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I really dislike LeBron James
March 15, 2011 - Scott Muska
Last Thursday night I cheered for the Los Angeles Lakers, something I haven't done since I rocked a pair of Kobe Bryant's first Adidas shoes in the mid-90s.
I remember sitting on my couch and pumping my fist when Bryant knocked down a difficult three-pointer in the latter stages of the game. When I did this, I looked down at my my closed hand with surprise, and then I laughed a little bit at my own actions, which is similar to what I did earlier in the week when I realized I was belting out Tracy Chapman's "Fastest Car" while driving home from work.
I'm not a Lakers fan, and I never really have been, despite my respect for Kobe Bryant's unparalleled skills and my closet desire to live in a dojo with Phil Jackson while he teaches me "Zen and the Art of the Triangle Offense." I'm also kind of a sports atheist when it comes to the NBA, unless the Phoenix Suns are playing. I just like to watch a good game, and usually don't have a vested interest in the outcome unless gambling is involved. To be honest, I haven't really cared much at all about even watching NBA games since I quit playing basketball during my freshman year of college. I kind of distanced myself from the game, I guess you could say, after a sour break-up. The only way I can describe it is in human-to-human relationship terms. You know how if you break up with someone, you might not want to listen to "your song" or your former significant other's favorite band for a while? That was how I was, but instead of music I wanted to avoid seeing Tim Duncan shoot bank shots.
But then came "THE DECISION," and the fallout from it, and my interest in the NBA was re-ignited. I don't think I'm alone in this, either. For many, I'm sure their interest was piqued when they found out LeBron James would be playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, because they figured they'd get to see the basketball equivalent of a supergroup that would be very entertaining to watch as they plowed their way through the Eastern Conference. Others, however, were so incensed by the arrogance James portrayed through the entire process that they began to actively root against the Miami Heat and the team's chances for success.
I became one of those people, but not immediately. I was at the Mirror's office the July night when James went on ESPN to reveal where he would be "taking his talents" the upcoming season. I'd felt he would pick the Heat, based on my thoughts that James would take the easy way out as far as winning a championship was concerned, so I'd placed a bet on that outcome. I won $10, and was fine with his decision -- like I said, I didn't care about the NBA. My logic was that if James made me $10, he could go play wherever he wanted. It wouldn't affect me too much.
Then, I started to think about "The Decision" and the way James went about making it public. (I feel like this is common knowledge, and I'm late to the party on bashing it by like eight months, so I won't waste your time with a description.) I didn't have much respect for it, and then I saw the WELCOMING PARTY clips of these three dudes awkwardly walking around a stage in uniform. It looked like a rap concert if you replaced the rappers with mimes dressed in hoops gear, and my distaste began really taking root. As soon as I saw James's ridiculous Nike COMMERCIAL I subconsciously made the decision to become "that guy," and eventually acknowledged that I hoped the Heat would fail in a big way.
You all know "that guy." The person who avidly roots against a team's success, typically because that team has more of a chance of winning than the teams they support. I'm a Steelers and Penguins fan with college friends from all over who like other teams who have had less success recently, so I see a lot of those guys. They give me all kinds of guff when my favorite teams lose, and I never understood there reasoning until I started watching the Heat this season. I am unapologetically filled with glee every time I watch them blow a game.
The Heat's antihero image has been extremely good for the NBA. I haven't heard this much buzz during an NBA regular season since before the 1998-99 lockout, really, and a vast amount of the attention is directed toward the Heat. David Stern probably loves it. It hasn't been good for the Heat, though, who have garnered a pretty substantial amount of hatred from the world at large and failed to perform up to expectations, especially lately.
Much of this hatred (OK, pretty much all of it) is attributable to James, who is the player in the trio who consistently says the dumbest things and consistently fails in the waning minutes of close games. Because of him, people now hate the rest of the Heat, too. I find myself wanting Mike Miller to miss shots, and he's been one of my favorite players for years. Out of sheer empathy, I always root for the slow dudes who can do little else beyond shooting three-pointers. Not anymore.
On March 3, James took to Twitter and posted this: "20+ games left in phase 2. I'm ReFOCUSED! No prisoners, I have no friends when at WAR besides my Soldiers." The heat proceeded to lose four straight games after this idiotic and arrogant statement (James is no more a soldier than I am an astronaut), and I loved every second of it. In three of those games, James couldn't make a shot that would've tied or won the game. Some "soldier." Dude clearly needs to invest in some TigerBlood.
Well, I'm watching the NBA again, at least a few games a week. So I guess you can say I'm at that stage where the break-up isn't so fresh, and I can listen to my ex's favorite band again. Now, I listen and look for any and all indicators in the lyrics that make me believe if said ex ever got to hang out with that band, they would really dislike her, no matter how successful she ends up being.
There's a good chance the Heat will win a championship; it could happen this year, even. But that's not going to make the many basketball fans across the world hate them any less.