While talking about the recent Heat/Pacers series, a coworker passed me and had mentioned Lebron James, going as far as saying that he is “my boy”. I then asked what he meant. His response was that he thought I was a Heat fan.
I wanted to know how he had come to that conclusion seeing as when I talk basketball at work the conversation is usually dominated by Bulls talk. He proceeded to explain that he assumed I was a Miami Heat fan because of how highly I spoke of Lebron James.
It both amused and irked me in one stroke that my reasonable admiration of such a basketball player was labeled as being a bandwagoner.
For starters I love watching basketball. I have an appreciation for the sport. In no point in my life will I ever claim myself to be an expert or a Miami Heat fan, but I do know a thing or two. A child can tell you Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world. How do I know that?
Lebron is the all around package. He can virtually play every position, is an excellent passer, has developed a great post up game, crashes the boards, incredible hang time coupled with an unparalleled strength. His speed and length make driving on him very difficult. He has shot nearly as well as Kevin Durant from the 3-point line. He is a both the coaches dream and the coaches nightmare; He is a player that does not need a game plan and a player you can not plan against.
Name one person better that is currently playing basketball.
You can’t and for a while you will not be able to. This is why I was also amused. Like sheep, we brand Lebron with a label of disapproval because of the whole Decision debacle.
I’ll be the first to admit, not only was I on the Lebron James Haterfest 2010 Bandwagon, I am pretty sure I was driving it for a while. As somebody who loves the sport, it was maddening to see Lebron leave his team and take the “easy” route to winning a championship ring. 4 seasons and a blog later I realized how foolish I was because let’s face it, there was nothing easy about Lebron going to Miami.
I was upset because Lebron James passed on staying in Cleveland to play with Wade and Bosh in Miami. It felt cheap; It felt like something you would do in NBA 2k. No NBA superstar has ever left his team to go play with better one.
Except Shaquille O’Neal,Kareem Abdul Jabar, Karl Malone, Shawn Kemp, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Dwight Howard – the list goes on.
Players did this all the time. They still do it and they will continue to do it. That is part of the nature of off-season drama. We will probably see it twice this off-season alone.
So what makes Lebron so different?
The monkey on his back. The biggest mountain Lebron has to climb. The G.O.A.T(greatest of all time) chip that has ever been on a persons shoulders.
The G.O.A.T Micheal Jordan.
I realized that like so many
sheep people who dislike Lebron because he left Cleveland is foolish. To be frank, if he came to Chicago you would have never heard a peep out of me.
If he came to your team, I would never hear a peep out of you either. So why do we hate Lebron? Why do we do what haters do so well and wait to him to mess up so that we can mock him?
Because we hate giving credit to where credit is due.
You see, credit belongs to Micheal Jordan. I’m not sure if it’s the shoes, or the Gatorade commercials but somewhere down the line we can forgive Jordan for the possible gambling conspiracy among other questionable life decisions to give him the crown of best player possibly ever.
Not only has Lebron James publicly been a better person than Jordan was at his age, but he also is at a better position than Jordan was at the age 29.
We hate Lebron for daring to be as good or better than Jordan and because this expectation of him has been laid on him before he even dribbled the ball on a NBA court we will always hate him.
Here is where I had a change of heart. I realized what Lebron has had to put up with. And how time and time again he has shut us up. We give him conditions to be great and each time he meets those expectations and then exceeds those expectations.
Lebron was drafted right out of high school into the NBA. We say “Hey, you should have gone to college, Jordan did and was a better player for it” He shows us that he really did not need to go to college because he was able to get the experience quickly enough on that Cavaliers roster.
As time pasted and he elevated his team to a higher level of play, we tell him,” You have to make it to the Finals” Lebron takes a bare bones team to the NBA Finals only to lose to the Mavericks in 5 games.
We say, now you have to win a championship. You have to be more clutch. You have to post up. You have to win more MVP awards. He evaluates his team and the situation that the organization presented to him and chose to leave. Miami offered him a more realistic shot at reaching greatness.
Here we are, four years later and we continue with the conditional terms for greatness. What earned my forgiveness is not the numbers Lebron has put up. It’s not the championship rings he has won. It is not even his overall mature and otherwise spotless record in terms of public conduct.
It is the way he has responded. To all of it. Everything. From the age of 17 team he has been under an enormous microscope and unreasonable scrutiny. Time after time after time Lebron James has been playing the best basketball the sport has seen since Jordan and we will get that opportunity for a couple more years. He has done all that and his response has been nothing but one. Play basketball.
Which brings us to last night’s play. After being called various types of body parts and having a new trend named after himself for having a cramp and leaving Game 1, he responds with a 35 point 10 rebound game all while being level headed. Lebron has mastered answering adversity with a collected attitude.
Lebron could have said a lot and had a right to do so. Instead he let his play do the talking. That is more respectable than anything Lebron has done in his career so far.
So what is the point of this? Am I telling you to love Lebron now because he plays very well? No. I will tell those who blindly hate Lebron for no real reason other than “He left Cleveland for Miami” this: Keep hating him. You seem to be blind to the fact that this is why he is go great. Because we continue to hate on him and the same way Superman needs the Sun to gain more power, Lebron needs the hate and animosity to be the best.
What I am telling you is that it is time we all give respect to the man. Nothing has come easy for Lebron and the Heat over the past 4 seasons. I believe that they have earned the rings and status they currently hold. If you truly love the sport, you will hear me out and agree. 20 years from now we won’t remember how much we hated Lebron. Only how many Championships he has won.