leg wraps and squeezing his bloated feet into size 15 Crocs. The irony? His doctor recommends the South Beach Diet.
Raab has plenty of common-sense things to say about fandom even as he admits that he — and other ardent fans who cheer for the Browns in football, the Indians in baseball and the Cavs in basketball — are more than just mad, they're "bug-eyed ... lunatics, howling for a God who's never going to come."
It's that passion that makes the book so readable. It's not a page turner by any means, but it's compelling all the same. Even NBA fans who know how the Heat's first season of the LeBron James era ended will find something worth reading. By the end, James even helps Raab reach an epiphany, no mean feat for someone without a soul.