Caps correspondent (and Wiz fan!) Brad Parker checks in to assure you that rooting against LeBron James isn’t just okay, it’s encouraged.
We live in a world with incessant sports coverage. ESPN has at least five channels. D.C. has three sports radio stations. The Internet exists. In many ways that’s awesome. In others it nearly ruins the experience of being a fan.
For every game we’re dying to watch there are seven crappy shows with Skip Bayless or Colin Cowherd or Stephen A. Smith.
All of these talking heads lead to another consistent annoyance, the “new narrative.” A storyline or opinion is created and within 24 hours it’s unavoidable. The latest: LeBron James has taken too much criticism; he’s a great player and if you don’t understand that you don’t understand basketball. If you’re falling for that crap, you don’t understand sports.
The following statements are facts:
1. LeBron James is an incredible athlete and the best basketball player on the planet.
2. I do not like LeBron James and I want him to lose.
See that, they’re not mutually exclusive. I am fully aware of LeBron’s talent but that does not mean I have to root for him. There are many reasons that’s OK, the biggest being that he doesn’t like or respect me. Or you. (See reason No. 4 to root for OKC below.)
I can also understand why others love him. He’s amazing to watch on the court and has done many fine things in his life.
What I don’t get are the people that are suddenly turning into LeBron fans during these playoffs. Every day I hear someone on the radio saying that they’re now hoping LeBron will win a championship because there have been so many “haters.” Suddenly, the fact that he’s a great player means that we should all jump on the bandwagon and cheer him on. But that is not how sports work.
There are some basic reasons why we care about a game:
1. Your team or favorite player is playing.
2. A cuddly underdog is playing.
3. You have a bet riding.
4. A team or player you hate is playing.
Hate is a fantastic emotion in sports. Most people that read this blog are Redskins fans. How do you feel about the Cowboys? The Eagles?
That hate makes you a fan and makes sports more interesting. What if everyone on TV was telling you that you should root for Michael Vick to win the Super Bowl because he’s more athletic than other QBs? Or Romo should be loved because he’s also a good golfer? F that!
That’s how I feel when the talking heads say I should root for LeBron because he’s so good. For nearly a decade we’ve been shown a constant stream of reasons to be LeBron James “haters.” Now, because it’s this week’s narrative, the sports talkers and screamers are trying to show that they “understand” basketball by saying they want LeBron to win.
They may know basketball, but they seem to have forgotten LeBron. Here are just a few reasons we should overlook all of the talents he’s taken to South Beach and root with all of our might for the Thunder:
1. “If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.” LeBron refused to shake hands with the Orlando Magic after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009. Why? Because he’s a winner. People that show sportsmanship, you’re losers.
2. I’m not going to say LeBron quit on his team in his final game as a Cav in Cleveland, so I’ll let Tim Legler do it for me.
4. “All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.” Yeah, that’s what he said after the Heat lost in the Finals last year. Your life sucks, his doesn’t. So root for him.
5. “I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland. And I won’t stop until I get it.” LeBron said that. Not in his first year in Cleveland. Not in his fifth. He said it on March 31, 2010, just months before “The Decision” to ditch his hometown team.
6. This is reason six. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not seven …
Perhaps the most baffling thing of all is that it’s happening now, when the Heat are in the finals against OKC and one of the most universally loved athletes in sports, Kevin Durant. Can you ever imagine King James deigning to randomly reach out to his subjects and ask if they want to hang out?
If you can watch that clip and actually like LeBron as a person more than Durant, then by all means root for the Heat. I’ll be rooting for the incredibly talented, immeasurably cool guy from the DMV.