Don’t Hate The Player If You Can’t Hate His Game

Have you ever hated someone so much and for so long that you can’t remember why you ever began to hate him or her in the first place?

OK, hate is a strong word and maybe even too extreme to describe the way I feel about LeBron James. But, as I watch the NBA Finals near its end and pray to the basketball gods that the Thunder will prevail, I’ve begun to wonder why exactly I’m so against the Heat and the self-proclaimed King.

Clevelanders have reason. I, a Louisvillian, arguably don’t. But, since the day I saw a fresh-faced LeBron wearing a St. Vincent-St. Mary jersey on the cover of SI, he never really had much of a chance with me. Jumping straight out of high school to the pros with all the magazines, newspapers and sportscasters heralding him as the next MJ or better, I suddenly found myself rooting against the kid.

LBJ versus MJ.

LBJ versus MJ.

Jordan was, and is, my hero. The ultimate basketball star. I own his autobiography, read and highlighted his quotes, loved the Bulls when I was a kid because of him and believed anything was possible because Michael Jordan proved it was so.

The thought of his legacy outdone by someone else – unthinkable! There could never be another Mike, and certainly none better. So, automatically my opinion of any person trying to compete with the legend was lessened in my mind. And with LeBron wearing, of all numbers, the No. 23, there was no better target to aim my hatred toward than the one and only LBJ.

I will clarify, however, I haven’t always been totally against LeBron. When he played for Cleveland, I wanted to see him succeed and secretly pulled for him in 2007 when his team lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals.

It was that step three years later, though, that sealed the deal for my disdain of LeBron. I’ll never forget sitting in my student apartment in New York during the summer of 2010, frantically searching for a TV to watch “The King’s” infamous “announcement.”

I knew the answer was obvious, so why draw out an hour of air time to state the inevitable? Yet, the fact ESPN was willing to turn The Decision into a spectacle made me wonder – maybe LeBron is here to prove he has integrity; that he’s willing to win with the cards he was dealt in the 2003 NBA draft and remain in Cleveland. Otherwise, this whole TV special is entirely a waste of time.

LeBron James' obvious announcement that he would take his "talents to South Beach."

LeBron James' obvious announcement that he would take his "talents to South Beach."

Following the promise of “not one, not two, not (did you promise any?)” championships in Miami, I despised his lack of humility and the ridiculous celebration featuring the Big 3 inside American Airlines Arena. Please, for the love of God, don’t let the Heat stage another absurd parade like that ever again – especially after an NBA Championship.

In any case, since the moment LeBron stepped foot in South Beach, he’s carried a load of criticism on his back and attempted to shake it all off, a bit unsuccessfully. Far from the King of Clutch, it’s almost laughable now to see James even attempt a shot at the buzzer during a close game. His lack of ability to close is just one reason I don’t like him. His desire to jump on DWade’s shoulders to win a championship, another.

But, in looking deeper into his choice to join the Heat, if you were LeBron James, how easy would this decision to leave your home state of Ohio for the zombie-infested Miami have been?

Think about how success is measured in the NBA.


Plenty of great players have left the league with bare fingers, but those who stand out as the legends of the game, for the most part, have at least one rock to their name. If you faced the pressure of living up to the status of “The Chosen One,” you’d be hungry for a championship, too; and probably six if you’re to compete with the status of the greatest to ever play the game.

Jordan has six. LeBron zero. In all my fear that James might actually overtake Jordan, I’ve been selfishly cheering against the “villain” of the NBA. Couldn’t I bear to witness just one or two LBJ championships? As long as it’s not six or more, he can’t touch Jordan right?

When it comes down to it, James has more talent than almost anyone in the league. I won’t say he’s the “best in the world,” as some have claimed. There’s still that whole Durantula argument which may be all the more justified should the Thunder turn their 1-2 record in the Finals around.

There's "The King" and then there's "King Closer." You mad, bro?

There's "The King" and then there's "King Closer." You mad, bro?

Still, while I’m more inclined to side with KD, LeBron’s performance in the playoffs has spoken for itself.

Scoring 45 against my Celtics, I wanted so bad to hate the man even more. But, I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Game Six wasn’t Wade’s game; it was LeBron’s, and no one else on the Heat even came close to pretending like they were the key factor.

On top of that, James has averaged 30.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5 assists in this year’s playoffs. Since beginning the Finals, he’s continued to stand out amongst his teammates; he’s led them in scoring, shown poise and he’s even shown some character.

This whole evolution of the King and his fierce yet silent pin-point focus is actually something to be admired by fans and players, alike. He’s not jumping around the locker room, trying to ignite a fire in his team with the promise of “not one, not two.” He’s reading “The Hunger Games,” – a strange choice considering its typical 13-year-old female demographic – and somehow Katniss Everdeen has unleashed a beast in the 27-year-old small forward.

As much as I want to hate the player, I can’t even hate his game. I’d rather see him win with Cleveland; and definitely rather see him win under any coach beside Spoelstra, but if he keeps playing the way he has, maybe a ring is in his destiny, which I humbly must accept.

I haven’t given up on the Thunder and trust this series will end in six or seven, probably in their favor. But, with the way the Heat, and especially LeBron, are playing, this series’ outcome is anyone’s guess.

All that being said, I hate to admit it, but my hatred for LeBron may be a bit exaggerated and undue. The villain could simply be the misunderstood hero.

I can’t hate on greatness, so technically – with some exception – I shouldn’t hate on him.

No, I’m not calling myself a fan of LeBron, because I’m not. But, dammit, do I respect his game.

So with that, let the games continue (though, hopefully, with a better performance by the Thunder), and may the odds be ever in your favor, LeBron, so long as you truly deserve them to be.

LeBron's signature powder toss.

LeBron's signature powder toss.

  • Bonnita

    MJ will always be the greatest. The game has changed greatly since the MJ, Bird, Johnson days. Bottom line is, however, credit should be given when deserved. Lebron, Durant, Kobe, all of them are greats and deserve praise. With that said people need to grow up and not Hate just because! I’m dealing with the same type of scenario regarding Justin Bieber. There are som many haters of Bieber as well, but why? Why hate a kid, well now technically an adult, in Justin Bieber? He sings, dances, plays the guitar, plays the piano, plays the drums, speaks French fluently, the list goes on and on. JB’s talents are extroidinary and yet people hate instead of giving credit just like with Lebron James. Grow up!!! Have enough courage and pride to admit the obvious when it comes to greats.

  • Ashley Anderson

    I agree. Justin’s an easy target too, but you have to admire a kid who can take over the music industry like he has. So long as people are earning success the right way, they deserve all the credit. Can’t hate on hard work, determination and making the most of your life!