I have, for reasons that were beyond me, been a LeBron James fan since he became a blip on the sports radar. Even when that blip encompassed the entire sports landscape and James became the biggest and brightest superstar in the country, I still held on to my support.
Even before The Decision, even before Game 5 against Boston in the season prior, the "kill the king" mentality had already begun. Yes, those two events galvanized the wanting haters, and without doubt brought in new recruits to the anti-LeBron camp. However, people are passionate in their rooting against James, and passion is never created by one event; it is a series of happenings and a nurturing of a particular thought process.
I guess my love affair with The Chosen One started how every other one of his disciples were converted - I fell for his game. The driving, the slashing, the dunks, the chase-downs, the blocks. Nobody denies his talent and that it is one of a kind, and it was his talent that stole my heart and mind.
I never once took into account his heart and mind. I know it became a talking point early in LeBron's career that he wasn't clutch, didn't possess that Jordan-like killer instinct. But everyone was judging him minute by minute. Am I supposed to trust what Skip Bayless or @randomdudethattweetsaboutsports when it comes to the mental state of a professional basketball player?
It's not that I never stopped believing in James, it's that I never started believing in what everyone else had to say about that matter. You all were a tad bit too eager in proclaiming The King a queen, in my opinion. It was unsettling.
The Culture of Hate that we live in never really bothered me before. I joined in the fun slamming Jay Cutler when he stoicly sat on the sidelines. Hell, I live-tweeted the Japan tsunami and made jokes that even Gilbert Gottfried would have found grotesque. But it always ended shortly thereafter. The Culture of Hate is fueled by the 24/7 News Cycle; nothing ever gets blown out of proportion or really makes an impact.
In the case of LeBron James, though, the cycle never reset. People just kept piling on. Why?
Back to the passion. This was a growing tumor on the brains of sports fans. The general public never liked him to begin with. Seeing a kid who is still attending intermediate algebra classes gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated must have really pissed off Mr $10.00 Per Hour. And what followed just fueled the fire.
James spent seven years in the limelight, making commercials, clogging up highlight reels, being named "King" by fans, being the center of a "We Are All Witnesses" campaign by Nike, then Nike destroying tape like the Warren Commission and a glaring failure to obtain a ring, By this time, enough was there to grow a strong disliking to this kid.
Then The Decision happened. And for the next year, we were obsessed with the what, who, when, where, why and how. We got about all of that right. Except the "why".
LeBron doubters chalked the "why" up to one single, way over-simplified answer: he isn't clutch. Period. But nobody ever took it a step further: why isn't he clutch?
The common idea here is that James is just a bitch. That he is a weak human being, arrogant and outlandish and wants to be in the spotlight, but when the spotlight is finally on him, he cowers and - in the words of Gregg Doyel - shrinks. If that's the case, how can you possibly take pleasure in such a thing?
Because "he brought it upon himself"? Nonsense. If memory holds, the only person I can think of who was told he was the greatest as a teenager and actually didn't become a mega-headcase was Jesus Christ. LeBron is "The King", not the "King of Kings". And at this point, I'd rather have Romans and orthodox Jews coming at me with a crown of thorns and a cross than 21st century fans with Twitter accounts. I don't care how bad Mel Gibson made it look.
Here's the thing you have to consider: James didn't become this big and this popular because of his media savvy and his overly intellectual brain. He didn't make this, we did. You know who created his own persona and forced it down our throats? Mark Cuban, the owner of the Great White Mavericks everyone is hoping will destroy LeBron's legacy. We never wanted him, asked for him or gave him any nicknames or sponsors. He got rich enough to build his own platform, and then screamed, "Look at me!!!"
It is only now, this year, that we have given Cuban respect. And why? Because he's kept his fucking mouth shut. He lived and learned and realized that being in the camera's eye all the time made him a douchebag.
I see the same in LeBron. When it was decision time for him, he made The Decision. No more "the next Jordan". He wanted to be the quiet one who made his team better. In all honesty, he never wanted any of this. It's a little tragic.
Now I know, I know, this sounds like a bunch of excuses. But at least I've tried to get into his head, tried to understand why LeBron James is who he is. Have you? Or have you just decided that he is, indeed, a bitch?
Does that make you feel better?