Countless times last night during the Miami Heat-Oklahoma City Thunder game, I caught myself yelling at the TV when LeBron James had the ball. “Make him shoot! He can't shoot!” (Like the Thunder players could actually hear what I was saying). Almost each time I was left shaking my head when LeBron would penetrate and finish with ease over a leaping Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins.
Each time LeBron made one of his spectacular plays, I would stop coaching the Thunder defense and sit in amazement of the move LeBron just executed. Part of me was upset that he scored, part of me wanted to go in my driveway and emulate the play. Why do I care so much about what LeBron does? I'm not the only one.
LeBron James is the most talked about athlete in basketball. Every move LeBron makes is analyzed ad nauseum and every failure is magnified 100-times over. Some people want him to succeed and win his first championship. Others go out of their way to root against him no matter who the opponent is. Was this always the case with James? The answer is no. Many Basketball fans changed the way they watch James starting two summers ago.
On July 8, 2010, LeBron James’ image changed. He acquired more haters in one hour than he did in his entire life prior. “The Decision”, James’ ESPN-aired free-agent special where he declared his intentions to play for the Heat, was blasted by the media. His decision to go on national television and spurn his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers created national uproar. Not tomention, James’ bolt to South Beach left his fans in Cleveland with a franchise forced into rebuilding mode.
Then came the circus-like introduction Miami gave to the “Big 3” and LeBron's famous “Not 1, not 2, not 7 championships” speech. LeBron has since admitted he made a mistake by the way he handled his free agency, but people don't forgive and forget that easily. Some people would have understood if he left for New York, but his decision to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was viewed by many as cowardly. LeBron became a hated figure in sports, maybe even more so than Tiger Woods after his cheating scandal.
Despite all the criticism, James is quite possibly having one of the best postseasons in recent memory. In 20 games during these playoffs, James is averaging 30.8 points, 5.1 assists and 9.5 rebounds while playing nearly every position on the court in a grueling 42.6 minutes-per-game. When the Heat needed a win in Game 4 against Indiana, all he did was score 40 points, grab 18 boards and dish out 9 assists. When the world was ready to break up the Heat down 3-2 in the series against the Celtics, LeBron responded in Game 6 with 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in a performance for the ages. LeBron has carried a team with an inconsistent Dwayne Wade and an injured Chris Bosh. Just last night in a Game 2 win over the Thunder, he scored 30 points (his 13th 30+ point game of the playoffs) was 12-12 from the foul line, and collected 8 rebounds along with 5 assists.
But the real question is, how are people viewing this greatness? Are fans turning on the TV to be astounded by James’ next performance? Many aren’t.
Since he joined the Heat, many average basketball fans become angry and upset after he wins a game. By the reaction of some fans you’d think they were the ones getting burned by James on the court; that’s how distraught people get when he succeeds. When he loses fans rejoice like they’ve won the NBA championship. These same people are quick to post on Facebook or Twitter about how bad LeBron is or how happy they are to see him lose.
Sadly, I often am one of these people. I sometimes find myself cheering for a team I don’t care about or yelling at the television just in hopes LeBron doesn’t win. I am one of these LeBron haters I admit, but during these playoffs I’ve changed my ways. I’ve realized that I should be enjoying the performances LeBron is putting on. Fans hate other teams. It’s all part of sports, I understand that. But how often are New York fans rooting for a Boston team just so they beat one guy? Not very often, except when LeBron plays the Celtics. When I’m old and someone asks me if I remember LeBron scoring 45 against the Celtics in 2012, I’ll remember his dominance. I won’t look back and just remember how mad I was that he actually won.
Watching LeBron just to see him fail has its consequences. You’re either going to be far too thrilled if he loses or far too upset if he wins. Trust me, I’ve been there. Even worse you’re going to miss the show this guy is putting on. Yes, LeBron brought this hatred upon himself with “The Decision”, but one day we are all going to look back and realize that we watched one of the greatest players to ever live. It’s important that we all remember the scoring, the passing and the defense when we look back upon LeBron’s career. We need to take time to appreciate the greatness. Your own personal memory of LeBron shouldn’t be the remote you smashed when he won his first championship. There, I said it, the championship will happen so just be ready. Watch him for how he plays the game, not to pray for his failure.Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see Lebron James and the Miami Heat play in the NBA Finals.