NBA Finals: An Open Letter to LeBron James

Michael JohnsonContributor IJune 13, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat answers questions after the Heat were defeated 105-95 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

  “All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

—Lebron James


Dear Mr. James,

You were right! I woke up this morning with the same life I had before. I woke up and took a shower. I woke my 6-year-old son, made him breakfast and drove him to summer camp before I went to work. I still have the same boss and the same job responsibilities I had yesterday. I checked my online bank account at some point today, and I didn’t have a significant increase or decrease in funds.  

You were right! I have the exact same life I had yesterday, with the same “problems.” I’m not rich, I’m not tall and I don’t play basketball for a living. I’m not famous, I’m not a global icon and I would have to work pretty hard to get an average-looking woman to come to my bed.

You were right! My life is the same as it was before your loss in the NBA Finals, and it will remain the same days after your loss.

But please allow me to ask you a question: are you alright?

I’m not being sarcastic because I really am concerned about you. You used to be loved by millions of basketball fans and now you seem to be pretty hated. And by pretty hated, I mean extremely loathed. It can’t be easy to have such an extreme shift in public opinion of you and not be affected by it.

I’m not a doctor but it’s clear that you have been infected by something I call “the rapper’s disease.”  I know it sounds silly, but hear me out.

The rapper’s disease is when someone or something reacts to positive and negative stimuli in the same fashion as a rapper would.

I’ll give you an example; do you remember the mid-90’s hip hop scene when every rapper was suddenly rich? Rap songs and videos became every corporation’s dream because the lyrics were filled with various company names and the videos with various products. Then poor (figuratively and literally) listeners were made to feel bad if they were not  rich or wore expensive clothing.

That wasn’t the end of it! Rappers then started to accuse people of being “haters.” People who disliked their music were labeled as haters. People who made eye contact with them were labeled as haters. I was in high school during all of this, and it was just insufferable to hear teenagers call their peers haters all day for four years.

The rapper’s disease is dangerous for a number of reasons.

One, it causes the victim to obtain extreme paranoia, thinking that the root of any disagreement is caused by some sort of irrational hate and not as a result of the victim’s actions.

Two, it causes the victim to have an inflated sense of importance, as if what they are doing is so important that people will take time from their lives to express an emotion as strong and toxic as hatred.

How do I know you have the rapper’s disease? Because you seem to believe that you are much more important to the world than you actually are.

You are LeBron James, but you are still one person in a world with billions of people and we do have short attention spans. It really was unbecoming of a global icon to lash out at the people who are responsible for your fame and fortune.   

I know you have probably heard some mean things at arenas this past season and you have read some pretty inflammatory tweets, but you really don’t have a legion of people who literally hate you.       

Sports hate is different from real hate. I say I hate the Dallas Cowboys all of the time, and I was delighted they finished with a 6-10 record. I was delighted for about two minutes.

Then I got hungry and my son wanted some chocolate milk and I forgot what the hell I was happy about in the first place.

Why did I forget about being happy that the Cowboys sucked last season? Because it is just not important; just like you losing is not important. Is it important enough for me to write about? Sure, but important enough for me to lose perspective about my life? No LeBron, not at all.

I know this has been beaten to death, but do you think Michael Jordan would have given the quote that preceded my letter to you?

Hell no!

Jordan would have done whatever it took to win (kind of like what Wade tried to do but better). And not only would Jordan have dropped 50 on DeShawn Stephenson while limiting Jason Terry to five total points in the series if they called him out, Steve Kerr would have been in the game because Jordan would have been feasting on their bloody corpses in Game 6.

But I digress…

I have to go, LeBron. I’m hungry and I have to go to the bathroom, but please remember this; LeBron , it doesn’t matter if I like you. As long as you like you, your life will be just fine. Just like mine is, whether you get a ring or not.


Michael Johnson


Michael Johnson is a contributor and the author of Shades of Gray: The Introduction of Walter Harrison, available on, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


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