"Listen, if the Miami Heat were playing the Washington Generals I would pick the Washington Generals,” Barkley said with a chuckle. “It’s something about that team that annoys me. They just a whiny bunch
and I can’t root for them.” - Charles Barkley on ESPN1000 in Chicago
Some would say it is because he is arrogant, but what professional athlete is not? Others would say it is because he announced his free agency decision on ESPN. If this is the case why is there no hatred directed towards ESPN. As a side note, "The Decision" raised two million in cash and another one million in computers and Nike equipment for The Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
So why do people hate LeBron James? Is it the god-given talent? Is it the shortcomings in his game? Is it that he looks like Abraham Lincoln? Why does LeBron James evoke so much negative emotion from people?
The answer to this question centers around an old issue that is spoken about in “urban” barbershops and discussed at certain types of family dinner tables. It is an answer that is obvious to many privately but no one has the courage to say publicly.
Before we divulge the answer let us first look at one of James’ biggest public detractors. An individual who has assimilated himself comfortably in a certain type of culture and has made it known he does not like James. A culture that differs significantly from what the Miami Heat and specifically James
are part of.
It is a culture that forced Michael Jordan to retire “Morris Blackmon” and embrace Bugs Bunny. It is a culture that many athletes have either accepted or declined to be a part of.
The scrutiny that LeBron has endured has been pathetic and repugnant. The nicknames, monikers and jokes have been a plentiful, but the logic or reasoning for this treatment has been missing. Unless you have been listening closely, then the justification has been apparent.
Charles Barkley, whose quote earlier was more about the Heat then LeBron, rationalizes
his dislike for LeBron after he said he was going to win multiple championships.
In fact, here is the Barkley quote as said to Jim Rome:
“It bothered me when they started talking about winning five, or six, or seven championships,” Barkley told Rome, “because as a guy who never won a championship, I speak for Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, I speak to all those guys and it’s like, dude, it’s not that easy.
"The older guys don’t like them,” Barkley continued. “That’s the reason we don’t like them.”
Really, so this is the reason John Stockton, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing do not like LeBron James. Interesting point of view that Contradiction Barkley has, it seems the further Barkley has gotten away from his playing days the worse his memory has gotten. Just for good measure here is a quote from six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen on playing with the defensive stalwart known as Sir
''I probably should've listened to Michael a year ago when he said that Charles will never win a championship because he doesn't show any dedication,'' Pippen said in a 1999 ESPN interview. ''He's a very selfish guy. He doesn't show the desire to want to win. That's my reason for wanting to get away from playing with him, because he just doesn't show the dedication.''
Barkley is one of the many vocal critics of LeBron, and any player cut from that same cloth. It is a cloth, or player, who is more likely to have Jay-Z as a close friend then Dan Majerle.
Barkley in his very inarticulate venom has given the world an introspective view of why so many people take great satisfaction in watching James, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook struggle. How many articles have been written in the last two months stating Derrick Rose is not MVP-worthy or Russell Westbrook needs to be traded.
People have questioned these players in a fashion similar to the way they questioned any player who has not conformed to a world that is subordinate and submissive to the perceived accepted culture.
The public opinions of a player can change with a championship, but the acceptance of a player into this group only comes when he transforms from “urban” to “suburban.” This is a very difficult topic to prove and one that is met with much skepticism by the very same people who are responsible for creating or instigating this atmosphere.
When Jordan arrived in Chicago he was greeted by doubt and disenchantment. The man who drafted him, Rod Thorn, had this to say shortly after the selection:
“We wish Jordan were seven feet, but he isn't. There just wasn't a center available. What can you do? Jordan isn't going to turn this franchise around. I wouldn't ask him to. He's a very good
offensive player, but not an overpowering offensive player.”
What criteria was used in making this assumption, it could not have been anything based on basketball. Jordan dominated the college game, he won Dean Smith his first-ever National Championship and helped the U.S. win back the gold medal that had been robbed from them 12 years earlier in a boycott. Yet, expectations were low for a player of Jordan’s stature.
Blind to the facts will say it was because he was not seven feet tall, but neither was Mark Aguirre, James Worthy or Magic Johnson. All were taken No. 1 within a few years of the Jordan selection, all were under seven feet tall and all were expected to turn around their respective franchises.
This analogy will be lost on some people, the excuses will range from size to fourth quarter shortcomings. Those very same excuses will not explain the sheer energy spent on reporting and contriving James’ disses.
Does LeBron James deserve this much hatred?
Winning a championship will not stop the misguided disdain James has endured, it will only quiet it.
Hopefully, James will continue on his own path to greatness and not allow the percentage of the population who want his transformation or demise to happen immediately.
LeBron James played terribly in the NBA Finals. He did not throw a man through a glass window, get accused of a crime or fight dogs. He is a great player who is simply finding his way in a world that is demanding he change. A world that is too cowardly to say it publicly.
Dwyane Wade has managed to not fall victim to this required change, and it has cost him dearly. His cost was and is not being mentioned or recognized as the best guard in the NBA.
Shaq refused to pay this price and it cost him his place among NBA immortality. Tim Duncan graciously accepted the terms and he is revered as the greatest power forward to ever play, ahead of Moses Malone and Elvin Hayes.
The mayor of Dallas named June 13 “LeBron James Day,” to celebrate the Mavs winning their first NBA title. Mark Cuban released a statement about how great it is that Brian Cardinal and Dirk Nowitzki decided to stay with the Mavericks, were these comments and actions all about business and nothing personal.
In their moment of triumph and with the world at their feet both men choose to again “chastise” James.
The Mavericks were a doormat franchise for years until Cuban became the owner and they finally won their first championship. A win that came against the team that defeated them just five years earlier and instead of enjoying the fruits of their labor, they took a moment out to check the young man who dared
to not play their game.
The bitterness in Ohio will forever be transparent; instead of celebrating the relevance that James’ brought to that franchise he is vilified throughout the state. The reaction to James is worse then what any Bulls or Pistons player receives. To say it is merely because he left Cleveland is extremely naïve.
James was granted clemency for his actions and demeanor as long as he brought in revenue for the Cavaliers. He has since learned hate runs deeper then love. The Governor of Ohio deemed James’ behavior also insubordinate and decided to make the Dallas Mavericks honorary Ohioans to teach the young man not to bite the hand that feeds him.
These actions were all because James left in free agency, right?
The basking in what could be the most disappointing moment in his career is nothing more than people upset over his decision, right?
What makes this all so sad is no one in the national spotlight has the courage to call a spade a spade. No one has the courage to stand up for this young athlete who did nothing wrong.
His hero Jordan is as quiet as church mouse. His former coach is shook to death to come to his defense and even Stephen A. Smith is screaming the fifth.
So alone he sits left to fight a battle many of his predecessors have fought.
It is a battle that has left Kareem Abdul-Jabbar justifiably jaded and it has made Hakeem Olajuwon an afterthought when people discuss the all-time greats.
This type of venom is never given to just a basketball player it is usually reserved for a player who is trying to win on their own terms.
A player who is confident enough in who they are as a person to remain as such. This confidence will not waiver even though a “society” continues to throw rocks at the throne in hopes of a change.
Jordan was willing to distance himself from Spike Lee and embrace David Falk, for that he is treated like a god. Here is hoping LeBron and the Heat continue to “embrace” Morris Blackman.