Ever since “taking his talents to South Beach,” LeBron James has become the most hated athlete in sports. Everyone, from fans to former teammates to legends have universally bashed their former king.
In a matter of hours, LeBron and his super-powered Heat take on the defending champion Lakers, with their own mega-star in Kobe Bryant. After some early-season problems, the Heat managed to turn their season around after a romping of LeBron’s former team in Cleveland.
After a summer of ridicule, LeBron released a commercial asking, “What should I do?” If LeBron wishes to rehab his image, he only needs to do two things.
Firstly, he should apologize for leaving Ohio.
He was Ohio’s favorite son, and said on numerous occasions he would never leave Cleveland without bringing it a championship. Unfortunately for Cleveland and King (or Queen as he has recently been called) James, he failed to deliver, and seemed to simply pack it in at the end of the Cavs’ failed playoff run last year.
Cleveland gave LeBron its heart, as well as everything else he ever got monetarily and emotionally, minus the Hummer from high school, and the $110 million the Heat gave him a few months ago.
Perhaps LBJ ought to apologize to his fans for leaving them. Why he left is irrelevant, but how he left is what’s really causing the backlash towards James. Maybe another special with Jim Gray to apologize for leaving his fans in such a public and smug way. He should also apologize for somewhat tarnishing Mr. Gray’s reputation too.
Most importantly, he needs to WIN.
It seems in American sports, victory is the ultimate antidote for bad public opinion. Anyone who disagrees, simply think back to Ray Lewis in 2000, Kobe Bryant in 2003 or Michael Vick in 2007, to show how quickly the public can change its perception of a player when they win.
Lewis played MVP-caliber football and won a Super Bowl, Kobe won back-to-back championships over the past two seasons and Vick has been all-world most of the season. They are now among the best-loved players in sports again.
As the old sports adage goes, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” This holds true to LeBron. If he can bring a couple of titles to Miami, the public’s perception of him will change radically.
Winning championships will turn him into the selfless visionary, who declined being the star of his own team to be apart of something truly special with Wade, Bosh and the Heat. Losing in the playoffs and packing it in makes James look like the selfish title-chaser, who turned his back on everyone that loved him for personal glory.