Nobody was more of a LeBron James detractor than I was, and still am to a certain degree, but yesterday, petulance turned to pity. There comes a point where one has to stop and ask: Why all the intense dislike? What did LeBron do to deserve this? Although he has conducted himself in a fashion that makes him a magnet for criticism, part of me feels sorry for a man who is just growing and learning like the rest of the world.
More than anything, though, LeBron could shove a wadded up No. 23 Cleveland jersey in the mouths of all his detractors by blowing out the Dallas Mavericks in the next two games of the NBA Finals. All of this scrutiny may have flipped a switch in his head, though, which he can’t seem to switch off. Still, James is a modern day victim of something bigger than any of us can truly fathom: the 21st century media and the Internet generation.
If LeBron finds a way to win this championship and answer all the critics who just weeks ago were fawning over him when he beat Chicago, it may be one of the greatest sports stories this generation has ever seen.
The over analysis, uniformed commenting and all-out anger are bad enough, but the comparisons are what really bother me. “Michael Jordan would have done such and such” is just a tired rehashing of “the next Jordan” tag that has been forcibly applied to such superstars as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and yes, even Harold Miner.
Players can be comparable in their ability, but each is unique in their own way. Dirk Nowitzki is not Larry Bird, and Dwyane Wade is not Kobe Bryant. The comparisons are a component of human nature, but they are very detrimental to the truth, and the truth is that no player in NBA history has been scrutinized to the level that LeBron has. Many may ask if LeBron “brought this upon himself.” To a degree the answer is yes.
The Decision? Bad decision
The coming out party…should never have been thrown.
But making comments in the mold of, “If LeBron didn’t want to be seen as a bad boy then he shouldn’t have made the choice to go to Miami like he did” is akin to saying, “The girl who was molested had it coming because she chose to dress scantily.”
These kinds of remarks have the effect of shifting any kind of responsibility off the public and the media and onto LeBron. People took it all so personally that LeBron left a failed project of a team in Cleveland to win somewhere else. I didn’t hear a peep out of people when Drexler left Portland or when Shaq left Orlando. LeBron’s only knock here is that he can’t seem to stop running that mouth of his.
The bottom line is that the arrogance and the perception of being entitled rub people the wrong way. Many superstars have been arrogant in the same way that LeBron is: Kobe, MJ, Shaq, Garnett etc. But LeBron takes it to the level of making many folks believe that he is better than them.
Kobe’s arrogance was as a competitor, which LeBron has failed as to this point by way of his recent NBA Finals on-court ambivalence. Someone like Shaq’s arrogance was extended to the point of being comical. More than anything, these players backed it up on the court, which LeBron has yet to do. But does this give people the right to bury him as has become common practice of late?
The town of Cleveland disgusts me more than anything else. This man gave you reason to root for a team that you haven’t had in years not only in basketball, but in any sport.
So he left. That’s the nature of the business; don’t take it personally. If you loved a dog for seven years and then he ran away, you wouldn’t look at him negatively hoping that he found a bad family who didn’t like walking him and had a small back yard. No, you would hope that he is OK and look upon the good years fondly.
LeBron owes Cleveland nothing, and they are the biggest representation of what we call in Australia “tall-poppy syndrome,” which can be described as wanting to make yourself feel better by cutting others down. Cleveland should focus on the success of their own sporting franchises instead of the failings of former players; brighten your own light instead of going around trying to snuff out the light of others.
If and when LeBron finally falls in the Finals, will Cleveland be able to hang this banner from their rafter? “2011 LeBron Loses Championship.” Someone else’s loss is not your victory.
Once again this goes back to the Internet generation. Millions would rather sit back and comment on how poor a song is that someone wrote, performed and uploaded or how stupid an article is, in their opinion, rather than generating anything resembling their own work. Creating is difficult, laborious work; unconstructive criticism requires no effort and leaves nothing but anger and resentment.
This is clearly what LeBron feels now as he has adopted this “me (us) against the world” persona with his Miami team. Spurned Cleveland fans went a long way to shaping this uglier side of LeBron.
Cleveland aside, the rest of the nation seems personally offended by LeBron’s actions. So he was a little theatrical about leaving for Miami, so he makes off-color remarks in press conferences, so he walks off the court after losing a series to Boston last year without congratulating others.
The man is human, the media tried to make him more than this, but like you and me, he is growing and hopefully learning from his mistakes. In Game 5 for example; LeBron was called for charging at the end of the game and simply turned and walked the other way without so much as a word to the officials. This to me shows growth even in its most infant forms.
What many people fail to realize is that LeBron is not calling all these shots. He obviously has a team of people around him that, if they cared at all about his legacy as a role model and hero to many, would not have placed him in this situation. The guy is taking shots for essentially leaving a rotten sporting town and a franchise that couldn’t give him his Scottie Pippen where nobody wins anything to take less money in Miami.
Seems to me that this would be an admirable move in the day and age of money-grubbing athletes and owners (are you paying attention NFL?). He sacrificed not only money, but his stats and his role as “the man” in Cleveland to win the ultimate team prize. How did his handlers bungle all this up? His image could have been golden and glowing, yet he is now the nation’s biggest heel this side of the Jersey Shore cast.
He was crowned by the media, by the people in Cleveland, by Nike. Not once have I heard LeBron go out there and refer to himself as the King. All of this is designed to sell papers, direct hits to websites, attract advertisers and keep cashing checks.
Making LeBron look bad is all just a business, and we are all being suckered into buying this product of LeBron James; the villain formerly known as hero. We all know that the villain sells so much more than the hero. The nightly news is littered with criminals and tragedy, the nice guy finishes last and the Joker stole the last Batman movie.
But LeBron’s partially self-imposed and largely media/advertisement generated image isn’t even where he needs to focus the most of his attention.
My biggest knock on LeBron is how he plays the game. Taking himself out of the offense, heaving up far too many three-point shots for a man of his size and stature, failing to establish himself down low on smaller defenders and most of all, the constant appeals to the referee for calls.
LeBron James must have a short memory, because the guy (DeShawn Stevenson) who is supposedly shutting down his offense is the same guy who LeBron destroyed while playing for the Cavs against the Wizards a few years ago in the playoffs.
Remember the whole Superman episode with Soldier Boy getting involved? “Crank that”? Well LeBron needs to stop listening to the words of Soldier Boy because right now, his shot is just not falling. But there is a remedy for a shot that just doesn’t want to fall. Stop dropping three-point bombs and start getting to the hoop like the guided cruise missile that LeBron has been his whole career.
LeBron should get his Superman game on by driving to the lane as Heat fans and many in the online community keep pleading for him to do. The idea that he can’t blow by Stevenson, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki or anyone else guarding him is what makes his lackluster offensive performances so baffling.
Are we finally seeing the drawbacks of too many Chiefs, not enough Indians with all of Miami’s stars? I think that it is more an example of something just not clicking in the mind of James, and the more that he looks to pass to teammates, the more his chance for a championship passes as well.
That said, something isn’t clicking off the court as well, where LeBron just can’t help but give the media more and more fuel for their ever burning fire of scrutiny and criticism.
Apologizing to Cleveland when Miami was doing well in the playoffs (which is akin to telling your ex-wife you’re sorry you cheated on her when you are off dating a model in another city), telling the public that he can’t be guarded by one defender, pretending to cough before Game 5 while mocking Nowitzki and making comments like he did a few years ago that he was like Jay-Z (an all-time great) and Stevenson was like Soulja Boy (a one-hit wonder).
He just doesn’t seem to know any better, and the people around him just never seem to steer him in the right direction. He was a star before he was interested in the opposite sex, the chosen one before he was even old enough to drive. He has no education beyond a few years in high school and people wonder why he makes poor decisions a lot of the time.
All of that not with-standing, LeBron can still be the most dominate player in the NBA if he chooses to be. He has more ability and talent than possibly anyone in NBA history, but right now, he doesn’t have what it takes mentally to display this talent while the world watches.
Even with all the poor word choices and unnecessary in-game theatrics, LeBron has been lauded for acting like such a man for the majority of his career.
In the end, all of the incidents I mentioned previously are petty. They are the handy work of a man with an overinflated ego which, although he ultimately controls, was inflated by all of us looking for the next best thing in the NBA, the second coming of Jordan. But LeBron is better than even Jordan when it comes to the caliber of his off-court actions in terms of the actual harm they do to him and others.
LeBron has never been accused of rape (Kobe) being addicted to any substance or activity like gambling (MJ) having domestic incidents with women (Allen Iverson and countless others) drunk driving (insert half of professional athletes) being pulled over with drugs in his car (Carmelo) or even so much as been handed a speeding ticket. For all the knocks against him, I applaud LeBron for this.
If LeBron took a page from Mark Cuban’s book by just shutting up, he would go a long way to repairing his image. If he keeps acting like Brett Favre and essentially writing the entire show of SportsCenter for ESPN then he can expect to see more of this persistent negativity directed towards him.
For now though, he remains the villain. According to player reports, LeBron can’t even trash-talk properly on court. Could Rik Flair teach him how to slap a few men in the chest and mold him into the quintessential heel? Could Al Davis help him embrace his status as Public Sports Enemy number one?
Regardless of anything else that happens, James must accept that what he accomplishes will likely never be good enough, and what he does will be scrutinized a thousand times greater than any other player in the league. Just go to YouTube and type in “LeBron James flop” and see how many hundreds of thousands of views come up for his video. Now type “DeShawn Stevenson flop” (he had a terrible one in Game 5) and look at the results. Nothing.
What LeBron must remember is that people said MJ would never win and that he was just a scoring champ, they said Kobe would never win without Shaq, they said the court wouldn’t be big enough for the big three in Boston.
The only people that run their mouth more than LeBron are the public. Even so, he does not deserve this much criticism or abhorrence and needs to keep in mind that he has nothing to prove to anyone, as all of us should remember too.
In the end, I feel sorry for him because even if he wins one, two or his jersey number in titles with Miami, people will never look at him as LeBron James. They will always look at him as not Magic Johnson, not Kobe Bryant and of course, not Michael Jordan.