LeBron James went from one of the NBA's most beloved superstars to a super villain with just one decision. With that in the past, he is well on his way to recovering his positive image in the viewers' eyes.
After a championship season where he put up frightening numbers along with another MVP trophy, what else can this guy do to get some love? Better yet, does it really matter what fans think of him?
To answer the latter with a rather simple conclusion: yes.
Realistically, it's fans of the sport that will always dictate just how a player is remembered. Whether reachable or not, they are the sources that set expectations and shape just how a player is celebrated once his career is over.
In the end, fans have the power to destroy a legacy, maybe even more than players themselves. So yes, continuing to repair his image should be highly important for James.
However, the path to redemption doesn't look so hard seeing as how he turned everything around in his second season with Miami.
LeBron's first season didn't go so smooth in South Beach. While he did lead the Heat to an NBA Finals appearance, he tried embracing a style that didn't fit him well: a villain.
After a lackluster showing against the Dallas Mavericks, it was obvious that James wasn't really comfortable with his new persona. Whether you agree or disagree on how fans viewed him, it played a major factor in how LeBron performed on the court.
However, James bounced back in astonishing fashion by winning an MVP, championship and Olympic gold medal all in one calender year.
Openly saying that he was out to prove something unnecessary speaks highly about his character. It also explains his negative outlook in the first place.
For LeBron, he needs to remember these words. Being an amazing player is one thing, but sounding so humble in moments of victory should help him receive great praise from any NBA fan.
After a disappointing showing in 2011, James took it upon himself to find the needed help to improve his game. After working on his post attack with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason, LeBron became an unstoppable offensive force on the floor.
With the ability to dish, make his teammates better and get to the rim, James is one of the rarest players we have witnessed. Yet he keeps finding ways every season to better his game.
Even if James is widely considered the most talented player in basketball, you have to admire his desire to become a better player. He's tweaking his game and becoming one of the most must-see players in sports history.
While the actual statistical improvements are nice, it has to be mentioned that he was clearly mentally tougher last season. James showed he could thrive in the clutch and lead a team throughout a playoff run.
At this point, what can we question about LeBron's toughness, both mentally and physically as a player?
Does anyone truly like the modern-day Slam Dunk contest? Years back, it was an event that featured elite players and dunkers competing for bragging rights. Last season, it was Jeremy Evans taking home the trophy for best performance.
That's right, the same guy who averaged 2.1 points in regular season play.
It certainly sounds like the NBA is desperate for legitimate stars to join rejuvenate this prop-based competition. Based on LeBron's star power, ridiculous leaps and ability to throw down with authority, he would be the perfect person to be in this competition.
Whether it's a money issue or lack of competitiveness, the NBA should do everything in their power to make this happen.
For James, it would be an amazing way to give back to every fan of the league. This event is slowly fading, but LeBron could be the hero to save it from irrelevance.
He's thought about it before, so why not pull the trigger?
At the same time, have they regained status as the NBA's villain team? If so, LeBron James can become a league-wide hero by knocking off the Lakers in a potential Finals meeting.
Fans have been waiting for a playoff showdown between LeBron and Kobe Bryant for quite sometime now. We've been close to witnessing this, but now seems like the most opportune time for both parties.
With each team being so heavily followed by their fanbases, it would be interesting to see exactly who the casual league fan would pull for.
Both teams are stacked with All-Stars, so creating an argument about buying a championship fly completely out of the window. Instead, the main focus should be on the Kobe and LeBron debate.
Over the past few years, fans have had countless arguments about who the best player in the world is. While Kobe is right outside of his prime, he's still a mentally-driven player with a lot to gain in his last few seasons.
A Finals battle wouldn't necessarily prove who is currently the better player, but it could be an interesting topic when both finish their spectacular careers.
With one championship out of the way, others will not look so farfetched in the coming years. James has proven that he can win on the biggest stage of them all, but just how many times can he show the same result?
Everything seems to be falling in place for James at this point in his career. He's injury-free, he plays on a contending team and still has a very high ceiling to reach as a player.
In all honesty, his situation couldn't be better.
The one thing fans would love to see is LeBron take advantage of this time. By winning, he continues to build his legacy and rise up the rankings of the greatest players in history.
James' career has been more than a spectacle for NBA enthusiasts—it's been an event. It's rare to find an athlete in any sport with a career that has been as dissected and closely followed as LeBron.
However, we often see players judged based on how often they win. Championships speak highly when it comes to success, so James will only gain respect if he keeps securing more titles over time.
Fans have always been drawn to winners. From Bill Russell to Michael Jordan, it's enjoyable to think back on what Hall of Fame players have accomplished in their time.
Even if James doesn't redeem himself with a lot of fans, there is little doubt in saying that he will leave a gigantic legacy by the time he finishes his career.
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