By Marcus Shockley
It’s an understatement that Lebron James has become the most hated man in the NBA. While most reporters and fans seem to have turned on Lebron following last summer’s egotistical display of announcing his free agency destination on a 30 minute television special, the roots of the sudden vitriol for All Things James go back much farther than that. It’s really something that two of the most likable personalities in the NBA, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, have become tied to the outpouring of hatred that has been aimed at Lebron.
The hatred for Lebron is actually rooted in the way that he’s been foisted on fans as the greatest player ever, long before he ever stepped on an NBA court, and continues to be called ‘King James’ regardless of how he plays. It’s backlash, not just for ‘The Decision’, but for his entire career of being rabidly hyped by the media and NBA, and possibly just as much, his sense of entitlement to that hype.
A perfect example, in a nutshell, was on a single play in Game 3 of the NBA Finals this year. Lebron, who is an excellent passing forward, sent a routine pass to Chris Bosh, who was on the move through the lane. Bosh caught the pass fluidly in mid-stride, went airborne, rose over and through two defenders, slamming down a two handed dunk in an effortless move. Bosh took an ordinary pass and showed what being bigger, faster and more agile can accomplish. The announcers, however, did not mention Bosh at all, instead gushing about how Lebron is ‘such a gifted passer’ and ‘sees everything’. That plays poorly with the fans, who already are weary of poor officiating and players’ manufacturing of fouls through acting. When Mark Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy tell us a lie about what we saw, it goes against our collective sense of what makes sports great. It also feels like we’re being told that Lebron is amazing despite the fact we just witnessed a different player, on that particular play, doing something amazing.
Therein lies the problem. Nobody needed to tell the fans that Micheal Jordan was great, or that Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Dr. J were some of the best of all time. Fans already knew. What has rubbed fans wrong for so long about Lebron is the incessant praise he’s received his entire career, even when he hadn’t earned it. This is not to say Lebron is not a great player. He’s had many legitimate highlights in his career and there’s no reason to assume he can’t achieve greatness. It is to say, okay, if he’s great, shut up about it, and we’ll see it on our own in due time. We see when Lebron makes a great play. If Lebron has a career in which he leads a team to multiple titles, we’ll see that too. In other words, stop telling us it’s already happened.
If the NBA has such a hard time grasping why fans are rooting against Lebron, they should start by looking in the mirror.