“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…”
–The Godfather: Part III
That quote, which has no sports connection, is how I feel when discussing LeBron James and the Miami Heat: I think we’re done talking about them, but the media, fans, and others keep bringing it up, which means eventually I have to talk about it.
Let’s get a few things straight: LeBron James is the best player in the NBA right now; actually let me amend that: he is the best all-around player in the NBA right now. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is often called the best scorer in the NBA, Kobe Bryant is viewed as one of the best players in the West, but his game isn’t as multi-faceted as LeBron’s, and Derrick Rose is great, but not as great as LeBron. Of course, there’s Dwayne Wade as well, who is LeBron’s teammate with the Heat; it’s a bad idea to underestimate him.
Now, I was a “one-year, unabashed Heat hater” last season; that is to say that in the wake of The Decision and some of James’s other antics, I didn’t want to see the Heat win it all last year. Yes, it’s petty, but I stand by it, and I wasn’t alone in that attitude. Although I’m far from what could be called a Miami Heat fan, I was far more supportive of them this year; I believe that with some time playing together, they could seriously challenge the Bulls’ 72 win record and start a dynasty for themselves.
As to the man himself, LeBron James, I do wish he had won a championship in Cleveland, and I hope he wins at least one in his career, wherever he plays. However, the critics and haters are still out there; what does he have to do to win them over? He has worked overtime to try to soothe out bad feelings that emerged out of The Decision, especially last off-season; we can say he shouldn’t have done that in the first place, but that’s another discussion. He is active with charity organizations, he puts on the best possible public face with regards to his family, and on the court, is one of an elite company to win more than 2 MVPs.
One issue I had with LeBron last season, which has since been resolved, is that LeBron wanted everyone to go along with him; he figured that The Decision wouldn’t be an issue, the celebration of him, Chris Bosh, and D-Wade signing their contracts in Miami (complete with them dancing on stage and the now infamous “not five, not six” comment) wouldn’t go viral like it did, and the fans would keep liking him no matter what. When that didn’t happen, he made a half-hearted effort to play the bad guy, complete with insulting the Cleveland Cavalier bench during a game, seemingly enjoying the Cavs downward spiral, and ripping the fans who hated on him; however he backtracked most of the time. I’m not sure what was worse: thinking he would always be the good guy, or refusing to embrace the role of the villain.
However, after losing in the NBA Finals- let me go on a tangent here: getting your team, which you assembled less than a year prior, to the NBA Finals is nothing short of stunning in the modern NBA, and I really wish someone had given him more credit for that. Granted, they lost the finals, but come on: just making that run is impressive unto itself. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. After losing the NBA Finals, and enduring the basketball hell that was the lockout, LeBron decided to relinquish the role of the villain he had never fully embraced; he made what I viewed as an apology for The Decision (fittingly enough on ESPN, where The Decision had aired), talked about his background, opened up, worked on his public image, stopped being so combative; hell, he looked up the lines people were saying on social media, read them aloud in an interview, and laughed at them, citing them as future motivation, whilst also recognizing that they were true.
Rick Reilly, in one of his recent columns, takes this issue way too seriously, which isn’t to say, though, that he doesn’t have a point. My issue is that people are still talking about this; if you don’t like LeBron, fine, stop bitching about all the crap he did to Cleveland and in the media. If you love LeBron, or at a minimum, hate the haters, stop talking about how they need to shut up about it. Let’s just let the man play. My good friend, Paulo, raises the point that haters going to hate, and I agree; I just wish that both sides would let this go.
My personal response is that I just enjoy the game of basketball when the Heat play. LeBron is a brilliant player, and I wish that fans of the game, who are not experienced sports writers, would recognize that just because he may not be the best at any particular aspect of the game, it doesn’t mean he’s not the best guy on the floor, or in the league.