On July 8th of last year, LeBron James announced in front of a national audience on ESPN, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” That announcement unleashed a strong legion of “haters” – primarily from Cleveland – but with members all over the country. These haters are people who suddenly became fervently anti-LeBron for a variety of reasons: “The Decision” was a slap in the face to Cleveland, he’s a coward who can’t win without Dwyane Wade, he turned his back on a city that adored him, and the list goes on and on. I must admit, I am one of those people.
Everything about LeBron irritates me (although if he signed with the Nets, I’m sure I’d be willing to overlook many of the things I dislike about him). His ego is enormous, he seems to be constantly self-promoting himself whether it be with his “The LeBrons” cartoon series or “The Decision” special. When he wins or makes a great play, I find his celebrations to be over the top, particularly when he stole the ball at the end of the Boston series and looked back to gloat at Boston’s players. I think he sucker punched the city of Cleveland, leaving behind people who loved him unconditionally seemingly without any remorse. I thought, the fact that he didn’t even contact Dan Gilbert or other members of the Cavs’ organization to inform them of his thinking, despite the fact that they bent over backwards for him throughout his time there, was inconsiderate. I can continue going on with the reasons I, and many others, dislike LBJ, but there is one thing that myself and any other haters out there can, and should, not take away from LeBron: the legitimacy of this NBA Championship should the Heat win.
There are going to be fans and people in the media who will say that if LeBron wins a championship this year, or during his time with the Heat, it will be tainted by how the Big Three was put together and the fact that LeBron couldn’t carry “his own” team to the title. That line of thinking could not be more flawed, because what James has done this year in leading the Heat to the NBA Finals is truly remarkable; and if he wins, his accomplishments should not be tarnished but applauded.
Some people say that LeBron made a cowardly decision to go to the Heat and join forces with Wade and Chris Bosh on the inside track to an NBA dynasty, but to me I think leaving Cleveland took a lot more guts than staying there would have. He is disliked by an entire region in Northeast Ohio that had been his only home until this year. Had he stayed in Cleveland and brought them a championship – with or without another superstar – he would have been glorified not only in Cleveland, but by most of America. He would have been seen as the savior for a city still struggling to find a new identity in the wake of years of economic stagnation, and been beloved for eternity. Now he is hated, not only by those in Northeast Ohio, but by many across the nation, seen as a traitor whose allegiance with Wade and Bosh is suspect, and he may never be able to salvage his reputation again. Leaving Cleveland and all its love behind didn’t take cowardice, it took courage.