Four years ago, I wrote this very impassioned post criticizing how Lebron left the Cavaliers. On it, I detailed (among other things) why I believe he blew up his chance of ever being considered the greatest, or at least, one of the greatest ever to play basketball. I mentioned something about his immaturity, his lack of mental toughness, and the utter selfishness and foolishness which characterized “The Decision”. It was one of the longer posts I had ever written on this blog, because “The Decision” ignited something in me that I had long been wanting to express: my utter dislike for Lebron and anything Lebron.
Last July 12, 2014, Lebron James announced that he was going back to the Cavaliers after four straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.
Surprisingly, I was not one of them.
In fact, I was surprised to find myself actually defending Lebron James.
Oh, how the years have softened my dislike.
Maybe what they said was true. Maybe winning does change everything. Or at least, it changes something. It changes our perception of the athletes. Look at Kobe Bryant, for example.
Kobe’s reputation was so badly damaged by his rape case that he was once considered one of America’s most hated athletes. But winning changed people’s perception of Kobe, slowly. While he may still be disliked in some parts of America, I think its mostly because they hate him because he is a polarizing figure, or that they are simply rooting for somebody else. Like Lebron James, for example.
Fans like myself, we love to pit our favorites against each other, comparing their merits as to why they are greater than the other, better than the other, etc. It’s part of what makes sports fun.
I realized however that in the process of rooting for somebody, we turn a blind eye on the merits of greatness of the perceived “equal” (i cringe as i write this), just because. And we “hate” (it’s such a strong word, come to think of it) them, because they are in direct opposition to our personal favorites in many criteria, which if you think about it, may not even be valid or logical. Or, just because. Again, the culture of sports fandom.
Lebron’s decision to come back to Cleveland was hailed by critics, writers, even haters, calling it “a stunning victory for maturity and perspective”. I agree that his decision is a great example of how much Lebron James has grown. I now realize that it was not only Lebron James who had some growing up to do. Fans, like myself, also had to grow up.
Because as I just learned, you don’t have to like a person to respect him. Respect is after all, earned. And Lebron James has made me acknowledge him.
I am still a Kobe fan, of course. That’s never going to change.