King James has a chance to silence his haters forever.
And by silence, I don’t mean "shut up," but eliminate. LeBron is coming off an NBA Finals triumph in which he displayed the exact opposite attributes of what he was previously known for: clutch and class. If follows up in the 2012 London Olympics and leads Team USA to a gold medal in the same manner, his reputation will be forever resurrected.
For the vast majority of basketball fans, James removed any reason to hate him, not only for how he performed on the court, but how he reacted to winning his first ring.
Who you just listened to is a different man than the arrogant narcissist that said after losing the 2011 Finals (via NBC Sports):
All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today. They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.
While LeBron won most of the league’s fans over, Cleveland still isn’t sold.
“It's a lot like when your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend gets married. It's not fun. He's always acting. He always knows where the cameras are and when they're on him.”
Not all Cavs fans still hold an unwavering grudge, though. Bartender Natalie Hardik said of LeBron after the victory (via FOX Sports): “In a way I'm kind of happy for him, but I definitely still feel a lot of bitterness toward him—everyone does.”
I mean, it's progress, right?
Now, the last time I checked, the city of Cleveland lies within the border of the United States of America. If LeBron puts Team USA on his back and dominates the rest of the world, any hate that remains will dissipate. Sure, James never won the city a ring like he promised, but winning a gold medal—an honor the likes of Kobe Bryant and others believe is greater than an NBA title—should make up it once and for all.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.