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June 15, 2011

Cutting Slack for the King

LeBron James is getting massacred. Buried. Annihilated. Nuked.

Not only is he being shish kabobbed in the press for falling apart in the NBA finals, but the nation at large is delighting in his personal failure. I'll admit that I've participated in similar behavior (Utah vs TCU 2010 anyone?) but finding happiness in someone else's botch job is pathetic. The celebrator declares in essence, "my life and the things that bring me joy are in the crapper and all I have left is the hope that someone else will beat someone I don't like." The most embarrassing example of this comes from Ohio, where the state's governor named the Dallas Mavericks "Honorary Ohioans" for their victory over LeBron, which makes one wonder, Is Ohio's governor in elementary school? Really, the best your state can do is a victory over your spurned lover courtesy another team?

There's two things I think are nuts here. The first is why so many people hate LeBron. What did LeBron do to earn such rancor? Did he cheat on his wife with hundreds of mistresses? Did he use feminine drugs as a performance enhancer? Did he commit homicide driving under the influence? He did not. His sin was leaving a team that had made countless management errors (a workplace we all would want to leave) to go play with his friends (people we all would want to be around) in a city with beaches, girls and no income tax (a place we all would like to live). Would you have stayed in Cleveland, where your team's biggest moves were to trade for Vietnam veterans Shaq and Antawn Jamison and the splashy free agent signing is Jawad Williams?

Oh wait, I forgot, we're going to hate him because he announced his free agency destination on TV, right? We're all mad because we were forced to watch LeBron make his "decision", and we are furious that the show generated over $2 million dollars in charity for the Boys and Girl Club of America. The guy is a real jerk, isn't he? And of course we have to hate him because he joined forces with another superstar, just like we hated Shaq and Kobe, Jordan and Pippen, the Garnett/Pierce/Allen trio, and most recently the foursome of pitchers in Philadelphia (Oswalt, Hamels, Holladay, Lee).

There is only one real reason to dislike LeBron, and it comes from the pre-emptive celebration the Heat trio threw wherein LeBron declared Miami would win seven NBA titles. You can hate him for that: cockiness, arrogance, whatever. But that alone should not be creating the volume of venom he's received.

The second thing that kills me is how the media is killing LeBron for his play in the Finals. Granted, he played bad in the majority of the six championship games. Even horrendous at times. But isn't it possible the guy had one bad series? Afterall, didn't Lebron dominate the three rounds leading up to the Finals? He cleaned out Philadelphia and Boston, before effectively erasing league MVP Derrick Rose in the conference finals. He averaged 24/10/6 in round 1, 28/8/3 in round 2, and 25/7/6 in round 3 with a couple of steals and blocks to boot. Those numbers are huge. Yet the reaction to his poor Finals performance is out of control. Some suggest he should be traded. Some are comparing him to Karl Malone. Even the Miami Heat as a team are somehow analyzed as needing major roster overhaul.

Are you kidding me?

The team came within two games of winning the NBA Finals in their first year playing together. They came within two final second shots of being up three games to one in the series. And their team should be overhauled? How over-reactionary can we become as a society? Can you imagine if we addressed hic-cups in our body like we did shortcomings with our sports teams? "I just got a cut on my foot! I need to amputate!" "We've got a bloody nose here, to the hospital stat!" "We barely lost the Finals, trade LeBron, he has to go!" It's madness. A few breaks and Miami wins the series, and the decapitation of LeBron never happens. Such is the fickle nature of sports; a nature we all too often forget. If Dirk misses his game-sealing layups in game two or four, the NBA title belongs to Miami. That's the difference.

But I guess what the media is really mad about is the fact that LeBron James has not become Michael Jordan.  Ever since number twenty three ascended to the holy rafters above, we the people have been searching for his heir. Lebron was dubbed early on as the chosen one, but the media has since discarded him as lacking the necessary traits (even though LeBron is still younger than Michael was when he won his first of six championships). The good news for the those making the news is that the other half of Mike, the ornery, disturbed, chip-shouldered version that called out his high school and college coaches during his Hall of Fame speech can still be cultivated in LeBron. All it would require is to carry on the doubting, mocking, and criticizing. Nobody can absorb a 24/7 internet, radio and TV bombardment without developing some serious mental disorders. So congratulations to the media I suppose, you're half way to making LeBron just like Mike.


  1. How about during his speech after losing the Finals? You know, when he mocked anyone who cheered against him by saying, "they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today."? Nice try at a defense, but he's still a douche.

  2. My point exactly. If outlets can keep up this hammering, he might begin to fuel himself by the various media slights, much like Jordan did. Calling out fans is a good start.