I hate rehashing the LeBron James story. I really do. When he left Cleveland to join the Superfriends in Miami, I like the rest of you was beyond angry. The deep hatred that I had for LeBron had nothing to do with the fact that he left, but the way that he left. The clown show that followed with that horrific WWE-style introduction “Welcome to Miami” press event made everyone sick. I mean, who didn’t want to punch Chris Bosh in the face during it?
That first year in Miami was actually enjoyable to me, because everyone around the NBA immediately despised LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh. Nobody was rooting for them. Nobody. Watching the Heat lose in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks felt like a victory for all the little guys who got burned by the stars who left for greener pastures. Then last year happened.
You all know what occurred. LeBron got the monkey off his back in the Finals, shed his un-clutch label, danced around like a kid on Christmas Morning, and was crowned a champion. I hated it. Hated every single second. I couldn’t watch. Except for some reason, I did. I had one friend in particular who during the season told me he was actually rooting for LeBron and the Heat. His rationale was that he did so much for basketball in Cleveland and he loved him so much as a player that he just couldn’t stop rooting for him. Like anyone else would have done, I told him he was absolutely insane and a traitor.
Something changed though this summer. Now that LeBron was a champion, the villainous character that he had become nationwide almost immediately turned the other way. The scarlet letter was ripped off of his lapel. It wasn’t so cool to hate him anymore outside of Cleveland. People began to see that softer side again. The endorsements and commercials increased and “LeBron redux” was everywhere. This time, he did it as a champion. Yet people in Cleveland still understandably hated the man.
Last night’s hotly contested Cavs/Heat game was LeBron’s most recent return to the 216. However, for the first time, there were people in LeBron “Heat 6″ jerseys who walked the Q without getting their faces kicked in. Sure, the boos outweighed the cheers, but there were actual people cheering for him. Once he became a champion, it is like the anger subsided a bit. The realization that he is the greatest player in the world began to outweigh that ridiculous TV show debacle that made him the country’s most despicable athlete for almost two years.
I’ve said this before, I am NBA Free. I am for the most part divorced from Pro Basketball, but its not as if I don’t know what is going on. The Heat entered last night’s game on an unbelievable 23-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history. All I hear and read from the most trusted names in and around the NBA circles is that LeBron’s greatness on the floor is becoming the stuff of legend. As incredible of a player that he is, his 2012-13 season is rising to heights that haven’t been seen.
Here is the thing. I don’t really hate LeBron anymore. Do I root for him and want the Heat to win titles? Of course not, but I look at it objectively; the guy is the best at what he does.
I turned the game on last night at 71-49. In the blink of an eye it was 77-77. The comeback wasn’t all LeBron James, but he certainly was the catalyst. When he hit that big three and Byron Scott took a timeout, James just stared into the crowd. The fans were seething with anger. Had I been there, I may have felt that same way. But in front of my TV, all I could say was “wow.” It was easy to dislike his b.s. theatrics and that new dance he seems to do at big spots. The play on the floor? You have to appreciate the greatness, don’t you?
Go ahead. Call me a moron if you’d like. But the hatred for all intents and purposes has been weaned down to simple dislike. I am also in the camp of people that think that LeBron will return eventually. He knows that there is one and only one stain on his career – how he left Cleveland. The summer of 2014 will be here before you know it, and LeBron will most likely have at least two titles in tow before he opts out of his contract. He will be given the opportunity to come back to Cleveland and right the only wrong in his illustrious career. I will be on the side of those who will welcome him back if it does indeed happen. The people who say they don’t want him to return are fooling themselves.
You wouldn’t want to see LeBron and Kyrie Irving together in Wine and Gold? This isn’t about hurt feelings anymore. This is about winning championships. This just in, having the best player in the world on your team dramatically improves your chances.