In Defense of LeBron James

Harrison MooreAnalyst IIJune 1, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after a play against the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, 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 Elsa/Getty Images)

Depending on who you ask, LeBron James is God’s gift to the NBA, better than Michael Jordan himself, the second best player in the league, overrated, underrated, or even some complex combination of them all.

What LeBron James is now, however, is a perfect example of why the sports media and all the mindless drones they produce are fair-weather friends.

As fans, we praise ultra-competitiveness. We praise the “leave it all on the floor” mantra. Yet at the end of every game, most of us not only expect the family-friendly image of everyone, teammate and opponent alike, coming together to share hugs—we demand it.

How reasonable is that?

If the players choose to embrace each other after the game, then so be it. If not, then don’t attack LeBron James because he didn’t fulfill the cuddly, fake, embrace-the-other-team ritual that you puritans have a hard-on for.

The man has every right to be disappointed.

I suppose that none of you have ever turned your cell phones off after your teams have lost just to avoid the frustration of being taunted. I suppose none of you have ever played Madden or NBA 2K9, essentially got cheated out of a win, slammed the controller down, and quit.

Make no mistake about it, LeBron James was cheated out of a win this year, but not by the Magic. The team that cheated LeBron out of a win this year is actually much closer to home.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that the Cavaliers had no business winning 66 games, competing with the Orlando Magic at all, or going 39-1 on their home court before dropping the meaningless final home game of the regular season to the struggling 76ers.

As much as Mo Williams would like to deny it, the Cavaliers were simply outmatched by the Magic.

(Not to mention that Mo lost just a little bit of credibility in my eyes when he guaranteed a win over a team that was one miracle shot away from sweeping the Cavaliers as easily as the Cavaliers had swept the bottom-feeding Pistons and Hawks in the two rounds previous to that.)

Truthfully, Cleveland never had a chance. All the Magic did was finally expose the Cavaliers as the one-man act that they’ve been all season long.

The only reason that Cleveland was more than an afterthought in the regular season, or even around for the postseason, is the same competitiveness on the part of LeBron James that so many of us want to criticize him for now.

But I suppose that it's only admirable to refuse defeat when you’ve won. To be unable to deal with defeat the moment after you’ve been defeated is apparently a sign of weakness or arrogance.

Never mind that LeBron’s refusal to accept defeat just a little more than a week ago resulted in one of the greatest shots in NBA history.

Its amazing how quickly the human psyche will have you turn on the very person you’ve spent the entire season admiring, isn’t it?


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