The Decline and Fall of LeBron Hate
People that hate LeBron James piss me off. You want to know why? Because very few of them, nay, NONE of them, have a good reason to hate LeBron James. Reading this, keep in mind I am a LeBron lover. I am partially biased because I do like the guy, but I’m also right. Nobody you know has a good reason to hate LeBron James.
If you ask a random LeBron hater why he hates the greatest basketball player on planet Earth, the same terrible reasons will probably come up. People will call him cocky and arrogant. They will bring up “The Decision” and the choice he made in “The Decision.”
As the narrative goes, after LeBron’s first contract was up in Cleveland, he naturally had a slew of offers from teams trying to bring in the best player in the league. LeBron is an Akron, Ohio native (as he let the world know in his postgame speech last night); so many people thought he might stay in Cleveland. I, for one, wished thought he was coming to the Knicks.
July 8, 2010 was the day he would announce. Under some obviously terrible advice, LeBron thought it was a good idea to have an hour-long TV special, “The Decision,” to announce his choice. That was a dumb move. Nothing says narcissistic like thinking you need an hour devoted to you doing something hundreds of athletes do every year with no attention paid to them. That was the first nail in the LeBron coffin. As far as I can remember, he was beloved before July 8, 2010. It all spiraled downhill from there. He “takes his talents to South Beach,” teams up with fellow top-20 players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and proceeds to make three straight NBA Finals Appearances, taking home a ring and Finals MVPs in the latter two.
Being a LeBron-apologist, even I admit the choice to make an hour-long special to announce your free agency decision was dumb. Really dumb. Really, really dumb. But he’s admitted that he would do that differently if he could. I forgot, we all grew up in the spotlight, with no father figure and a bunch of yes-men following us everywhere. So we’re allowed to absolutely despise the man for making an admittedly poor choice.
Honestly, mentioning the hour-long ESPN special in your fight against LeBron is simply stating your stupidity at this point. When you boil it down to its core, this is hating a man for making a bad judgment call. It’s hating your ex for breaking up with you via text message. Get over it. Did it come off poorly? Yes. Did it show that LeBron was ignorant to the fact the world doesn’t revolve around him? Yes. Was it a one-time mistake? YES! The argument for “The Decision” as being a reason to hate LeBron is dead. Its grave should read: 2010-2011.
The more valid opinion given in hating LeBron is centered on the fact that he chose to team up with great players in Miami, rather than staying in Cleveland or going to a place like New York, where they’d have to completely build around him. Haters saw this move as an easy way out. “He could’t do it himself,” they’ll say. “He needed help,” they’ll say. “MJ would never have done that.”
No player in the history of the NBA “did it by himself.” You know who came the closest to doing it himself? LeBron. In 2007, LeBron made it to the finals with studs such as Larry Hughes, Boobie Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic surrounding him. Every superstar to ever win a championship had great players surrounding him on the court. Michael Jordan, the greatest player ever, had Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen on every single championship team. The Wade to his LeBron. And in case you don’t think Scottie Pippen is good enough to compare to Wade, Pippen led the Bulls to the second round of the playoffs both years MJ stepped away from basketball. He was on the Dream Team. He was good. Michael Jordan had help. Larry Bird had help. Magic Johnson had help. Players don’t win championships; teams do. So please spare us the argument that LeBron needed help to win a championship. Everyone does.
LeBron did something every single person you know would do. He gave himself the best chance at success that he could. We want our athletes to care about winning championships, correct? We want them to think team first, correct? LeBron checked all of those boxes in making his choice to go to Miami, and he got crucified for it. Make sense of that for me. You’re lying to yourself if you think you wouldn’t leave a crappy Cleveland team for Miami and a team you can win with.
Even LeBron’s on-court game is what every fan says they want in a superstar. Last night, after the win, LeBron was on the set of ESPN NBA Countdown, and he said something that caught my ear. He said, “I get more of a kick having my teammates make a shot off my pass than I get making a shot from one of my teammates’ passes.” Now, that may sound phony. It sounds like something you’d say to the media to avoid a selfish reputation. But as the old adage goes, “actions speak louder than words.” LeBron is no exception. He is the best facilitator in basketball. He has unbelievable vision for anybody, let alone a guy that is listed as a small forward, and he consistently is the best passer on the floor in games that he plays in. All of that, and he still has that killer sense that turned in Game 6 during the Heat’s comeback in the fourth quarter and in Game 7’s closing minutes.
He is the total package. He’s asked to play 42-44 minutes per game. He plays five positions on the floor. He’s asked to guard opponent’s best players. He’s asked to be the team’s best scorer, rebounder and passer, and he does it all. He does it all to an exceptional level.
People don’t like LeBron for one reason and one reason only: He’s threatening Michael Jordan for the title of “Best Player Ever.” Everyone will look for any reason to say he is lesser than Air Jordan. Michael wouldn’t have done this, Michael would have done that. That’s all you ever hear. And I’m not saying LeBron is/will ever be as good as Jordan. I honestly can’t tell you; I never got to see Jordan at his greatest (and neither have all the people my age that defend him relentlessly. The irony). But I do know he’s going to finish his career as one of the top two players of all time. I don’t care if it’s one or two, but in 20 years when my children and I are talking about the best NBA players ever, it won’t be one player, but a tier of two. Michael and LeBron. Maybe in that order, maybe not, but they’ll be together.
I love LeBron because I love greatness. I watch him, and I imagine this is how it must have felt watching Jordan when he was at his best. I get legitimately excited to see what he’s going to do next. I don’t know how you could hate a player that provides you with that much entertainment. And I pity people that waste their energy doing just that.
And let’s not forget that he raised $5.4 MILLION dollars for charity through the Decision program. $5.4 Million in 75 minutes, that’s $72,000 a minute. So it’s not as “selfish” as people might think. Plus right after the Decision, the Cavaliers president personally attacked him in an open letter. That goes to show how classy Cleveland is.
I think the ultimate irony comes down to Lebron haters continuously stressing that Lebron does not have as many rings as Jordan does but then hate the fact that Lebron took steps to go to the right team that would help him get those championships.
Indeed, not to mention Dan Gilbert’s guarantee of a title before LeBron got one. And that’s an entire year before Kyrie Irving got involved. Was he expecting Anderson Varejão to pick up LeBron’s pieces and average 29.7/8.6/7.3 in 2010-’11? Highly doubtful.
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