The Demonization of LeBron James

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?

What happened?

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.

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10 Responses to The Demonization of LeBron James

  1. Matt W. says:

    IMHO, it wasn’t that he left, it was the way he did it. Had he just signed with the Heat and the story had been broken by Wilbon or LeBetard or some other basketball guru, then the hostility would have only lasted a short time. The Decision was the cause, and that probably was just immaturity on LeBron’s part. But who can blame him for leaving – for seven years he woke up every morning, looked in the mirror, and realized he worked in Cleveland, Ohio. Who wouldn’t want to get out of there?

    And if you had announced from the pulpit at NE that you were “taking your talents to North Alabama”, you might not have made it to the door.

    • Jason says:

      You’re right. A lot of it had to do with the way he left. But outside of Cleveland, what difference does it make to us — the casual fans? Yeah, it was terribly immature (that image of the “Big Three” from their introductory press conference just reeks of arrogance), but at some point the punishment has to fit the crime. Make no mistake: I’m no LeBron apologist. He’s reaping what he sowed. I’m just saying — for me, now that I’ve seen him fail once, I’m pretty much over it.

      Now the Cubs on the other hand…their perpetual misery never gets old.

  2. Matt W. says:

    I’m in for 5,000. That is all.

  3. Jason,
    Good perspective on LeBron. Only fair that he has someone look at the wider perspective. I don’t blame him for wanting to be with friends or be on a winning team. I don’t follow bb that much – I thought his friends were in Cleveland, but I guess not. Anyway …

    Thanks for checking out Family Fountain. I’m enjoying class and getting to know the guys, too. Mark’s a great teacher! wb

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog, Warren. I’m enjoying class, too. You’re right…Mark is a great teacher. I especially enjoyed today’s textual discussion on narrative. Should be a good one.

      I’m not much of a basketball fan, either. As you could tell from my attire today, baseball — specifically St. Louis Cardinals baseball — is my game!

  4. Jason says:

    Reblogged this on already & not yet and commented:

    In light of what could be another Heat playoff failure coming to fruition tonight, I thought I’d repost my thoughts from last year on the Demonization of LeBron James. We’re seeing it repeat itself, aren’t we?

  5. Jon says:

    Who is this Matt W that is dissed Cleveland last year? It is basically 72 and sunny from now till end of October with very low humiity! The Islands in Lake Erie are beautiful. The Cavs are the team of the future with Rookie of the Year Kiree Irving (watch Uncle Drew on Youtube) that had better stats than LeBron at the same age, Tristan Thompson (second team all rookie), 2 first round and 2 second round draft picks in this year’s deep draft, and the best owner in sports…we are a year away from contending. The Tribe started the day 1/2 game out of first- with an easy interleague series this weekend :)…and the Browns got the best player in this year’s draft. Exciting and all in a small market! We are way past LeBron…but you should know that LeBron still lives in Akron in the off-season. He and his friends from high school work out at their old high school in Akron. It is not uncommon to see him around town and no one bothers him. His fiancee and his children still live in Akron- his kids go to a local private school with the kids of people I work with. Friends and home for LeBron are in Akron…to understand his desire to be part of a group or family watch the Emmy nominated documentary “More than a Game”. I met LeBron last summer with his firned and former coach after a workout and what struck me about him is how young he seemed- he is just a 27 year old young man. He will eventually get past it and win the hearts of people every where…it just may yet be too soon. PS- I burned my Cardinals hat when you left NE.

    • Jason says:

      Glad to hear LeBron can still have a life in the Akron area. And I’m sure your Indians will feast on this weekend’s series: my Cards are so banged up, it’s not even funny. Berkman, Carpenter, John Jay, and now Jaime Garcia are all on the shelf. Ugh.

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