Monday, June 13, 2011

Arrogance is Unbecoming




I didn't want this whole post to be about LeBron James, because Dallas finding the fountain of youth during these playoffs is a story in itself (and because I wrote about LeBron five days ago), but it's impossible to discuss the Finals without at least some discussion of the most fascinating player in any sport in my lifetime. I will write about Cuban and Dirk and Kidd winning a ring tomorrow, because this James rant just got too long. 



LeBron James burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old high school Junior when Sports Illustrated put him on the cover of their magazine with the headline "The Chosen One." He's now a 26-year-old NBA superstar, who has played 8 seasons, won two MVPs, and made enough top plays to last a millennium. But he's also 0-2 in the NBA Finals, he scored 18 points total in the fourth quarter over six games, and he ripped out an entire city's heart on national TV with "The Decision." LeBron James has literally grown up in front of the media; he's been a national story for almost a decade, and yet, nobody really understands the guy, despite everyone's attempt to explain James fourth quarter disappearances.

So naturally there were going to be people who had no problem looking past James character flaws because he is so much fun to watch on the court. There were going to be others who were turned off enough by "The Decision" and were no longer going to root for James. The majority of the population was in the latter category. 

Over the course of the series, fans of LeBron James attempted to jump to his defense while basically the rest of the country criticized James for shrinking, or choking, or some other word that means "Absolutely horseshit when it mattered." There's nothing wrong with defending a player you like to watch; we all do it. However, it annoyed the heck out of me to see people tweeting things like "Until you can average even 1/4 of what LeBron does in the NBA, shut up!" That's ass-backwards logic and makes the person defending James look like a complete and utter moron. LeBron James is the most gifted basketball player on the planet, but just because he can do things that literally no other human can do on a basketball court does not make him invincible to criticism. Can you imagine if that's the way the world worked? If you could only criticize someone who was worse than you at whatever the task is?

Barack Obama and George Bush are far more qualified than you or I to make important decisions regarding the future of the country, but that doesn't stop the majority of the American public from criticizing the President when he screws up. Criticism comes when you fail to live up to expectations. There's no doubt the Heat failed to live up to expectations.

What surprised me the most was how nonchalant James sounded in the post-game press conference, talking about how he'll work hard this summer and everything will be fine. He absolutely will work hard this summer, and yes, most likely, the Heat will win a ring or two or three in the next few seasons. But less than an hour removed from losing the NBA Championship, and the self proclaimed King doesn't even sound upset about losing. Then he gets asked a question about the fans who are happy the Heat lost; the ones who get joy out of rooting against the Heat. James response was, sadly, typical LeBron James. Arrogant, childish and to be frank, downright stupid. Here are the quotes:
“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.” 
“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy that not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal,” James said. “But they’ll have to get back to the real world at some point.”  
LeBron James just lost back-to-back games that he called "the most important of his life," he averaged 3 points a game in the fourth quarter, he turned the ball over 6 times in game 6, he passed up open looks to pass the ball to Juwan Howard and Mario Chalmers, he mocked Dirk Nowitzki's sinus infection and fever, and yet, he doesn't seem upset that they lost. Rather than talk about how difficult it's going to be over the next few months trying to get this loss out of his head, James instead takes a shot at the people rooting against him by saying, basically, "I have more money then you. My life is fine." LeBron's response made NO SENSE. Him winning a ring or not winning a ring will not effect my life one way or another. There will always be something to write about, someone to root against, and had the Heat won that ring I would have woke up today feeling exactly the same way that I did. But now LeBron has to wake up knowing he shrunk in the biggest moments of his career to this point.

His final line, though, was ridiculous. "But they'll have to get back to the real world at some point." Coming from the 26-year-old kid who was given a full ride to a private high school, was given free jerseys while still in high school, was given a hummer for his birthday with a loan his mom secured only because her son was LeBron James, the guy who was drafted first overall, signed a $90MM endorsement deal with Nike before stepping foot on an NBA court... yeah, that seems like the guy who should be telling people to "get back to the real world."

There's no doubting LeBron James talents as a basketball player. None. But there's also no doubting the kind of person James is; he's arrogant, he's entitled, and quite frankly he's dumb as hell. Kobe Bryant cheated on his wife, got accused of rape, threw Shaquille O'Neal under the bus to the police officers... and still wasn't as hated as LeBron James this season. James went from the most beloved athlete in sports to the most hated, and the reason was because of "The Decision." To me, that's the most arrogant moment in professional sports. A one hour special to tell the world where you're going to play basketball next year. It's time to get over yourself, LeBron. We all have.