You see, we graduated high school the same year, so while my talentless, white private school team put together back to back .500 seasons in a crappy division, I could not help but become mesmerized by this freak up in Akron.
I made the decision very early on (2002) to buy the hype, stand behind the king, and convince everyone around me he was going to exceed the already incomparable expectations. For the most part, I’ve been able to stand cocksure, hands crossed over my chest, and let everyone else slowly get on board with his greatness as a player. For the most part…
When Bron made his decision to leave Cleveland I had a fairly different response than the populous. I was giddy in the same way I was when I accidentally touched hands with a cute girl in eighth grade. And, much like Jeff Van Gundy, I was convinced the Heat would shatter the ’96 Bulls record and only lose maybe five games (if that) the entire season.
It was not realistic, but fans rarely are. Especially when the supported superstar has time and time again made everyone say “wow.” It did not take long in Cleveland for us to start taking greatness for granted. Lebron might score 40 tonight. Lebron had another triple-double. Leborn is going to literally isolate at the top of the key for the last 10 possessions in this game, run the clock down, and execute on seven of those possessions.
So you know what? It does not bother me that Bron has not won a championship yet, because I know he will, and in the meantime, he blows my mind almost every time I watch him… still.
My brother sent me a text about 10 minutes after game six as Dirk and Terry soaked in the long awaited moment where they were the team of destiny. “Sorry bro,” it said. He knows better than anyone my loyalty to Lebron James, and my utter desire for him to win a championship (or five). Thing is, he hates Lebron more than anyone I know, and talks trash at me all season long about the struggling Heat and lack of clutch play. He embraced the shrinking and disappearance of the king in the Finals, and against his better judgement even mocked him in front of me during press conferences. In the end, though, he empathizes with me.
Empathy, I believe, is not exclusive to him. But as humans, we sometimes react in weird ways. Bandwagon hatred of Leborn is one of those weird ways.
I don’t get mad or angry like I used to when Lebron loses. He is only human, and I need to remember that. There is a ton of talk right now about how Lebron dubbed himself the king, took all the entitlement and power that came with it, and is failing to live up to it. A local reporter in St. Louis called him immature, and even John Stewart and company are taking shots at the 26 year old. My response (at least in my head) is, “are you guys not watching this guy play? And do you really think he’s not going to get a championship”?
I get sad when I see that kind of behavior. As a fan, I am wondering what we can do to help this man achieve what we all know he should have achieved by now. We’ve seen him close games out, step up, hit clutch shots, devastate dudes, and sweep playoff series’. So it’s not as if we’re shunning him for not living up to the hype. We’re shunning him because we don’t have an answer. We have no idea. We try to, but we don’t.
Here is an example of all of what we don’t know.
The guy has no father and a crack head mother. He grew up in the hood with the same four or five guys, and started signing autographs when he was 14. He never got a real education, and the only father figure in his life, his coach, wanted him to succeed in the same ways he wanted himself to succeed. It’s always been all about him, and that can’t be used as an excuse, but it should be a starting block for the discussion surrounding Lebron. Has it ever occurred to anyone that dissappearing in the fourth quarter of the Finals might have something to do with Lebron’s psychological makeup? Maybe he’s depressed or just scared shitless. I certainly don’t know. I don’t know why he is sometimes off putting in press conferences either. It might have something to do with him being dejected or even furious that he did not win. By in large, Lebron has been stellar with the media. So again, this was a bit of an anomaly.
Instead, we don’t think about these things. We just go back to nicknames that Lebron has been given over the years and lambast him for being arrogant and immature.
Look, greatness comes with great responsibility. I know. I’m disappointed as a fan that Lebron choked in the Finals. It hurt me. I got super quiet and withdrawn when it happened. But to go hog wild on the superstar who gave us 12,000 words in post game interviews during one of the hardest stretches of his life is irresponsible.
In the end I believe the mud slinging at Lebron stems directly from the loss of words we have after eight years and no championship. Deep down in the places we don’t talk about, we want to see him succeed, and we expected him to have succeeded by now. So it’s only natural that we feel a bit lied to when it hasn’t happened yet. I mean let’s admit it. It sucks we don’t have a new Michael Jordan yet. Especially because we know we could have the new Michael Jordan right now.
I, for one, refuse to feel hurt, though. Instead, I get excited about the years to come, that moment when Lebron holds the trophy tight and looks back in a moment at the journey he went on to get it. That moment will be epic, and I sincerely believe people will be moved by it– even the haters.