Why fans hate LeBron James

This video alone should explain it.

I’m tired of the new chorus of Lebron apologists. Idiots like Jeff Van Gundy are saying they don’t understand why people root against him. Jackass Rick Reilly saying that Lebron is “somebody you want your kids to have as their hero.” Now Mike Wise is chiming in.

I won’t bother listing all the obvious reasons, partly because Pat McManamon sums it up perfectly in this column.

But there’s one thing that none of the apologists mention – arrogance. People hate arrogant punks, particularly those who can’t back it up. Lebron pranced around with his new teammates, preened at a rally in the most shallow city in America and then proclaimed he would win a string of championships. Then he wilted in the most epic collapse by a great athlete anyone can remember.

The new apologists are basically arguing that we should all love him because he hasn’t been arrested, he doesn’t beat his wife girlfriend or hasn’t abandoned his kids. Wow, talk about setting the bar low.

Like Tiger Woods, Lebron James makes millions with his carefully crafted image. His playful attitude may be sincere, but Lebron always cared more about his “global icon” status than anything else. Are we supposed to worship arrogance and self-promotion?

We can blame his age or those around him, but many fans hate Tiger and Lebron because their carefully crafted images turned out to be a fraud.

Nobody with a brain ever doubted his talent, so if he ever finds a way to play consistently under pressure he’ll probably win his championships (unless the great Kevin Durant stops him). That might help redeem some of his past failures and lack of nerve on the basketball court, but he’ll have a long way to go to account for his off-the-court behavior.

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Bill Simmons on LeBron James

Miami Heat’s LeBron James speaks during a media conference for the NBA Finals basketball series against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Texas June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL HEADSHOT)

If you haven’t heard already, Bill Simmons and ESPN have launched a new website at Grantland.com. It will feature longer form articles from Simmons along with other writers, including notable scribes like Malcolm Gladwell.

There’s never a shortage of topics for someone as prolific as Simmons, but he must have been thrilled to kick off his new site immediately following the bizarre Game 4 performance by LeBron James. His first column is classic Simmons, as he analyzes the LeBron situation from every possible angle, starting with The Decision:

Fact: The Decision special drew a better rating than the 2008 Finals, became an iconic moment, turned Jim Gray into a punching bag, gave bloggers a month of free shots at ESPN and turned “Taking my talents to South Beach” into a jack-of-all-trades phrase that meant you were about to leave your job, take a dump or pleasure yourself.

I wonder how long he had that line in his pocket . . .

Anyways, he gives his overall assessment of LeBron James, and I agree with most of it:

a. I think he’s one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. I will never forget watching him in person with a full head of steam, blowing through opponents like a Pop Warner running back who’s 30 pounds heavier and three seconds faster than everyone else. I am glad he passed through my life. I will tell my grandkids that I saw him play.

b. From game to game, I think the ceiling for his performance surpasses any other basketball player ever except for Wilt and Jordan.

c. As a basketball junkie, I will never totally forgive him for spending his first eight years in the NBA without ever learning a single post-up move. That weapon would make him immortal. He doesn’t care. It’s maddening.

d. In pressure moments, he comes and goes … and when it goes, it’s gone. He starts throwing hot-potato passes, stops driving to the basket, shies away from open 3s, stands in the corner, hides as much as someone that gifted can hide on a basketball court. It started happening in Game 3, then fully manifested itself in Game 4’s stunning collapse, when he wouldn’t even consider beating DeShawn Stevenson off the dribble. Afterward, one of my closest basketball friends — someone who has been defending LeBron’s ceiling for years — finally threw up his hands and gave up. “It’s over,” he said. “Jordan never would have done THAT.” (Footnote: That’s the third time LeBron opened the door for someone to say that. The first: Game 5 of the Boston series. The second: choosing to play with Wade.)

The only part of the above I disagree with is the following: “In pressure moments, he comes and goes … and when it goes, it’s gone.” This implies that he only has epic meltdowns, but this just isn’t true. Everyone will remember Game 5 last year against Boston and Game 4 against the Mavs, but there have been countless time where LeBron has had serious lapses of judgement in critical moments. It usually involves getting careless and tossing up a senseless three at times when the team desperately needs a bucket without even trying to get into the offense, let alone setting up for a post-up move or other high-percentage shot. As a Cavs fan I saw this repeatedly, to the point where it became hard to root for the guy. Go back and watch the Cavs-Orlando series from 2009. People remember LeBron’s big three to win Game 2, but that was negated by numerous brain farts throughout the series.

I have no idea what LeBron will do tonight. As Simmons points out, he’s capable of having a legendary game, but he’s also capable of wilting under pressure. Anything is possible, and that’s why most fans can’t wait to watch . . .

The Return of LeBron: Reaction

Brian Windhorst, ESPN: Before the game several Cavs, including former friend Mo Williams, shunned James as he tried to come over to the bench to greet them. During the first half, James wandered over to talk to the bench only to have several players completely ignore him. Others, including friend Daniel Gibson, treated it like it was 2009 as they chatted James up. By the third quarter, when James was on fire and the game was getting out of hand, the only reaction came from Anderson Varejao, who swiped James’ headband off his head and tossed it aside when James was brazen enough to again step over to his favorite spot. “I really didn’t see that,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said, perhaps trying to be pragmatic on a night when his team had many other problems to examine. It is hard to believe that Scott, a veteran of the Celtics-Lakers wars, could endorse such behavior.

Terry Pluto, Cleveland.com: Cavaliers fans certainly dealt with the return of LeBron James to Cleveland with far more class than the defending Most Valuable Player handled his move to Miami. That’s a credit to this these fans and this city. It’s probably a downer to some in the national media who arrived in town for Thursday night’s game much like that ghoulish segment of fans who attend auto races hoping for a major crash. After all, we are supposed to be the land of the Great Unwashed, where people still live in caves, killing dinosaurs for dinner and then eating them with our bare hands. Beer Night, Bottlegate and general ugliness is supposed to rule in this cultural wasteland.

Israel Gutierrez, The Miami Herald: Cleveland fans got their say, taking their first chance to personally tell LeBron how betrayed they felt. And, for a while, they actually were convinced the whole “One for All. All for One” team motto actually meant something, that this Cavaliers team can survive just fine with Joey Graham trying to replace LeBron in the lineup. It didn’t take long, though, for the fans to recognize what had gotten away, that no matter how much they hate their former King, it doesn’t compare to how much they miss him. By halftime, James wasn’t quietly going about his business. He was smiling for fans with cameras as his teammates warmed up. He danced in the area just in front of the Cavs bench. And once that second half began, he was just as much toying with his former team and showing off for his former fans as he was performing for the Heat. Of his season-best 38 points, 24 came in that third quarter, tying a Heat record for points in a quarter. And LeBron loved every second of it. James left Cleveland showing no loyalty. He came back showing no regrets. Why should he? Look what he left behind.

Mike Wallace, ESPN: James’ night was through after the third quarter, so the only suspense remaining was to see how much he would hear and see from fans from his seat on the bench as the final 12 minutes of the game played out. To James’ credit, he largely ignored the chaos that started when someone threw a battery from the stands that landed right in front of the Heat’s bench. That drew a warning from the public address announcer. The battery was thrown right around the time when a man apparently tried to rush the court from one of the tunnels leading to it but was picked off by a security officer, which led to a scuffle. As the Heat’s lead grew, so did the craziness in the stands. One fan wearing a Heat jersey was showered with cups of beer in the upper deck. He didn’t duck. Instead, he basked in the beer until he was escorted out. Then came towel man. Maverick Carter, James’ business manager, left his courtside seat moments later and had to be escorted through the crowd by three bodyguards. James, meanwhile, was oblivious to his surroundings. Or at least he did a remarkable acting job. The “Delonte West” chants didn’t affect him. The “Akron Hates You” barbs didn’t make him crack. He simply sat, pointed a few times at familiar faces in the crowd and shared some inside jokes with Wade on the bench.

The Return of LeBron

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) walks up court with teammates guard Eddie House (55) and forward Chris Bosch after a time out in the second half of the opening night game against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on October 26, 2010.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

LeBron James and the Miami Heat visit Cleveland tonight (8 PM ET on TNT). Here’s a sampling of how the media is handling his return.

Pat McManamon, FanHouse: James himself could take one step to not inflaming an emotional crowd: He could bypass his usual chalk toss before the game. Shaquille O’Neal quipped that the Celtics were betting James would not do it, and James’ teammate Dwyane Wade said he would. Wisdom might dictate he take a pass, this time… James can come out a winner if he plays well and Miami wins. If the Heat dominate, they could even silence the crowd. A little. The Cavs could come out winners if they win the game. They’re supposed to lose, but if they give their city and fans an emotional victory it would be briefly uplifting to a beleaguered area. The one entity that can lose the most, though, would be the city of Cleveland. And that would happen if a fan goes past the boundaries that are established and embarrasses the city. Cleveland’s weather was gray and cold Wednesday, about the same as its economic mood. Embarrassment on national TV Thursday night would hurt more, and it only takes one person. Cleveland has a choice how it wants to handle the situation. Its fans have the choice how they want to be remembered. Expressing emotion is one thing, exacting revenge foolishly would only mean the fans are putting themselves beneath the level James took with his “decision.” And they drag a city down with them.

Joe Posnanski, SI.com: I guess this is the part that surprises me: The Miami Heat are boring. I didn’t expect that. When LeBron announced that he would join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, I did not know exactly what to expect, but I expected something electrifying. Maybe the Heat would be great, a new kind of superpower, designed by three players who decided it might be kinda fun to get together and change the world. Maybe the Heat would spectacularly crash into themselves like a black hole of egos. Maybe the Heat would come together to give us a kind of basketball we only see in the rarest of moments, like when Michael Jordan’s Bulls were at their height or when the various Dream Teams played at their most inspired. The possibilities seemed endless. And, I don’t know, for me, the possibilities no longer seem endless. The Heat play boring basketball. They win games in a boring fashion and lose them in boring ways. They have no inside presence. They do not move the ball around well. They generally beat bad teams. They generally lose to good ones. They play pretty well at home. They play pretty lousy on the road. They may yet come together, but I don’t think it’s inevitable, and I don’t think it’s even likely. James and Wade are great players, two of the five best in the world, and the expectation is that they would make magic together. But it turns out that they are the same kind of player, and when they are on the floor together, the result is less magic and more like a dance-off.

Andrew Sharp, SB Nation: What LeBron did this year, though… All of this has actually happened. No embellishment necessary. His blatant disappearing act against the Celtics in this year’s playoffs. Then the press conference after that game, where he blamed himself—not for playing poorly, but for playing so well in other games that he’d “spoiled” us and created unrealistic expectations among fans and media. A few weeks later, there was the media tour during the NBA Finals, when, while Kobe Bryant chased his fifth ring, LeBron met with Larry King. And of course, the free agency whirlwind and his ESPN special, which speaks for itself by now. Although as ridiculous as that spectacle seemed, everyone always forgets about the welcome party/rock concert/victory parade they held in Miami a few days afterward. Later in July, we got the outstanding LeBron-in-Vegas story from ESPN. Until, an hour after it was posted, the 2,000-word glance into his world mysteriously disappeared. As the season approached, we finally heard LeBron play the race card. Around the same time, we found out ESPN would create its own bureau dedicated to covering his new team. When he shared some of the racist messages he receives on Twitter, his attempt to play the victim came off ambiguous at best, and attention-starved at worst. Now, the Heat have stumbled to a 11-8 start before his triumphant return to Cleveland, just to ensure everyone finally understands exactly how ridiculous this charade has been all along.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Cleveland, and northern Ohio, were wronged. And LeBron James was wrong. In every regard save for wanting to play with more talented teammates. But that’s where it has to end, fans. You were wronged, no doubt about it, but it’s not time to sink to James’ level, and be wrong. Cavalier fans have the goodwill of a nation on its side, but that will only sustain with good intentions. The second that any fan turns Thursday night’s basketball game into anything more than a basketball game, that goodwill disappears, for good reason, forever. Sure, we’ll know why someone did whatever they did, but that doesn’t mean it’s to be tolerated or explained away. No matter how pathetic, narcissistic, clueless, and uncaring the heel in question is. No amount of booing will make the hurt and frustration go away for these fans, but then again no amount of anything will make that hurt and frustration go away. Get in three quick pops while Jamario Moon(notes) holds James’ hands behind his back, chuck a quarter at him after holding it over a lit lighter, or come up with the nastiest “TNT” acronym you can on a poster board. It won’t make it any better.

Dan Gilbert is “over” LeBron James…no, really, he is…

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, the man who probably wrote the most famous piece of literature in the history of the Comic Sans font, now says that he’s “over it” when it comes to LeBron James.

Per NBCSports:

“I’m over it. I really am. That’s the truth,” he said. “I let it all out in about 24 hours. I just think we have such a great core and a great coaching staff. We have a lot of opportunities with the trade exception and the draft. I feel good about this team.”

Everything LeBron/Cavs-related is under a microscope this week because the Heat visit Cleveland on Thursday evening. I’ll be tuning in just to see how the Cavs crowd reacts to their fallen hero. And with the way Miami is playing, maybe Cleveland can pull out a win.

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