The 2011 NBA Finals were definitely made for our country in this day and age. You had underdogs, villains, lasting storylines and two teams that played almost every game down to the last minute. If people on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and in the media in general wanted to see somebody fail, they got what they asked for.
The question is, “What if that was you out there?"
Almost a year ago, LeBron James went on record as saying he was “taking his talents to South Beach.” Honestly, the fans gave him that type of clout to have his own personal press conference in the first place.
All the sports world talked about weeks leading up to his decision was where would LeBron go? Since he was a “child,” the media and fans were waiting for him to come to the NBA and entertain us. Admittingly, I was one of those people. Even with Kobe Bryant, fans still have been waiting for a Michael Jordan-type of player who is global, dominant and a marketing icon to boot.
We got that in LeBron, and when he was in Cleveland he was loved and admired by the country. But Jordan set a precedent with his play and his instincts in the clutch.
It will be almost impossible for any player to reach that status ever again. If we compared every president to Lincoln, Eisenhower or Kennedy we would never give anyone in office a chance to have special moments.
To see so many people actually perpetuate hate against a player is not surprising in this era of commentary behind a screen. When owners and politicians are even speaking out from their bully pulpits, it says a lot about where our society is headed. Many have lost focus with so many ways to put their thoughts in the air.
The golden rule no longer applies.
Remember, James is still young and makes mistakes like any other 20-something-year-old does. With everything going on, it is hard to balance business, branding and public relations, and then play basketball in an era where players are celebrities.
Athletes are much more than athletes these days. Michael was the marketing king, and now the exposure has increased ten-fold. When you have everyone telling you that you are the best thing since sliced bread, and then you are crucified, it is probably hard for somebody to take in.
Almost none of us have been in his shoes or even had the talent physically or mentally to have people love or hate us that much.
What LeBron did almost a year ago is a truly an American story. A poor talented kid from the Midwest with no father finds his niche, grows on the fly and becomes something that grips the country. Just like the average guy who wants to move from his hometown and do something special somewhere else, that is roughly a parallel of James. When family and friends go on to better things, there is usually have a party for them.
Honestly, if we didn’t compare LeBron to Jordan, which he is not, would we still have the same feelings toward the situation?
Some people are willing to admit when they need help. Look at Shaquille O’Neal for instance. The most dominant big man since Wilt Chamberlain had to move around to find success. Now maybe if Shaq was in his prime in this era, he would have caught more flak for winning championships alongside Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade; but he wasn’t holding special press conferences and celebrations either, which LeBron admitted was a mistake.
For some reason, we forgive celebrities and politicians for drug problems, domestic abuse, infidelity, immaturity and pure abnormal behavior. I always wonder why we hold athletes at a higher level. They are playing “games,” while politicians are making life-changing decisions for all of us.
We all have to admit that LeBron has not managed his public relations to the best of his ability. But we also have never seen such a physical specimen on the basketball floor. In our country we love to build people up, yet when they make decisions that don’t go with the majority, they become the enemy.
There was a time when a guy named Muhammad Ali was hated by many Americans. Will LeBron have the same type of redemption story in the years to come?