Can we all give this guy a break?
There has never been a more scrutinized, analyzed and criticized athlete in my lifetime than LeBron James, and it’s approaching the point of unfair because the primary reasons for the hatred hold no water.
Most people, two years later, STILL point to “The Decision” and the Miami Heat’s premature celebration as the reason that they hate LeBron. (Note the number of dislikes on that video.) Odds are good you’ve heard someone say something like, “I didn’t like the way he handled the whole thing. How could he embarrass Cleveland like that? It wasn’t right!”
But why does the blame for The Decision fall squarely on LeBron? How about some blame to his agent? Or PR people? Or family and friends? Or all of the above? Why don’t we blame all the people who advise him for not doing their jobs?
The same goes for the Heat’s party. LeBron didn’t organize that by himself, and he wasn’t the only person on stage. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were right next to him, and Bosh even decided to prove to all of us that he is, in fact, a velociraptor by screaming at the top of his lungs. (Seriously, the man never should have left Toronto. Go watch the video again and look at him. He IS a Raptor!)
LeBron could have spoken up at some point that week in the summer of 2010 and said, “Hey guys, this is probably an awful idea. Maybe we shouldn’t turn my free agency into the State of the Union address. Maybe we shouldn’t celebrate like buffoons before we even have our first practice.” But he didn’t.
Even if LeBron thought those two events were brilliant ideas, are we really surprised that a 25-year-old did something stupid? Let’s not forget the fact that those around LeBron James have told him how amazing he is since he could dribble a basketball. When you’re surrounded by yes-men, you start to think everything you do is genius. LeBron’s in his mid-20s. Everyone in that age range whom I know, including myself, has made a colossally stupid decision. It happens.
After “The Decision” argument comes “He chickened out! He knew he couldn’t win in Cleveland by himself so he took the easy way out and joined up with his buddies!”
Sure, and Michael Jordan won six titles playing 1-on-5, Magic Johnson won five by passing the ball to himself and they just handed Kobe Bryant five rings for scoring a ton of points.
All of those Hall of Fame players had help. Jordan had Pippen. Magic had Kareem. Kobe had Shaq. The difference is that those teams were either built by the front office through the draft or they acquired certain pieces through free agency.
LeBron left his own team to join someone else’s. And, for some reason, that made 90 percent of the country hate him. Why does it matter HOW the Heat’s stars came together? If Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, hypothetically, signed to play in Cleveland, would we all be lauding LeBron and the Cavaliers?
Speaking of which, how about we throw some blame on the Cavs’ executives and owner Dan Gilbert? The best free agent acquisitions they brought to LeBron were Antawn Jamison and a way-past-his-prime Shaq. Really? That’s the best they could do?
Now, LeBron is in a no-win situation. If he takes the last shot of the game and misses, he choked. If he passes to an open teammate, he’s a coward. Nothing short of perfection is acceptable, even though Michael Jordan made 50 percent of game winning or game tying shots in the playoffs and Kobe is 7-for-25. LeBron needs to have his “Flu Game” and win a title before the hate will dissipate.
Personally, I think people spew all this venom because they secretly want LeBron to succeed. Think about it. People hated Jordan because he, at some point, put a dagger through their team’s respective hearts. But they respected and admired him for it. LeBron has yet to be that killer. He did it to the Wizards and Magic in the playoffs a few times, but he’s never reached Jordan’s level.
We want our superstars, our best players, to be just that. The best. The greatest. The greatest ever, if possible. We want to watch history unfold before our eyes. LeBron has never provided that to us, and fans will hate him until he does.
LeBron, without a doubt, deserves some of the criticism that he receives. He disappeared in the fourth quarter during the NBA Finals last season. He sometimes says or does something childish and comes across as a bit of a baby.
But as Rick Reilly points out, he hasn’t been in trouble with the law, cares for his fiancé and two children and is, by all accounts, a thoughtful, introspective, funny and wonderful guy.
So shouldn’t America direct its collective hatred somewhere else?
Like at Nicki Minaj, maybe?