Defending 'The King,' or understanding the LeBron James hate
MANILA, Philippines - In a game of chess, it can be frustrating for a player when, after a drawn-out battle, his king gets exposed in the end.
That’s exactly what it feels being a fan of LeBron James.
It’s not hard to see why people would be fans of James The 4-time MVP and two-time NBA Champion is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever get on the hardwood and remains to be as valuable as a teammate can get. He has risen from every imaginable corner of the record books and, at age 31, has shown no signs of slowing down his ascent.
However, it’s also easy to see why many people would turn on James. Somewhere along the timeline of the past decade, hating on him just became ingrained in basketball culture. It’s hard to get behind a man who left his hometown to form All-Star teams and chase championships – only to find humiliation interspersed among his successes on basketball’s biggest stage. It’s hard to defend the work ethic of a genetic freak who falls and rolls around at the slightest hint of contact from his foes.
The context of these flaws can be grasped quicker and is easier to blow out of proportion in the age of social media. The impact of his achievements, no matter how great, is diminished because people choose to cling to what is easier to grasp. There is little to no merit in defending his greatness when a Vine of him airballing a free-throw is shared more than a documentary of his journey to his first championship.
The hate is intensifying as James' Cavs have slipped into a 0-2 hole to the Golden State Warriors in the ongoing NBA Finals. James is in danger of falling to 2-5 all-time in his 7 NBA Finals series appearances.
So why continue? Why go on walking a thankless and painful path instead of just riding the smoother wave of hatred? Watching the sport is supposed to be entertaining after all.
Ask yourselves: What would you do if you saw a child doodling on a finished painting? Common sense would dictate that you stop the child from ruining the canvas because you understand the effort the painter put into that work.
That is what is happening with LeBron James right now. We are witnessing the desecration of a legend – a work of art being drawn over. This is why even the legends of the sport have taken the time to side with James. They understand the greater context. They understand the suffering, the effort and the courage it took for James to be where he is now. Most recently, Jerry West came forward and blasted the criticism over James’ record in the NBA Finals, calling it unfair and ridiculous.
“If I were him, frankly, I’d want to strangle you guys,” the 78-year-old Hall of Famer told reporters, as quoted by Associated Press. "I don't want to sound like Donald Trump, but it's hard for me to believe that someone doesn't recognize his greatness. It's hard for me to believe. This guy does everything. He's like a Swiss Army knife. He does everything. And he's competitive as hell. And frankly, I wish people would leave him alone."
Despite being a consultant of the very team James has yet to beat this season, West defended him, because more than anyone else, he understands how unfairly James is being treated. Although being one of the most respected legends in the game, West has only won once in 9 Finals appearances. James has already won more titles than him in half the attempts.
That’s the unique thing about James – the hatred has made his legend harder to grasp because people have dissected every last detail of his story. Other legends didn’t experience that. Michael Jordan didn’t have to defend his playoff losing streak before Scottie Pippen arrived with the Bulls. Reggie Miller didn’t have to experience decades-long criticism over his inability to win a ring.Their greatness was kept intact in a single VHS of highlights. Meanwhile, James’ story has been fragmented so heavily that one couldn’t talk about the good without another bringing up the bad.
Defending the legacy of LeBron James may not be the most entertaining act, but it is what the sport needs from its fans. At the end of the day, the man deserves to walk away from the game knowing that the fans have realized exactly who just passed by. – Rappler.com