A lot has been said recently about LeBron James, whether it be about his inability to win the big game, his general attitude towards life, or simply people’s general disdain for his existence. He went from one of the most universally loved athletes of our time to one of the most universally loathed athletes in the world, almost overnight. The majority of the haterade being poured all over LeBron is due to the two most dreaded words in the LeBronacular*: The Decision. Let me preface this whole post by saying that not only am I a huge NBA fan, but an overwhelmingly supportive fan of LeBron. But I am going to do my best to create a balanced, and hopefully rational, argument as to why LeBron is very undeserving of all of the hate.
Most people’s arguments against LeBron go something along the lines of this: “Did you see The Decision? Jordan would never have done that! LeBron just wants to play with his buddy. He isn’t a competitor! What a jerk. And did you see the pep rally!? He said he was going to win eight championships! Eight! What an asshole that guy is. Also, look at his press conferences. He is cocky and entitled. He calls himself the King! Fuck that guy. I therefore hate everything about him and hope he fails miserably.” This argument is totally unfair to LeBron for so many reasons, which I will get into later.
But first off, you won’t find many people that agree with the way that LeBron handled his move to the Miami Heat two summers ago, including me. Yes, he came off as selfish. Yes, he drew out a decision that could have been made from a simple press conference. Yes, he pretty much stabbed Cleveland through the heart on national television. But you have to take into account that he is arguably the biggest free agent in the history of sports. He didn’t want to do The Decision; ESPN wanted him to do The Decision. His handlers wanted him to do the decision. And you wanted him to do The Decision. Don’t act like you didn’t watch, because you did. Or at least checked in immediately afterwards to see where he had gone.
So the man makes a bad PR move, and we kill him for it the rest of his career? That seems a little harsh by all accounts. The amount of vitriol spewed at LeBron over the last two years has exceeded anybody’s wildest expectations. So he wants to go and play with his best friend, win championships, and have fun chilling at South Beach. So what? Are you telling me that if you were the best in the world at your job and your best friend happened to be one of the best in the business as well, you wouldn’t want to team up and create a dynasty? All while getting to move from Cleveland to Miami? You are living in a dream world if you tell yourself otherwise. Yes, Jordan would have never done that. But guess what? LeBron is not Jordan! Nobody is, or ever will be, Michael Jordan. Kobe isn’t Michael Jordan. LeBron is not Michael Jordan. I know that in sports we need to compare our current athletes to the all-time greats, but Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest athlete of all time as well as one of the most competitive human beings to ever live. So we all need to stop looking for the next Jordan, at least until LeBron’s career is over and we can make a full and just comparison based on all the data provided over a career.
Also, this isn’t the first time we have seen superstars team up to win a championship. Do we all so easily forget when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined the Celtics? Nobody gave them a hard time for going to Boston to join up with Paul Pierce to win a ring. So why all the backlash on LeBron? Just because of The Decision? That’s just LeBroneous on all accounts.
Let me ask you this. Can you think of one instance where LeBron has gotten in trouble off the court? One arrest? One DUI? One scandal? What about that time he got accused of rape and cheating on his wife? Oh wait, that was Kobe Bryant, who everybody seems to love. Or what about when he bankrolled a dog fighting ring in his hometown where animal torture was prevalent? Wrong again, that was Michael Vick, another individual who people have forgiven. Remember when LeBron shot himself in the leg at a nightclub in a state that doesn’t allow guns and spent two years in jail? Sorry, I am thinking of Plaxico Burress, who got another shot in the NFL. I think you catch my drift.
So what that the man is a little cocky, arrogant, and out of touch with main stream America. Every move he has ever made has been watched, analyzed, and scrutinized since he was 16 years old; he is bound to be a little out of touch and bound to make a few mistakes here and there. By many accounts, LeBron can be kind of a jerk to you if you aren’t part of his inner circle. But put yourself in his shoes; how many people do you think try to attach themselves to the LeBroniverse just to mooch off of his success and fame? Of course he is going to be cold to those that aren’t in his close circle in order to guard himself from the predators of the world.
For me, the reason I love LeBron is two-fold. I remember being in 6th grade and reading the Sports Illustrated article featuring him at 16 and thinking he was everything that I wanted to be. My whole world was centered on basketball at that point in my life. I played AAU, select county league, and on two different teams at my middle school. It was literally all I did after school and on weekends. Unfortunately, I am 5’11, white, and not exactly an uber-athlete. But here was this high school kid, only a few years older than me that was a basketball phenom and a shoe-in to be the number one pick in the draft. How exciting is that!? From that point forward, I couldn’t get enough. Unfortunately, he ended up eliminating my beloved Wizards from the playoffs a couple times, but that was all collateral damage to my love affair with LeBron.
The second reason I love him so much is that he truly is the best player I have ever been old enough to appreciate in his prime. When MJ was off winning title after title and MVP after MVP, I was still too concerned with trying to find treasure up my nose than to watch NBA playoff basketball. I never got to witness Magic, Bird, Jabaar, Russel, or Hakeem. LeBron is it for me. He is greatness personified and arguably the greatest physical specimen to ever walk this earth. And yes, for those of you wondering, I am completely discarding Kobe and watching him in his prime. Kobe is my least favorite athlete of all time, but that is a topic for another time.
So I am part of the 1% that is rooting for the Heat in the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. I do love Kevin Durant. He says all the right things, works his butt off, and is a phenomenal talent. In fact, I used to play in the same tournaments as him during my AAU years; we are the exact same age. I have no reason not to love the kid. But I can’t find it in me to root against LeBron. I hope he wins 10 titles** and becomes the greatest player of all time. I hope that he wins MVP every year until he retires. I hope he shuts up every single person on the planet that doubts him and his ability. All the pressure in the world is on him in these finals and deservedly so. He said they were winning eight titles. He’s got to start somewhere. These Finals are a classic good vs. evil tale and I am going full Anakin Skywalker on this bitch.
*Yeah I just made up a word about LeBron. Deal with it. There are more to come.
**Unless the Wizards actually ever have it in them to compete. Then fuck the Heat.