Despite his being pretty much a perfect player who’s never gotten in any trouble off the court, irrational LeBron James hatred is a well-worn pastime among sports fans. Not only fans of teams that he’s dominated for years, but those who have no dog in the fight, and it started well before The Decision. Simply put, he is constantly hated on for doing things that countless other athletes do without criticism. In no particular order, let’s count the (bogus) reasons why:
No 1: He’s Too Nice
Michael Jordan was an asshole, and probably still is. Anyone who doubts that should probably invest in a copy of The Jordan Rules. Same goes for Kobe and Larry Bird, and they were all worshipped for it. LeBron is at heart a nice guy who wants everyone to get along, and he ends up getting killed for it. Here’s Kobe himself:
Only problem with this? It isn’t true. Kobe made this statement in March of 2016, after LeBron had already won two titles with a fairly harmonious Heat team. He really proved Kobe wrong in the Finals just a few months later. Did the Cavs beat the Warriors because Kyrie Irving became a lightning rod? Or because he got on board with LeBron’s vision and the team became closer than ever? This headline from Cleveland.com during the playoffs last year suggests the latter:
We all know you can win being a dick. Michael (and Larry and Kobe) all proved that. What LeBron did was prove that it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes leadership constitutes bringing your teammates out to dinner, not punching them in the face.
No 2: He’s a Bad Teammate
Answer: NO. How about the opposite…
…according to a Cleveland.com piece published during the first Cavs-Warriors Finals matchup. Throw in the fact that he’s probably created more open shots for his teammates than anyone since Magic Johnson, and I think we can put a rest to the “bad teammate” nonsense.
No 3: He’s Too Unselfish
Early in his career especially, LeBron was constantly ridiculed by the Skip Baylesses of the world for passing up game-winning shots (like above) to pass the ball to teammates. It didn’t seem to matter to them that he was making the correct basketball play, which is something he’s always done and always will. God forbid…
No 4: He’s Too Selfish
This headline comes from an article criticizing LeBron for demanding that the Cavs play a certain way when he returned to the team in 2014-15. Look, I would be the first to admit that some of the tactics LeBron used to get the Cavs to come together as a team were more than a tad passive-aggressive, but just look at how it turned out. It’s called leadership. MJ punched teammates out; LeBron subtweets at them. The effect is the same: they get on board. Someone can’t be too unselfish and too selfish. LeBron haters of the world, make up your mind.
No 5: He Doesn’t Come Up Big in Big Games
You would think this issue would be put to rest by LeBron’s completely dominant Finals performance in 2016. Even noted LeBron haters Barstool Sports came around and admitted the obvious:
All except for one Skip Bayless, LeBron-hater extraordinaire and all-around gutter rat of a human being. If Michael Jordan had a Finals exactly like LeBron did against the Warriors, Bayless would blow him at mid-court (just one of many MJ-LeBron double standards, and Bayless isn’t the only offender). But here he actually has the temerity to suggest that LeBron wasn’t the MVP of the series:
I was outside LeBron’s house the day after Game 7. Put it this way: I don’t think thousands of people were skipping school and making the pilgrimage to stand outside Kyrie Irving’s house. Just saying…
No 6: The Decision
I’m not crazy. I know it wasn’t a good look, especially since he was leaving Cleveland, but GOOD GOD. The overwhelming, deafening negative reaction to this thing was clearly and indisputably a massive case of overreaction. Tacky mistake? Sure. But people who already didn’t like him were looking for a reason to hang him out to dry, so they made a mountain out of a molehill.
No 7: The Pep Rally
It was a friggin welcome party! Another blatant case of overreaction to a minor infraction, if you could even call it that. Once again: a little tacky? Maybe. But so is Miami. Does LeBron watch this now that he’s older and wiser and cringe a little bit? Perhaps. It was a fun event for the fans, and three friends got a little carried away. That’s it. Funny how you don’t see criticism of this rally sticking to Chris Bosh’s resume.
No 8: Bad Record in the NBA Finals
Once again, this is an issue that has receded since LeBron opened up a can of whoop-ass on the Warriors, but his 3-3 record in the Finals is still regularly cited as a reason why he can never be as good as Jordan. He may need a couple more titles to equal MJ on a historical level (he’s already there in terms of pure talent and impact on the game), but why punish LeBron for leading overmatched teams to the Finals? It feels like he would get more credit if he was 3-0 instead of 3-3.
The one deserved black mark is the Dallas series in 2011 – the Heat clearly should have won, and it was LeBron’s passivity that cost them. But it’s ludicrous to knock him for losing in a sweep to the Spurs in 2007 with a Cavs team that had no business being in the Finals. He was 22 years old! At that age, Jordan was just finishing a 38-44 rookie year. In 2014, the Heat lost to a better Spurs team, plain and simple. Substitute LeBron for Magic, Michael, or Larry and the result would have been the same. Speaking of Magic and Larry, Magic lost in the Finals four times and Larry lost twice. If that’s news to you, it’s probably because no one fucking talks about it (because it doesn’t matter).
No 9: He Was Born With All the Gifts and It’s Unfair
No one would ever doubt that the man is blessed with incredible physical gifts, but any suggestion that he’s coasted on those gifts is misguided. This isn’t Shaq we’re talking about. LeBron clearly puts the time in – he’s bulked up, improved his jumper, and managed to stay in incredible shape without succumbing to injury. While he may have been born with extraordinary passing vision, he chose to make the most of it (unlike many others) because he knew it would make him a complete player. He can’t help being born a basketball machine. All he could do was work as hard as possible to ensure that potential was fulfilled, and that’s exactly what he did.
No 10: He Has His Friends Manage His Career
Phil Jackson’s recent comments referring to LeBron’s friends/business associates as a “posse” can’t be read as anything but a direct criticism of LeBron for having his childhood friends, rather than “professionals,” manage his career. Well guess what, Phil? His friends are fucking professionals. Just ask Eric Bledsoe, who took Rich Paul‘s advice to hold out for a bigger deal and ended up getting $70 million over five years when the Suns caved. Or Warren Buffett, who breaks bread with Mav Carter on the regular. After the ’90s and the constant harping (much of it racially motivated) about “posses” and “entourages,” a guy comes along who decides to empower his friends, and he STILL gets shit for it. Talk about a can’t-win situation.
No 11: He Uses “I” Rather Than “We” in His Press Conferences
I hear this often in light of LeBron’s more recent success (beating the Spurs in 2013 and the Warriors in 2016). This Tony Massarotti column is a perfect example. To paraphrase: “Ok, I’ll give him credit for coming up big in the clutch, but why does he have to use ‘I’? Why can’t he be more like Tim Duncan?” Why? Because no one is like Tim Duncan. It’s like saying, “Why can’t she be more like Mother Teresa?” If you want someone to play like a superstar, they may occasionally act like a superstar. This is also yet another example of the Jordan-LeBron double standard. Never in a million years would MJ be criticized for excessive use of the word I. We all know the Cavs revolve around LeBron and he’s the de facto coach and GM; isn’t it a little hypocritical to criticize him for acknowledging it?