I am a Nets fan. Let me correct that – “a” Nets fan infers that there are others. I am the Nets fan. I sit alone on a deserted island using my Kerry Kittles (whose name reminds me of a candy favorite of mine) jersey as a towel and growing my own Deron Williams beard in hopes that he will stay a Net.
Still, on my isle of solitude, I was able to get ESPN reception and watch LeBron James’ Decision special in 2010. Surprisingly enough, radio towers were installed on my private beach, and I also had access to sports talk radio before and after the aforementioned Decision aired.
The funny thing is, the outrage after The Decision was the complete opposite of the excitement before the event aired. I watched the same thing as you. I heard LeBron say the same words that you did. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, you changed your mind and decided to vilify the best player in the NBA following his comments. I didn’t. I still like LeBron. You don’t. Here are seven reasons why you’re wrong:
7. You watched The Decision. Of course you watched it. Everyone watched The Decision. About two years before LeBron was even a free agent, the media was speculating on “where LeBron might go”. There were countdowns to July 1, 2010. Flash mobs performed to keep LeBron in Cleveland. Anything and everything you could imagine that could be associated with LeBron’s decision was front page news. For about two weeks after he officially became a free agent, the main focus of every story was LeBron James. You can pretend all you like, but I know… you ate it up.
We all ate it up. This was possibly the single biggest signing of an athlete that we will ever witness. And then, we were allowed to actually witness it. Think about that. Albert Haynesworth signed for $100 million with the Redskins, and we heard about it through a report. Albert Pujols chose the Angels this year, and it was “Breaking News”. But for LeBron, we got to see him report where he is going. We didn’t need SportsCenter to cut to a reporter camped out in Akron. We had full access to LeBron James telling us he is going to Miami.
Like it or not, you actively decided to watch The Decision that night. You knew exactly what you were getting when you tuned in. Earlier that day, when you heard about the ESPN special, you said to yourself, “I have to watch that later.” And you did. So face it, you weren’t upset that LeBron had an ESPN special. In fact, you loved the access it provided.
6. You think how he said where he is going was wrong. “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” Everyone knows the phrase. Everyone pretends it was the epitome of conceit. Why? Because that wasn’t what you expected. Like most of us, you sat there, waiting for over an hour, for LeBron to utter one word, whether it was “Miami”, “Chicago”, “Cleveland”, whatever. It caught you off guard that he had the nerve to elaborate on his decision.
What did you want him to say? “Miami, I choose you”, like he’s catching Pokemon? Did you want him to just spit out a team so you could get back to American Idol? No, you had no idea what he was going to say, and that was why you sat and watched. In the end, he wanted to give you something more, and felt that it was a creative way to end the hype surrounding this ordeal. He knew you were waiting for weeks (years, really) to hear this, and he gave you something more than just “Miami”.
5. LeBron donated proceeds from The Decision to the Boys & Girls Club of America. I know, you don’t want to hear this one, so I won’t spend long on it. But like it or not, some good did come out of The Decision. He obviously wasn’t doing this all for himself, and as much as you don’t want to admit it, his show benefited others more than him. In fact, in the court of public opinion, his show destroyed him.
4. You think he scorned Cleveland. “But he owes it to Cleveland to stay there!”, you cried. No he doesn’t. Yes, Cleveland is his hometown. Yes, I would not leave my hometown for a better job and more money. But, I’m not the greatest player in the world trying to solidify my legacy and become a legend. Cleveland was lucky to have landed in the position to draft their hometown hero and get seven insane seasons from him. If anybody owed someone here, it was Cleveland who owed LeBron. If they really wanted to keep him, they would have surrounded him with talent and given him the chance to win a championship without having to do all of the work. Cleveland had their chance to keep him. They didn’t.
3. You think LeBron’s championships (plural) will be tainted because he is playing with Dwyane Wade. This is one of my favorites. “He’ll never get the recognition because he has Wade and Bosh with him”. “For every ring he gets, Wade will have one more.” “He is the Robin to Wade’s Batman.” I’ve heard them all, and they’re all wrong. Whether you want to admit it or not, LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. Therefore, he is the engine that makes the machine go. He is “the guy”. When he wins championships in the future (he will), his legacy will grow.
Let’s also not forget one simple fact: Wade had Shaq, Kobe had Shaq, Garnett had Pierce and Allen, Jordan had Pippen (although yes, he would have won alone – he’s an exception). These stars need each other. It has never been more clear that teams need more than one superstar to be a powerhouse. So when one forms, you think it will taint their legacy? Ask Phil Jackson how his legacy is. I personally think Phil is one of the most overrated coaches of all time, and if anybody’s rings are tainted, it’s his. But you don’t think that. On every one of his championship teams, he has had at least one, usually two Hall of Famers. Yet he is concerned an all time great coach. If LeBron wins four rings, no one will say a peep 50 years from now.
2. LeBron is clutch. Sorry to burst your bubble with this one. But just like I said that I believe Michael Jordan would have been the exception, so would LeBron James. The reason? He carried the Cavilers for seven seasons. In his five playoff seasons with the Cavs, he averaged over 29 points per game. His average in the regular season? 24.8. He stepped it up every time his team reached the postseason (thanks entirely to him) and did all he could to win a ring. He fell short, of course, but every single NBA fan knows that if he had anyone helping him, the Cavs would have raised a banner in the rafters.
The talk nowadays is that, “if you ask LeBron for change of a dollar, he only gives you three quarters.” Funny. Inaccurate. When he is allowed to dominate a game, he does. Easy as that. And I won’t ignore the fact that he clearly is affected by the stage of an NBA Final, but it’s not because he will choke. Rather, he has already achieved every other accolade in the world, and his final goal is within reach. He knows it. But so does the other team.
If there’s one guy to stop, it’s LeBron. So when the focus needs to go on one player, he gets all of it. I made this argument in the past with A-rod (who was huge en route to his first championship in ’09), when everyone is gunning to stop you, it becomes a lot harder to perform to your ability. I don’t think any basketball fan will deny that LeBron will eventually win a title, and to do so, he will be showing the world how clutch he is.
Finally, it is time for the number one reason why you’re wrong to hate LeBron James. This reason permeates through all of the other six, and is the underlying current for all things anti-Lebron.
1. He didn’t choose your team. I knew there was no way that LeBron James was choosing the Nets. They were in the running, but they weren’t. Therefore, when I sat back and watched The Decision on that fateful July night, it was with pure objectivity. I didn’t want him to go to the Knicks, but that was my only rooting interest. In the end, people across the country burned LeBron jerseys and classified him as a coward, or loser, or whatever else made them feel better about one simple fact:
He wanted someone else more than you.
There is one small portion of America that doesn’t hate LeBron. Can you guess where that might be? Miami. And if he had gone to New York, guess who wouldn’t hate him then?
You hate LeBron James because he had to choose one, thus scorning 29 others in the process. You equate this to your ex-girlfriend leaving you for another guy (where you hate both parties involved), but you don’t realize that 29 other guys were waiting for her to choose one.
Every time you root against the Heat, you say it’s because you don’t want LeBron to get his ring. You want him to suffer. But for what? For saying “no” to YOU. It is bitterness in the most simplistic form. It is for this reason that no fan of a team other than Miami can ever have a reasonable opinion on LeBron James. Even I, a fan of no team LeBron could have been on, am affected by his decision. He didn’t go to my rival Knicks, and in the process, he made the whole fan base hate him. Even I am not without a stake in this fight.
When he retires, LeBron James will be remembered for his prolific playing career, but The Decision will never vanish from his biography. It is the single most impactful “sports report” you will ever see, because you lived through the actual reporting of the news. You were given an inside look to how a man tells the world what he has chosen, and you hate that you were so captivated by this that you couldn’t turn away.
In the end, you don’t hate LeBron James. You hate yourself for caring so much about him.