Wednesday, June 15, 2011
As another NBA season comes to a close, we are enveloped by a new wave of LeBron loathing... And I honestly don't get it. Can you think of anyone else who has been so maligned for doing so little wrong? Seriously, what has he ever done that's so terrible? He's arrogant? He orchestrated a nation-wide media circus surrounding his off-season free agency tour? The hated "Decision" special raised three fucking million dollars for kids! When's the last time you generated even one dollar just for telling people where your next place of employment will be? Never, because no one cares what you have to say.
Fine, he's arrogant. The guy's been told he's the best athlete to ever touch a basketball since he was, like, eleven! I think he's held it together pretty well, considering. All he's done is live up to the unrealistically high expectations heaped upon him by his coaches, his friends, his mom, his home town... With the Cavs, he was the best player in the world without any help from his teammates (evidenced by the fact that in their first season without him they went on the worst losing streak in the HISTORY of the NBA), and he worked his ass off without complaint to piggy-back them for seven years. Plus, he's 26! Aren't you supposed to be arrogant in your 20's? I was arrogant when I was 26, and I hadn't accomplished shit! (Although maybe that just means I'm an asshole, too. Hmmm.) Anyway, the guy works his ass off, gives back to the community, and is the best in the world at what he does.
If I'm not mistaken, three super stars came together a few years prior, and everyone applauded them for their selflessness and desire to win. Kevin Garnett toiled in Minnesota without assistance for many years. Ray Allen did the same in Seattle. They'd had enough of losing because management couldn't lure the necessary talent to their small markets, so they decided to join forces in Boston for a few more shots at winning it all. LeBron and Bosh devoted seven years to their respective teams in Cleveland and Toronto, but were unable to win because management never gave them the necessary pieces. They saw what Garnett, Allen, and Pierce did, and followed suit. LeBron's sole mistake was not picking up the phone before The Decision, to let Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, know that James was not going to be returning to the team. And given what we learned about Gilbert's maturity level, I kinda understand why one wouldn't want to make that phone call. (Okay, a second mistake was not going to The Bulls. They had better pieces for him to work with; James' and Wade's games are too similar to facilitate a smooth half-court offense.)
Now, in the wake of a lackluster performance in the NBA Finals, LeBron is feeling the backlash again. Never mind that he had an outstanding season, leading The Heat to 58 wins and the number two seed, despite it being a completely revamped team in its first season together. Never mind that the two best role players on that team, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, didn't play the entire regular season due to serious injuries. Never mind that LeBron had an incredible playoffs up until The Finals. Never mind that they still did make it to game 6 of The Finals against a Dallas team that caught fire from three-point land. Never mind that just the series before, against The Bulls, Wade had an awful series (something the media attributed to a mysterious injury), and LeBron carried the team to victory over the number one seed and number one defense in the league. When LeBron had a sub-par performance in The Finals (something that warrants criticism), where were his teammates to pick him up?
Look, it's not that I feel bad for the guy. He lives an awesome life for playing a sport, and deserves to be critiqued when he doesn't come through. Shit, I'd trade places; you can hate me all you want, and I'll collect hundreds of millions of dollars for playing basketball and doing commercials. Deal? I just have trouble getting behind all the misdirected anger. I gotta tell ya, if they'd caught everything Jordan said, on camera, and replayed the shit out of it like they do with everything LeBron says...he'd have been a lot less likeable, I assure you.
Go ahead and be happy for Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, but LBJ will be back there next year, and maybe a couple more years after that. He's really good. I don't like when he over-celebrates after a dunk either, but it's not like he raped a chick in a Colorado hotel, or cheated on his wife with tons of cocktail waitresses, or drowned dogs, or was accused of murder, or brought a loaded gun into a club and accidentally fired it...all things professional athletes who are way less hated have done. Just seems like jealousy, or something, once the vitriol crosses a certain threshold, because all in all...he seems like an alright guy. Although if he doesn't win next year...what an asshole.
And there you have it. My positive post for the year.