You’re allowed to not like Lebron
That’s what it’s called if you don’t like Lebron James.
Disclaimer before I write this: The list of national columnists I read regularly goes like this: Gregg Doyel. That’s it. So I like Doyel. In all of my personal years, either through in person or written correspondence, Doyel is the nicest, most genuine sports media member I’ve come across. Don’t agree with the guy very much, but an amalgam of opinions is the spice of life. So this isn’t a pot shot at him. I’m a reader and an fan. It’s more at the media narrative in general about Lebron James, and you know what … why it’s okay (and not lazy at all) to not like him.
June 6, 2014 will go down as one of the more pathetic days in the world of sports media. Right when you jump in the car in the morning, Mike Greenberg … who is a brutal listen when not offset by the common sense of Mike Golic … was perpetuating a theory that the San Antonio Spurs cut the A/C on purpose and that basically, if you don’t like James, you’re a lemming who’s scared to detach from Michael Jordan.
Okay, whatever. Later in the day, Doyel was on Doug Gottlieb saying that it was “intellectually lazy” to dislike James. Now, smartly, I avoid stuff I know I’m going to hate. I’ve never seen more than 5 minutes of First Take because it’s terrible tripe. I’d rather listen to nails on a chalk board than the self-righteous drivel Colin Cowherd forces on people. And don’t listen to stuff just to get angry and react.
But you know what, don’t listen to the media. It’s okay to not like Lebron James. And here’s why people who aren’t intellectually lazy do so.
The Decision: Most of those that dislike James root their dislike in some way … either concrete or ancillary … from The Decision. The narrative on James was pretty neutral prior to that free agent summer. James was a dude that played for his hometown team and was a transcendent talent we’ve watched since high school who just couldn’t get over the hump. There wasn’t much negativity around him.
Then, he turned free agency into a self-aggrandizing side show rather than just doing the ole, “everyone finds out when my agent finally faxes in the paperwork saying I’m signing with Team X.”
And thus, disliking Lebron became en vogue. But why?
1. The media and human nature: People don’t like to be told what to do. It’s why most of us strive at our jobs for promotion, so we can have decision-making autonomy at some point. And less than people not liking to be told what to do, they certainly don’t like to be told what to think. So when sports media acts as though you “should” like Athlete X or you don’t like the game, people get irritated. Grown individuals like to make their own decisions, and as much as the media has helped Lebron because he scratched ESPiN’s back by giving them The Decision in exchange for endless PR from there on out, a certain portion of neutral people have just decided they’re tired of hearing about how great some guy is and don’t care to hear about it anymore. It’s called fatigue. We get it, the media loves Lebron. He plays the game, giving them the TV slot, giving them any interview in the world, taking social media by the horns, all of it. Media likes who caters to them, bottom line.
2. Selling out: People don’t like sell outs. And if you’re of the opinion that “he put in his time with Cleveland and couldn’t win, so he went somewhere he could and that’s the whole point of free agency,” good for you. But some people aren’t like that. Some people are all “the hotter the fire, the stronger the steel.” While there might be an ancillary unfairness in differing situations from Lebron to guys like MJ, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, the black and white point remains the same … guy was part of a title level team and bolted for a bigger market to gang up. This is the old, “yeah, I’ll meet you in the parking lot outside the bar in 10. We’ll bare knuckle brawl settle this” and then one guy shows up with his buddies and a few knives.
To quote a coaching friend: Lebron is (above example) guy, while Jordan told you to bring a knife, your buddies, and guns so he could dodge the bullets while he beat your ass.
3. LeQuit: I’m not getting into the logistics of Lebron going to the Heat, when the three of them decided it, and what not. That’s something only they know. But what anyone who’s been around basketball for any decent amount of time will tell you is that Lebron quit on his team in the playoffs prior to free agency.
Cleveland is as loyal of a sports town as it gets, and Lebron was their favorite son. Yet they booed him off the floor because it looked like he was on the take, honestly. I’m not saying he did, I’m not saying he didn’t, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be forgiven, but it happened, and it lingers.
4. Hypocrisy: Sports media was all aflutter Friday morning about how important Lebron James was to the Heat and how they might not be a playoff team without him. It was the same sort of narrative we heard when he was with Cleveland. Which is why he left Cleveland allegedly to go to Miami: the supporting cast. Dwyane Wade will go down as a top 10 player of his generation, a guy who won a ring without Lebron and a guy who’s looked a whole lot more 25 than 35 this post season. Chris Bosh was a max deal player when he came to Miami three years ago. And he sucks now?
This is why people get tired of Lebron, the endless excuses from media when he fails, the overbearing trumpeting when he wins. Bottom line is, when Lebron left Cleveland and their faux inability to put a winner around him for Miami, he left the “I’m doing it by myself” argument at the door. No one likes hypocrisy. And Lebron isn’t doing it by himself. Hell, Dwyane Wade’s the killer on the team, not him.
5. LeGina: This is a rare group, admittedly, the one that actually doesn’t like the way he plays. Be it the flopping, the whining to officials, or whatever, there are people who just don’t like the way Lebron James plays basketball. Personally? Can do without the carping to officials and flopping, but otherwise, enjoy the play.
6. Personal stories: People that don’t like James because of personal stories they have about him, like an MMA fighter ornery with him over spurning a handicapped kid from an autograph.
So, in conclusion (as if this is a really crappy thesis paper), it’s okay to dislike Lebron. It’s okay to have your own opinion. You’re not intellectually lazy, nor are you not a fan of the game. Group think needs to be discouraged, not vice versa. James is a unique talent who will go down as one of the best to play the game of basketball, but not thee best. Make your opinions for yourself, whatever they may be.