LeBron: I’m No Longer One of the Haters
Last year, I was very unkind to LeBron James. Like many people, I was put off by his supreme arrogance.
I had been having difficulty forgiving him for the Decision- that abomination of televised self-love on ESPN where he announced he’d be taking his talents to Miami.
It was hard to get over the image of the special effects, smoke-filled introduction of the Dream team in Miami, in which it appeared three Gods from Mt. Olympus (LeBron, Wade, Bosh) had descended down to earth to predict, I think it was- 8 championships.
And when ousted from the playoffs last year, I didn’t like it when he said all of us haters out there would return to our screwed up little lives while he would be going back to Olympus where, presumably, he would get back to his posse peeling grapes for him.
As a Cleveland Cavalier, I remember, (back when the Washington Wizards used to get into the playoffs), when LeBron psyched out Gilbert Arenas standing at the free throw line, whispering something like “you’re going to miss these.” Who does that?
The Washington Post’s Mike Wise, who is covering the NBA finals, has been on a campaign to convince the public that LeBron has changed. And based on his recent post-game news conferences and recent interviews, there’s every indication he really has.
About ESPN’s “Decision” debacle, Wise quotes LeBron as having told an interviewer this, last December:
I can see now if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan and I was very passionate about one player and he decided to leave, you know, I would be upset too by the way that he handled it.
It basically turned me into somebody I wasn’t. You start to hear ‘the villain,’ now you have to be the villain, you know, and I started to buy into it. I started to play the game of basketball at a level, or at a mind state that I’ve never played at before. . . meaning, angry. And that’s mentally. That’s not the way I play the game of basketball.
And on his statement after the Miami Heat got eliminated following game 6 last year that the haters would be going back to their miserable little lives while he would be enjoying his immensely rich lifestyle, Wise quotes LeBron as saying this:
I was very hurt that I let my teammates down, and I was very immature. Like I said, last year I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving and why I fell in love with the game. So I was very immature last year after Game 6 towards you guys and towards everyone that was watching.
He seems to get it now. And he seems to be playing for the right reasons- joy instead of anger. I buy it. I am convinced. His actions on the court have spoken for themselves this post-season. He is a force. He plays in pain. He comes through in the clutch. And now, in his own words, he clearly recognizes how he managed to cast himself in the role of villain.
It’s time to give the guy a break. And if he finally helps his team win an NBA crown tonight- he will have begun to justify that his status as the “King,” as royalty in professional basketball, is deserved and not just an exaggerated marketing ploy to feed the LeBron James empire.
Suddenly- these days- I like the man a hell of a lot more than I ever liked the brand.