I Once was a Lebron James Hater
I once was a Lebron James hater. I saw a guy who had all the potential in the world but was too laid back to take full advantage of it. As a (not-so skilled) white guy who grew up wanting to play in the NBA, it seems insulting when a 6’9 freak of nature doesn’t fully commit to the game. As a kid, I rejected my dad’s favorite NBA player (Larry Bird) and opted to pull for Magic Johnson instead. This was a time when Larry Bird was every white guy’s favorite player simply because he was the one white dude that worked hard enough to compete on a high-level with all of the more talented black guys. Why did I choose to pull for Magic over Larry? I liked his game more. I loved the no-look passes, the hook-shots, and the way he ran a fast-break. He played a beautiful brand of basketball.
Fast-forward about 15 years and a kid name Lebron James enters the radar. He self-anoints himself “King” James and chooses to wear the number 23 because he sees himself as the next Michael Jordan. Sports Illustrated calls him “The Chosen One” and the media falls in love with the kid. He becomes the #1 pick of the 2004 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, I am now a diehard Lakers’ fan who has since forgotten about my love for my favorite player Magic Johnson. The Lakers are coming off of 3 titles in 5 years and winning no longer seems near as fun as it used to. Kobe Bryant is now my new favorite player. I watch him ruthlessly become the best player in the league and completely dominate the 2000s while that kid named Lebron never wins anything. Times were very simple.
Fast-forward to the present and Lebron James has finally done it. In these last few weeks, he reminded me why I loved Magic Johnson so much; he completely dominated every facet of the game on both ends of the court. He has finally lived up to the hype and his nickname “King James.” He put on a truly remarkable show every single night these last few weeks and reminded me why I love the game so much. We have all heard the famous saying, “Basketball is like poetry in motion” but in this case basketball was simply the outlet for one of the greatest athletes we will ever see to put on a clinic on how to win at the highest level. He showed us that when great athletes focus and become determined to win both physically and mentally, there is not much you can do to stop them. His game reminded me of Magic Johnson’s back in the late ‘80s, and why I chose Magic over Bird. Talent realized is an amazing thing to see.
I pulled for Magic over Bird back in the day simply because he played a more beautiful brand of basketball. Many can and have argued Bird played harder and probably wanted it more. Magic was much more talented at all of the different aspects of basketball, and I appreciated that as a kid. I rooted for Kobe later on simply because I was a die-hard Lakers’ fan, and I rejected Lebron James because of media hype and his “supposed” lack of a killer instinct. Kobe was the less talented player who lacked the physical advantages Lebron had, but I loved the fact that he worked harder and wanted it more.
In the end, nothing could be further from the truth. I was just another biased fan (like most of you guys) who could find an argument to justify why my guy was better than your guy. I have slowly realized I am really a fan of all of these amazing athletes that do things the right way (Magic, Bird, Kobe, and Lebron all have). I now watch old Bird games and appreciate everything he did for the sport; I find myself kind of wishing I would have rooted for him more back then. I have learned from being a fan of the sport of basketball that sometimes there is a lot more than just being a fan of my team or my favorite player. Sometimes we take life a little too serious and forget to enjoy the great game of basketball. Lebron James has added more positives to the NBA than he could ever possibly take out.
Lebron deserved to be hated on after “The Decision” and the series of mistakes that culminated with him playing hot potato with the ball in every big moment last year. He lost the 2011 Finals and deep down he knew it was on him. The lights were just too bright. He had the choice of responding one of two ways: he could shy away from big moments and admit his critics were right, or he could step up and play the way we all thought he could and bring home an NBA title. Lebron chose the latter. He was remarkable in these NBA Finals. He has proved he is no longer what he used to be. He is not a choker. He doesn’t shy away from the big moments. Lebron James is now one of the elite players to ever play the game of basketball. These next few years will show us just how great he truly is. I cannot wait to see it.
I once was a Lebron James hater. But I am no more.
by Rance Young
Follow me on twitter @behindthebets