Remember when LeBron James was dubbed the next “Mike”, the next “Magic”?
Remember when that infectious smile and explosive ability had everyone from Nike to Gatorade clamoring for him to represent their product?
Remember kids used to wear his jersey rather than burn them?
Well, that’s an easy one. THE DECISION happened. He “took his talents down to South Beach.” That’s what happened. And when he and Bosh and Wade walked out together with all the smoke and pyrotechnics and bravado, NBA fans everywhere recoiled from the once loveable LeBron.
In short, LeBron became the enemy.
What happened this NBA playoffs was the galvanization of the rooting interests of pretty much the entire sporting nation against the Heat. Correction: we weren’t rooting against the Heat per se; we were actively rooting against LeBron. Quick: name one of your sports buddies who was actually hoping the Heat would win. Can you think of one? I can’t either. Everyone I know was rooting for the Mavs. Granted, I don’t have any friends from Miami. But I’m pretty sure most everyone outside of southern Florida was hoping to see the Heat fail miserably.
But why? I understand Cleveland fans being upset over LeBron’s departure. If Albert Pujols leaves St. Louis for greener pastures in a few months, I’ll be upset, too. (Although I don’t anticipate burning his jersey, even if — heaven forbid — he signs with the Cubs. But hopefully that’s a moot point.)
Back to the question: why do we revile LeBron? At the end of the day, the whole DECISION hoopla was ridiculously ill-advised, but LeBron basically did what plenty of Americans do all the time. He decided he wanted to work alongside his friends. He didn’t manipulate the system. He wasn’t even disingenuous about the process. He simply wanted to work with people he knew and appreciated. And I contend that, given the opportunity, you and I would probably do the same thing.
Nine years ago next month, Sunny and I made the decision to move to Huntsville, Alabama. We were a part of a great community in northeast Tennessee; I had a great job working with a tremendous group of young people and their families at the Northeast Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN. We decided to move to Huntsville for a variety of factors. But one of the major decision points was the fact that our best friends lived in Huntsville. As it turned out, we had the opportunity to work alongside these friends in youth ministry, first on a part-time basis then in a full-time capacity. Although it hurt to leave the friendships we’d developed in our time in Kingsport, we were ultimately enthralled at the prospect of ministering alongside our friends in any possible capacity.
I know it’s not apples and apples. As far as I know, there weren’t any riots in the streets when we left Kingsport. No youth group kids were burning their Bibles while we loaded up the moving trucks. I get that. But at the same time, don’t we all want to be in close proximity to the ones we love? Have you ever looked for employment somewhere else because you just didn’t connect well with your co-workers? Have you ever dreamed about living in the same neighborhood with your best friends?
If so, then maybe we ought to think twice before taking another shot at LeBron. Sure, he’s an easy target right now. But the demonization has to stop somewhere.