LeBron and the Heat are in the finals again, and the discussion has already begun: can can he pick up the first of the many rings he has promised the city of Miami? The answer is surely uncertain, especially if you were to ask a young player named Kevin Durant (Or his partner in crime, Russell Westbrook). What is clear is that most people outside of Miami will be rooting for the Thunder on principle.
People tend to bash LeBron for a lot of reasons. I believe most of the reasons people have for hating LeBron are rooted in hypocritical, illogical reasons. LeBron is not perfect, by any means, and he has made his mistakes, but the outspoken hatred for the guy has gone too far, and far too long.
1. “The Decision” and lack of loyalty
Much of the “LeBron bashing” began when, on live television, he decided to take his talents to Miami for the 2010-2011 season. Most people would argue an hour-long special on EPSN wasn’t necessary. But the reality is, the media was making a huge deal of it that week already. No matter how he made his decision, it would have been blown way out of proportion by every network and LeBron would have taken the blame for it. In the end, he decided to go with a major sports network only after a large sum of money was donated to a charity. If you wanted to watch it, you knew where to find it. If you didn’t want to watch it, you could continue watching whatever it was you were already watching, or kept the tv off.
Then there are those raging Cleveland fans that claim he is not loyal and root for whoever the Heat are playing. I mean, Cleveland fans were practically begging LeBron to stay. What you need to realize is the NBA is big business. Why don’t you ask Chauncey Billups about loyalty; he was traded to Denver for an aging and unproductive Allen Iverson. Ask Joey Porter about loyalty, who was cut by the Steelers. These are only a few examples of guys who have been faithful to a team for years, and are cut. If LeBron had turned in two or three bad seasons in Cleveland, they would have been happy to let him go. In professional sports, there is a sad but true reality: great players who are loyal to their team for years at a time get cut for money or better, younger players. What LeBron did was no different. LeBron gave Cleveland the seven best years they have seen (first player to be named Rookie of the Year as well as MVP). He knows he needs to win championships, and felt that Miami was the best place to do that.
2. The Promise
Another thing that gets folks heated about LeBron is the manner in which he arrived in Miami: the raucous celebration with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and the promise of “not one, not two, not three…” championships. If this is the reason you have chosen to hate LeBron, fine. I’m not really going to defend the arrogant manner with which they confidently promised seven championships before winning one. But again, this is a program you did not have to tune in for. It was an exciting event that got the fans in Miami excited for their basketball team. Let them have it. And let’s not forget that Michael Jordan, who won 6 championships, didn’t win his first until he was 28, and LeBron is only 27. He is in his prime, and is playing the best basketball of his life right now. He’s far from the end of his career, and he’s only getting better.
Furthermore, since when should an NBA player not believe they have the capability to win championships? What about when Rasheed Wallace guaranteed games in Detroit? All that did was pump up the fans, and it put a little extra pressure (or maybe fueled the fire) on the opposing team. In LeBron’s case, it has caused opposing players to hate him and hate his team. And you know what? Good for them. I loved seeing Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo getting fired up on the court. At this level, and at this stage of the postseason, if you don’t hate the opposing team, you probably don’t care enough to want to win it all. And I can assure you LeBron cares. Why? Because he takes the pressure upon himself and performs.
If that reason isn’t enough it is this simple: it’s been two years. Let’s leave this one behind us.
3. He’s Overrated
You may think LeBron is overrated, and I honestly don’t think there is any validity in that claim, so I won’t belabor this point. But the fact of the matter is, when LeBron promised all of those championships when he came to Miami, he truly did put the weight on his shoulders. And he has come through. Probably the weakest aspect of his game this postseason has been free throw shooting. But he still leads the league in both attempts and makes in free throws this postseason. He gets to the line when his team needs it. This postseason, he is averaging roughly 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Are you kidding me?! Anyone who saw his 45-point performance in Boston during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals last week knows that when the rubber meets the road, LeBron is the guy you want to have the ball. And if he doesn’t hit jump shots, he gets to the line like he did in game 7. He does it all: blocks shots, grabs rebounds, hits long 3’s, dunks, works in transition, and defends.
I will go so far as to argue that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. He will go down as one of the greatest of all-time. Scottie Pippen, who played alongside Michael Jordan (ever heard of him?) has claimed he believes James may be the best to ever play the game. I wouldn’t go that far, but it speaks volumes that he is a part of the conversation.
4. He’s Classless on the Court
I’m going to keep this one short too. I’ve heard a lot of this: “LeBron whines too much on the court.” If that’s the reason you hate LeBron, look at Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, or even Dwayne Wade for crying out loud! Players all around the league get fired up and complain after a call doesn’t go their way. It’s not a justifiable reason to hate the guy.
There is also the argument of not shaking hands after games and after the ends of series. Watch any playoff series and you will consistently see players walking off the court without shaking hands with the opposing team. I’m not justifying it, but there are other players that do it. And these days, James is always out there shaking hands with opponents. Rondo and Garnett left Game 7 before the game was even over. In his interviews, LeBron speaks highly of the opposing team and always directs the attention to his supporting cast and talks about what a “team effort” it was. LeBron, as he has gotten older, has shown that he has class on the court and respect for the teams that come his way.
5. He Calls Himself “King James”
Finally, you probably hate him because he calls himself “King James.” As if he is the first guy in the NBA to have a nickname. Paul Pierce, “The Truth.” Dwight Howard, “Superman.” Allen Iverson, “The Answer.” Give me a break. Nicknames make the game more fun. And if it makes you hate him, then go ahead and hope your team beats the Heat, fine. That’s the way it should be. But don’t tell me he is the first NBA player to have an arrogant nickname.
Before we begin to demonize a team and call this matchup a “good vs. evil” round, let’s stop and think about things closely. If LeBron really is that different from a lot of NBA players I’ve seen, and you’re not convinced by this, go ahead and hate him. I know a lot of people do. But I’m convinced that LeBron is not the thug that this entire country makes him out to be. He’s a player that you, if you were honest with yourself, would want on your team—whatever team that may be.