LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. While Steph Curry will likely win the MVP award this season, anyone with eyes knows LeBron James is a better basketball player, and is more important to his team. I used to be a fan of LeBron. Ever since I caught wind of his high school hoopsmixtape where he was dunking on little white kids and chasing down fast breaks for ridiculous blocks the likes of which I’d never seen before, I was a fan. But I’m not anymore. I don’t root against LeBron, but I no longer root for him to succeed. Before I jump into why, check out that video I was talking about:
I was a freshman in college when I first heard of LeBron James. G Unit was the most popular rap clique around, and those gunshots you hear in the soundtrack to that video were commonly heard on just about every track on every CD I was burning to play as I cruised around in my ’91 Nissan Stanza. Back in late 2002, early 2003, YouTube wasn’t even invented yet. I had to download that video off of Limewire, Kazaa, or some other Napster knockoff in order to see it. This was pre-facebook times, when communication via text was rare and you asked people for their AIM screen names before you got phone numbers, so the fact that I even caught wind of this video at all was a rare feat.
I must have watched that video about 100 times. While I was a soccer player, I loved the game of basketball and played as often as I could. The early 2000’s was the start of dark times for Knicks fans, but I still avidly watched the NBA. I couldn’t wait for LeBron to get to the league. I prayed for the Knicks to win the NBA Draft lottery that year, but it didn’t happen. ‘Bron went to the Cavs, and I was forced to tune in to Cleveland games in order to see the most hyped player ever hit the hardwood.
If your memory is rusty, LeBron was instantly a star in the NBA. Nike had this epic advertisement showing everyone’s anticipation of his first pro game against the Kings (George Gervin’s cameo ftw):
One thing that made the advertisement great was that LeBron’s first game actually would be against Sacramento, and he’d go on to drop 25 points in his debut. While the Cavs didn’t make the playoffs LeBron’s first year in the league (the rest of the team was still terrible, a running theme with LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland), their record improved by 18 wins with James on the squad from the previous season.
I became a fan of LeBron because of his physical prowess and basketball ability. No one his size was that fast, that athletic, and that coordinated. He was an incredible passer, devastating finisher at the rim, and incredible defender. In addition to his basketball gifts, he genuinely looked like he was having fun on the court. His pre-game rituals with the Cavs in the mid to late 2000’s were awesome. It looked like he and everyone else on the team were best buds:
When The King’s first stint in Cleveland came to an end and he decided to take his talents to South Beach, I wasn’t mad. A lot of people were, specifically Cavs fans and delusional fans who thought he was going to New York, Chicago, or any other big market in the mix, but not me. Miami is an awesome place. It makes Cleveland look like a toilet. Not just any toilet, but like an unattended porto-potty at an outdoor concert at a venue where it rained the day before and the concession stand is serving D-grade beef tacos. If there was no salary cap and the Cavs offered LeBron James $100mil/year he may have still opted for the $16mil/year he got in Miami. As douchetastic a move “The Decision” was, I was still a LeBron fan. I wanted to see him win multiple championships in Miami with his buddy D-Wade.
The first time my LBJ fanhood took a hit was when I read an article about Mo Williams on LeBron leaving Cleveland (the original article has since been deleted, but Deadspin referenced it in that link). According to the article, LeBron not only ditched the city of Cleveland, but he left his former teammates in the cold as well. The same guys he was dapping up during the pre-game warmups with elaborate handshakes were being ignored completely. While I’ve since heard that the whole Mo Williams/Thundercats story was a bullshit fabrication, the initial report definitely irked me.
After 4 NBA Finals appearances and 2 Championships, I wasn’t surprised to see LeBron leave the aging Miami Heat in his rear-view to rejoin the up-and-coming Cavs. Dan Gilbert’s squad got three #1 overall draft picks in the 4 years Bron Bron vacationed in Miami, and even though Anthony Bennett was a complete bust, they hit a home-run with Kyrie Irving and were able to package Andrew Wiggins and Bennett in exchange for Kevin Love. With LeBron back in a Cavs uniform, the Cavs had Eastern Conference Finals as a worst-case scenario written all over them.
This NBA season had its ups and downs for LeBron back in Cleveland. The Cavs limped to a mediocre start. Love and James apparently weren’t meshing well. The media made a big deal about them not being friends. Now, I don’t believe a player has to be friends with everyone on his team, but this is where I stopped rooting for LeBron James. His response to the whole “why aren’t you and Kevin Love friends?” question was:
“People get so infatuated with the best of friends, things of that nature,” James said. “First of all, I’ve got three very good friends in this league, and that’s Carmelo (Anthony), and that’s C.P. (Chris Paul), and that’s D-Wade. And after that I have a bunch of teammates. I have guys I ride for every day.”
LeBron James has been in the league for 12 seasons. How the fuck does he only have 3 friends? I worked at a company for 18 months out of college and have been working elsewhere for the past 7+ years and I still have at least 5 friends from that original company. I invited more than 10 people I currently work with to my wedding whom I consider friends… how does LeBron only have 3? I’m not the LeBron James of finance, but any normal human being would have more than 3 friends in their field if they spent over a decade working in it.
I no longer root for LeBron because he’s clearly only looking out for his own best interests and doesn’t really care about most others feelings. It’s one thing to be a businessman, and treat the NBA like a job (which it is), but c’mon, you don’t even make an effort to be friendly with the people you work with? Who would want to work with a guy like that?
I know NBA players chasing rings will take paycuts to play on LeBron’s team. I don’t knock them for wanting to wear the same jersey as the best player on the planet. But it must be so miserable and hollow. I couldn’t imagine showing up to work every day and putting in time with someone with LeBron’s attitude. The same shit is happening in LA right now with Kobe, sans the winning part. Kobe is an asshole. Peep this clip of a Lakers practice if you haven’t seen it already:
I was never a fan of Kobe. In the Kobe/Shaq rivalry I always leaned toward the Big Aristotle’s side. While I don’t think Kobe actually raped that Kate Farber chick out in Colorado, he always came off as a prick and I just didn’t like him. I feel the same way about LeBron now. I think he’s fake. All those elaborate handshakes in the early 2000’s were bullshit. The fake camera pre-game ritual? More fake than the fake camera itself. LeBron will likely win a couple more NBA Championships before his career is over, but I won’t be happy for the guy like I was the other 2. I’ll be pulling for Steph Curry and the Warriors this season, and look forward to the Knicks rebuilding with Okafor, Towns, or whoever they get in the draft next season. I don’t hate LeBron, but I’m no longer a fan.