On Sept. 14, 2010, according to CNBC's Darren Rovell, the outrage surrounding James' decision to join the Miami Heat significantly dropped his popularity. The report indicated that "only 14 percent of the general population saw him as a positive figure, a 41.6 percent drop, while 39 percent viewed him in a negative light, a 77 percent decline."
For that, James would be showered with disdain and vitriol throughout his first season in Miami. After going on to win his first championship in 2012, however—coupled with his third MVP and an Olympic gold—James began to win back an NBA community that once appeared lost to him forever.
In the wake of Miami's 27-game winning streak, and the likelihood of a fourth MVP, the universal hate for James has now been replaced by a love affair capable of reaching even further heights.
On the court, James has unequivocally proven to be the best player on a championship team.
While assuming that role, he has also allowed his superstar teammates to elevate their games in the process. Beyond that, James has also rededicated himself to an approach fueled by child-like passion for the game that's become impossible not to celebrate.
LeBron initially reacted to the hate he received during the 2010-11 season by attempting to embrace the false persona of an NBA villain. This approach fueled the hatred and negatively impacted James on the basketball court, seen in full effect in the 2011 NBA Finals.
In this interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, however, James admitted as much by announcing his intention to no longer assume that role. He told Nichols he intended to rededicate himself to playing the game with the same joy and passion he did in years prior.
Since then, James has gone on to do everything he said he would. He is reaching his true potential as a player because of the way he now approaches the game, and he is being celebrated because of it.
Passion for the Game
James is having fun again in 2012-13, and it's not difficult for NBA fans to see.
The mean-mug era that engulfed James' first season in Miami was confusing. We had come to know the superstar to be a carefree guy, photo-bombing television cameras in the midst of a winning streak.
That LeBron James is back this season.
His career-high field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounding and player efficiency rating is a testament to the weight that has been lifted from his shoulders. He has come full circle after his low point in the 2011 finals.
Big Three in Miami
As opposed to achieving what he has in spite of his teammates, LeBron has continued to make those around him better.
After helping transform Sasha Pavlovic and Drew Gooden into players who could start for an NBA Finals team in 2007, James is now helping to elevate the performance of his superstar teammates in Miami.
During the 2012-13 campaign specifically, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are both shooting career highs from the floor. James has capitalized on the defensive attention he receives along with his playmaking ability to enable each of his teammates to shoot 52 and 53.3 percent, respectively.
LeBron did not ride Wade and Bosh's coattails to the NBA championship in 2012.
He was the league's best player on the league's best team and is proving to be specifically that again this year. There is no denying his ability at this point, regardless of how anyone might feel about James personally.
As the criticisms of being unable to close and deliver in a big moment have all but been erased, all that's left is an appreciation for the best player on the planet.
A player who's made it OK to universally love again, even if it once seemed we never would.
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