With two NBA champions and four MVP awards, LeBron James is still receiving a lot of hate from NBA fans for a number of reasons, who simply can’t put old grudges, foolish on most occasions, in the past.
Some thought that with the title, and then the second one, the hate from LeBron James would be revealed as a simple dislike for someone who is considered a loser. Sure, his perception changed after that one villany year (2010-2011) in which he seemed to accept his darker role, but a lot of the animosity remained even when he was a champion, proving every possible point there could have been to not accept him into the club of the truly great.
He’s Just Too Good
You either die a hero or see yourself live long enough to become a villain. A famous line from ‘The Dark Knight’, the second of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. And James isn’t the first or last player to start out as someone everyone is rooting for, but eventually turning into the exact opposite. Everyone is rooting against him except for the fans of the team he’s playing for. Great players will have those who hate him. It’s true in any sport, and in the NBA as well. Kevin Durant was once untouchable but now has shown less likable sides to his personality. James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin. Everyone was the coolest, most popular kid in town for a while. But it never lasts.
He Teamed Up With Wade & Bosh
The Lakers in the 1980’s had four #1 picks on their roster. Larry Bird played with Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, Tiny Archibald and Dennis Johnson. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen for one run, Dennis Rodman, Pippen and Toni Kukoc for the second three-peat. The Spurs, the 2004 Pistons, Bryant with Gasol and Shaq with Kobe. Teams win NBA championships, and great NBA players usually need a few good men around them to do more than win MVPs. Kevin Garnett ran away from Minnesota, playing next to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen so he can finally be called a champion. None of them are better people or worse than LeBron James for the choices they make. But it’s only James who gets vilified for improving his odds of winning a title by playing next to great players, and leading them himself.
The whole notion of one player carrying a team alone, on his back, just holds no merit these days. Look at the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry is their star, but he’s not the only guy who can execute plays or has for everything to flow for him. Sure, he’ll probably be the one who takes the last shot when the game is on the line. But that right doesn’t belong exclusively to him, nor will he try to force something no matter what.
People look back at incidents from James’ first playoff run with the Cavs and some stupid All-Star game in 2012 as proof that he doesn’t want to win games on his own. But numbers, pure, objective stats, point to the fact that he’s the best closer in this generation of basketball players, only people love to look the other way when it’s not a pure, classic buzzer beater. You can be clutch in other ways.
Quitting and the Decision
When trying to find one moment in time which turned James to a guy a lot of people love to hate, it has to be the decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers by announcing it on national TV. It was a wrong move for James in terms of PR, which he has admitted to a number of times. He played and still plays the villain well, but feeding off that hate didn’t help in year 1 with the Heat. Accepting his role and place with the new team and next to Dwayne Wade turned out to be a lot more helpful.
There’s also the quitting aspect. As if his performance with the Cavaliers in the 2010 playoffs was all about giving up. Few players carry these superhuman expectations to be not just great but beyond that every night they’re on the court. James probably did the most anyone else in the league could with the group around him in Cleveland. Is he a bad person for wanting to play next to better players? On a team that gives him a better shot at an NBA championship? It just fits a certain narrative people love to have about James, fitting their image of him, which couldn’t be further from the truth.