LeBron James: Why All Our Anger Over 'The Decision' is Justified

John StebbinsCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2010

MIAMI - JULY 09:  LeBron James #6, (L) Dwyane Wade #3 (C) and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat talk during a press conference after a welcome party at American Airlines Arena on July 9, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Amidst all the bickering by fans over "The Decision" of LeBron James to "take his talents to South Beach," the comments began to pack themselves into various camps: those who think it was great and those who thought it was disastrous.

"God, I swear we all need therapy. Anyone who was brought into this mess," I muttered to myself. Hmmmm…then I Googled "fan psychology LeBron James"

We’re not the only ones with numerous takes on this saga.

Dr. Richard Lustberg (with a last name like that, it’s amazing he wasn’t a Freudian), the New York–based psychologist who runs psychologyofsport.com, concluded that LeBron is not to blame for simply accepting the best offer.

"LeBron is simply a reflection of our society. If he is adroit at using the system, so be it. We do not seem to blame others for doing so, and it happens all the time," he wrote on his site. "If he wants to and gets to play out his life on center stage, that is his choice."

But boy, did he ever start that new life on center stage. "The Decision," his hour-long "Not-so-special," has been the subject of debate as well.

Simine Vazire, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, saw the hour-long orchestrated affair like an anti-wedding between him and his lifelong home of Cleveland.

"LeBron showed an amazing amount of self-delusion on Thursday Night," she wrote in Psychology Today’s website. "He did everything he could to make the pain of the breakup as public and humiliating as possible for Cleveland.

"This did more than hurt his reputation in Cleveland. The reaction around the country is that LeBron’s way of announcing the decision was cruel and completely lacking in compassion."

However, Vazire saw some sympathetic into James’ apparent abdication of his crown.

"Perhaps he realized that his skills are best suited to being one of several excellent players on a team that is perfectly capable of winning a championship team without him. LeBron chose to forgo the chance at major glory in exchange for a job that truly suits his strengths," she wrote.

"Most people do agree that moving to Miami means giving up the dream of being the uncontested Best Player Ever, a distinction many believed he was still capable of…LeBron was wise enough to know his limitations on the basketball court."

In other words, the city of Cleveland wasn’t necessarily whom he betrayed. Those who should truly feel stabbed in the back are those who he let believe all that "Chosen One" now-hooey.

Seriously, despite the photo-illustration in Thursday morning’s Miami Herald, did anyone really believe DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh were going to bow down to LBJ? Apparently not, as when they introduced the three, Wade was the literal centerpiece.

That leads us to this "superteam" on the make. Assumptions are already comparing them to the Bulls of the 1990s, despite currently having almost literally no bench, if they have enough to fill the floor.

With LeBron being the "final" piece to the puzzle, Allen McConnell, Psychology Professor at Miami (Ohio) University, said all this premature title celebration just increases the target on their backs.

"Such intentional efforts to assemble unstoppable talent is antithetical to what makes sports to fun and compelling: the lack of predictability," he wrote in his own Psychology Today article.

"No one wants to see sports teams that are pre-ordained or irrepressible; fans watch games for the drama of the unknown to play out (literally).

"Explicit and obvious attempts to monkey around with one of the most psychologically compelling features of sport are not well-received by fans."

Not only that, but McConnell thinks Miami should get used to it.

"Such an intentional desire to install a dynasty threatens the (arguably illusory) sense of freedom for teams to discover and build their own destinies," McConnell wrote.

"It produces a psychological reactance, which is a negative response that leads people to act in ways to prove to others that all is not predetermined…it seems likely that LeBron hating (and Miami Heat hating) may become all the rage in the NBA next season."

Right now, that hatred is based in Cleveland. After all, we’re the jilted fans who "weren’t good enough" for him.

Despite our best efforts, the mix of him and the supporting cast we managed to get him didn’t get the job done, and he decided it would never be good enough. But don’t read too much into the burning of the No. 23 jerseys and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s response.

"In social psychology, research has studied this phenomenon, called the Black Sheep Effect. That is, although we typically love member of our own groups (ingroups) more than a member of other groups, when a member of an ingroup does something unwanted, that individual can become more hated than outsiders who perform the same undesirable actions," McConnell wrote.

"Because James was so strongly associated with Northeast Ohio and emphasized his roots as "the Boy from Akron," the hatred from Clevelanders may be especially pronounced."

(That sure explains the support behind Gilbert’s reaction, don’t it?)

But McConnell also noted the hatred will last here for a long time.

"Considerable research has shows that when one’s self-esteem is reduced, people lash out and denigrate them to feel better about the self.

"LeBron’s leaving will not only trigger toward him, but the resulting blow to the region’s self-esteem will make putting him down a compelling response to restore self-esteem...voila! A self-reinforcing loop!" he wrote.

"Not only will James be wearing a new Heat jersey next season, but he may find a considerable amount of new heat dogging him in the wake of ‘The Decision’ for years to come."