Hate for LeBron tied to race?

6-Time NBA All-Star and new Miami Heat Player Lebron James gets ready to leave while donning an appropriate t-shirt which reads Part Time Athlete, Full Time Player in Miami, Florida on August 28th, 2010.  Fame Pictures, Inc

Vincent Thomas argues that there’s some black protectionism going on with LeBron.

You’ve probably heard about his plummeting Q rating (the industry standard for measuring an athlete’s familiarity and appeal). According to The Q Scores Co., for non-blacks, LeBron’s positive Q rating went from 18 percent in January to 10 percent in September and, more telling, his negative Q rating went from 24 percent to 44. Nearly half of the non-blacks in this country don’t like the dude. Meanwhile, LeBron’s positive Q rating among blacks went from 52 percent in January to 39 — a noticeable drop — but his negative Q rating barely budged, going from 14 percent to 15. Among African-Americans, says The Q Scores Co. executive vice president Henry Schafer, the shift in opinion was mostly to neutral.

The general, expressed sentiment of African-Americans has been, “I may not have agreed with how LeBron carried the whole free-agency thing, but I’m not gonna hate the man.” The more America shuns LeBron, the more Black America retreats to his corner. In fact, as America hates LeBron more and more, Black America’s collective hug embraces LeBron tighter and tighter. It’s called black protectionism.

Athletes have always been inspirational figures within the black community and — as far back as Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson — often have taken the public racial hit for the team. So, naturally, through the years, they’ve engendered an almost automatic protectionism response whenever America — whether justifiably or not — decides it wants to hate them.You saw it with Hank Aaron. You saw it with Barry Bonds. You saw it with Allen Iverson. You saw it with Michael Vick. You’re seeing it now with LeBron James. There are plenty of black folks who want LeBron to drop 60 on the Cavs when he visits Cleveland and wouldn’t mind the maligned Heat winning a championship.

As a white man who has never particularly liked LeBron the person or the player, I can honestly say that I don’t dislike him any more now that he’s decided to ‘take his talents to South Beach.’ He had every right to choose to play with a different team and, unlike most NBA fans, I don’t hold it against him that he decided to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Was he disloyal to the fans in Cleveland? Sure, but that wasn’t any surprise after hearing about how much of a front-running fan he was as a kid — rooting for the Cowboys, Bulls and Yankees — and how he’d hobnob on the Cowboy sidelines when they played the Browns or how he’d wear his Yankee hat to an Indians game.

First and foremost, LeBron is a fan of himself, and that was what “The Decision” was all about. It was a horrible lapse in judgment and the majority of the jump in his negative Q rating can be attributed to how he chose his new team in early July, not that he chose a new team.

As for the Miami Heat, I don’t know if I’ll be rooting for or against them, or if the truth will lie somewhere in between. I can tell you this — I’d rather see the Heat win a title in 2011 than see Kobe get his sixth ring, so to me, the Lakers are still far more annoying. If nothing else, it will be fascinating to watch LeBron, Wade and Bosh navigate the season and each other, and I’m looking forward to potential playoff battles with the Celtics, Magic and Bulls.

But back to LeBron — I don’t like the guy because he’s an egomaniac, he doesn’t do enough in the offseason to improve his game, he hasn’t developed a go-to post move because he thinks it’s “boring” to play on the block, he settles for jumpers far too often and he complains too much to the officials. Generally speaking, I don’t think he’s done enough with the innate talent that he’s been given, and that’s saying something considering the guy has back-to-back MVPs, six All-Star nods and six All-NBA appearances under his belt.

He has the physical ability to be the greatest basketball player ever to play the game, but he’ll never reach that level because he refuses to work on those areas of his game that give him trouble. That’s why I have a problem with the guy — and it has nothing to do with the color of his skin or his decision to take his talents to South Beach.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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