Making Sense of Why I Root For Lebron James
Lebron James. That name has been the cause of some of the most intense sports debate in recent memory. People either loved him or hated him from the time he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the words “The Chosen One” plastered across the front. During his time in Cleveland, the debate raged: Kobe vs. Lebron. But then he did potentially the most ridiculous thing sports have seen since…well…ever. During his free agency in the summer of 2010, there was a whirlwind of speculation as to where he may end up. Would he stay in Cleveland? Would he go to Chicago? Would he team up with Dwyane Wade in Miami? Would he travel up to the media juggernaut in New York? What happened next would change the way Lebron is looked at for the rest of his life. The Decision. A one hour special dedicated to Lebron James’ choice on where he would spend the next several seasons.
I don’t think his decision to go play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was so much an issue. Cleveland wasn’t going to bring in the pieces he needed to win, so he went to the place that did have the foundation for a champion. The Decision is what makes it tricky though, as that was potentially the most self-centered thing an athlete has ever done. Because of that one hour television special, Lebron became nearly universally hated. But rather than bash Lebron James, let’s take a look at him from the view of somebody who does not hate him, and has some sympathy for the man.
The people that root so heavily against Lebron James or laugh when he fails, are simply crowning him further. People have resorted to making fun of his hairline. There’s nothing, as a basketball player bad to be said about him. The man can on any given night go for a triple double. There aren’t many players we can say that about. He can be the best point guard in the league if he wanted to be, or the best power forward in the league if he wants to be. He is that good. I have yet to see one legitimate argument against him as a basketball player. He doesn’t have the mental qualities of a Michael Jordan or a Kobe Bryant, but he has never claimed to. The more people root against this guy, the more people are only recognizing that he is the best player in the league.
People will say that he’s an “arrogant pr**ck” and a “douche bag” which is why they hate him, and not because he’s the best in the league. But I contest that he is not those things. Outside of The Decision what has Lebron done that hurt everyone so badly? (Keeping in mind he raised over a million dollars for a Connecticut Boys and Girls club with The Decision). So I’m going to do my best to argue in Lebron’s favor here, and put forth some reasons as to why he does things that make people believe he’s an “arrogant pr**k” and a “douche bag.”
To start to try and understand Lebron James, one has to go back to his early life. Lebron was raised only by his mom, and played ball with the same 3 guys from early on in middle school all the way through high school. Lebron was all about the camaraderie, and the “family” aspect of being that close to his friends. He went to high school and won 3 state titles, and one national title with that core group of guys. That right there explains why he was so ready to get out of Cleveland and go play with his friends in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Also in high school was when the media circus began to blow up. This is where I think Lebron catches a lot of flak, and where too many people fail to understand where he comes from. Since he was 16 years old, Lebron has been followed by cameras, and had to hold press conferences, and live up to the title of “The Chosen One.” That is A LOT for a 16 year old kid with nobody to help him bear that burden to handle. Can anyone really fault a 16 year old boy who has never had much of anything in his life, for getting caught up in media hype about him? Those years of your life are some of the most developmental for the type of adult you’re going to be. When most people are experiencing their first parties, their first cars, and what not, this guy was being compared to Michael Jordan. What kind of pressure must that put on him? And why is he to blame for that? I personally feel bad for him. To be put under that microscope from the age of 16 has got to suck. I made a ton of mistakes at that age, and for any mistake you make to be national news? That sounds like an AWFULLY rough life. I know it’s difficult to sympathize with a man making millions upon millions of dollars a year and think of him as having a “rough life,” but as a teenager, he wasn’t making this money and was still under the scrutiny of the media. His mom bought him a hummer, and it was national news. People in Ohio mocked him, and it was immediately considered to be given to him illegally (ask Terrelle Pryor about this). It was later found however, that Lebron’s mother had taken out a loan to buy the car, and the loan was being paid off. Eventually, Lebron was forced to sit several games during his senior season at St. Vincent- St. Mary’s because he was given a couple of football jerseys as a gift. The state wasn’t sure how to handle such a high profile case, so they made him sit and watch as his team attempted to win a national championship (Lebron and his friends’ goal going into high school). Put yourself in his shoes. Basketball was about all he had, and he had it taken away from him because the media nit-picked everything he did and went through his life with a fine-tipped comb. James was eventually reinstated and St. Vincent-St. Mary’s won the national title.
Lebron is constantly mocked for being “The Chosen One” and having “Chosen 1” tattooed on his back. People saying, “oh if he’s the Chosen One, then why isn’t he winning championships.” But look at the sheer size, and speed, and explosiveness and athleticism this man possesses. Hate him or not, he is the most gifted athlete in the NBA, and probably the league’s best player. He is a once in a lifetime talent and he knows it. He can seemingly shut anyone down on the defensive end, and can score in a multitude of ways, all while throwing down some of the sickest dunks, and firing off some of the most amazing passes anyone has ever seen (keep in mind he also does this without regard for human life). For all intents and purposes, he does seem to be “The Chosen One.” So since he seems to be a man of faith, he has every reason to believe he was indeed touched by God and given some of the best basketball talent the NBA has ever seen.
So why do people mock him being “The Chosen One” when he doesn’t win in the NBA Finals? He didn’t get “NBA Champion” tatted on his back. Via Twitter, Alex Bussani says “This guy is supposed to be THE BEST. The criticism is justified. These are the FINALS.” But to him, being THE BEST doesn’t involve winning a championship or performing great in the finals. He’s concerned with his image. He has been crowned since high school as the best player, and didn’t need an NBA championship to have that happen. He’s more concerned with his public image than a ring, and since that is the case, he would rather shy away from the brightest lights than fail in them.
To comprehend why he “disappears” in big games, there’s something everyone needs to understand about Lebron James. He says, “Basketball is a vessel to get from one point to another.” So maybe he isn’t committed to this like he should be. I’m not sure if this is an argument for or against him, I guess it depends on how you look at it. But having been the best since about 7th grade, maybe Lebron has just gotten bored of basketball and he’s doing this for money. He’s using basketball as a vessel to get rich. He took a pay cut to go to Miami, but in going there, gave himself a ton of exposure, as well as a chance to win a championship, because a championship is the ultimate way to gain positive media exposure. So he didn’t stay in Cleveland for obvious reasons. He didn’t think New York being in the center of the sports media spotlight was good enough. So he went to Miami where there’s going to be a good amount of exposure and fun to be had, as well as good players that can help him win a ring or two.
So how was that all an argument in Lebron’s favor? Well I don’t believe he has made a conscious decision to be how he is. I think the media firestorm around him in high school is what really set off his current attitude towards basketball. I think he has reached the pinnacle of his game, and he doesn’t feel there’s anything more he wants to accomplish. At this point, it’s about having the fun he never had in high school because him and his friends were out to win a national championship. That was their goal and they accomplished it. So now that Lebron is in the NBA and in Miami, he’s back to playing with his friends, but this time, he’s getting paid millions. He’s using basketball as that vessel to get to where he wants to go in life, and since he never got to have the typical life of a 17 or 18 year old, he’s attempting to do that now. He’s living in Miami and he’s playing ball with his buddies, this is what he wants to do. Why is he to fault for this? He isn’t the one calling himself “The Next Michael Jordan.” He called himself the Chosen One, which he may very well be. At what point did he say, “I’m an NBA champion.” He has never testified to be one of those. Obviously he’s going to say it is his goal, and maybe it is, but for unusual reasons. He’s already reached the pinnacle of basketball in his mind. It’s taken him to the top and made him the best player in the world. The championships now are adding to a legacy, and that legacy is what will make him his money not only now, but in the future. He’s said he wants to be worth a billion dollars. He’s out trying to grow his brand, and he seems to be doing so rather successfully.
Are people going to hate him because he’s using what he’s best at to make lots of money? Isn’t that what we all want to do in life. Make a lot of money doing what we have fun doing and are good at? And if you had the opportunity to relocate to Miami and work with your friends, why wouldn’t you take it? This guy is living the dream, and has been able to do so at the expense of some of the best years of life. His motives may not be that of Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, but he’s had a much different path to getting there. I’m not out to make this guy a saint. I’m just trying to explain where his mindset comes from. I guess I personally just feel bad for the guy. Yeah he makes millions of dollars, but he’s had to deal with a ton of stuff, a lot of which we probably don’t know about.
So that’s why I root for Lebron James, and fancy myself a Lebron James apologist or, “Lebrologist.” Yes he’s made some mistakes, but I can see why he makes them and why his decision making process is flawed. Not to mention this guy has had more haters than I’ve had friends since before he even graduated high school, somebody has to be on his side. Maybe I’m flawed in rooting for a guy that isn’t playing for the right reasons, but I do it anyways. Regardless of his attitude, he is a ton of fun to watch on a basketball court. A lot of people are giving him flack for not showing up in big moments in the finals, I’m sorry that you’re so blinded by your hatred that you’re focused on one player and rooting for him to fail, because you’re missing out on a GREAT series.
Editor’s Note: I got a lot of responses about the use of the name “King James” even though he hasn’t won a ring, which makes him the king of nothing. Well I maintain that the use of “King James” is simply a nickname that he plays off of to make money. The reason he goes with “King James” is because of a line of Kings named James in England and Scotland. The last name of James made “King” a logical nickname for him.