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Unraveling the hatred of LeBron James and the Miami Heat

Sep 25, 2010, 9:00 AM EDT

lebron_james_miami_heat.jpgThe Heat have new fans coming out of the woodwork, but the massive backlash against the assemblage of talent in Miami has been absolutely impressive.

It’s understandable that people would disapprove of LeBron James’ decision to ditch his “hometown” Cleveland Cavaliers for another team. It’s even more understandable that people would be opposed to the way in which he announced his decision; LeBron’s televised special was the epitomical act of celebrity athlete masturbation, and it should be understood that sports fans of all walks will likely resent that kind of self-congratulatory display.

Still, regardless of pomp or intention, LeBron James (as well as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, for that matter) engaged in what would under normal circumstances be considered an act of athletic heroism: sacrifice.

I’m not saying any of the three should be pitied, but each player chose to give up their touches, give up money, slash their chances to win individual awards, and in the eyes of some, compromise their own legacies in the sake of something greater. Individual sacrifice for the sake of winning a championship is supposed to translate as nobility for professional athletes, and yet for these three (but LeBron, first and foremost) it’s been discussed as a sign of weakness.

There should be separate reactions to each component of LeBron’s summer, yet rather than treat both LeBron’s decision and his Decision as separate entities, plenty of basketball fans and scribes alike have thrown all of their feelings concerning all things LeBron into a blender. He’s a fool. An egoist. And apparently, as much a sinner in the basketball world as he is in the public relations one. It’s all very jumbled, even if it shouldn’t be.

What is it that makes the pieces of the LeBron narrative so difficult to extricate from one another? I’m not exactly sure, and judging by Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem’s response during an interview with the Joe Rose Show on WQAM in Miami (via Sports Radio Interviews), I’m not sure he is either:

“It’s unfortunate because in today’s society athletes get criticized for being so selfish and wanting all the money and going to a bad team just to take more money and things like that. Here you have the exact opposite where you have guys sacrifice money to go to a good team and put something together where they can win multiple championships for years to come and people still complain. For me I guess you just can’t make people happy so you have to make yourself happy.”

Naturally, the actions of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were self-motivated. They chose to, as Haslem noted, do what made them happy. That, in itself, doesn’t make them “selfish,” or deserving of ire. It also doesn’t mean that those three players made a poor decision this summer by opting to compete with rather than against each other. It just means that all three are apparently in tune with the exact thing sports fans demand that they value. All three may be showered in glitz along the way, but they’re still united with basketball success in mind.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike LeBron James or the Miami Heat, but the circumstances that brought the two together aren’t a valid excuse to do either.

  1. wayne crimi - Sep 25, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    I think what’s missing is that people want their sports heroes to be competitive warriors.
    They don’t remember Ali because of all the bums he beat early in his career. They remember him for Liston, Frazier, Foreman, and Norton.
    What people want to see is the greatest players/teams give everything they have to improve and become great and then meet each other and give everything they have to secure the victory. The the championship feels glorious.
    This smells like a stacked deck.
    It’s not Goliath vs. Goliath.
    It’s Goliath joining forces with his two older bigger brothers to take another shot at David. It simply smells.

  2. LDR4 - Sep 25, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    You failed to address the concern of many fans, myself included, that the parity that is “supposed” it exist at some level in professional sports completely became void by this deal. Yes, we all feel that LeBron is immature but it is hardly a sacrifice to be awarded millions of income tax free dollars. A growing concern is that the “haves” of the league are growing more powerful while, despite the draft, the “have nots” will nary get the attention of the media and reach the spotlight of the playoffs.

  3. JM - Sep 25, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    A few points:
    1) Because of the salary cap and lack of state income tax, the money LeBron gave up to go to Miami was pretty marginal. From his perspective, he might have thought that he would make even more in endorsements as a multiple championship winner. If there were no salary cap, he and Wade and Bosh could be paid their true worth — I’ve seen estimates in the $35 million per year range for LeBron — and the sacrifice required to team up would become much more meaningful.
    2) Is it such a sacrifice to give up touches? Another way to look at it is he gave up the onerous requirement of being his team’s entire offense. I can understand why he would want a less taxing role, but it’s not really a sacrifice.
    3) Winning isn’t everything — how you win matters. Washed out stars who sign for less to ride the pine on a championship contender, just to get a ring, are rightly mocked. LeBron may win more rings in Miami, but any rings he won in Cleveland would have meant much more as an individual achievement.
    I agree we should probably just accept this as the new reality, but, come on, LeBron had plenty to gain from going to Miami.

  4. PATTI - Sep 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I think too much is being made of all of this. When and where did we get the right to make choices for someone else, and when did our approval or criticism of those choices become so important? There is only My Business and None of My Business.
    Lebron made HIS CHOICE and you have YOUR CHOICE to follow him, root for him or not. I choose to root for him.

  5. Holmes - Sep 25, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    What many people still miss or refuse to acknowledge is LeBron going on ESPN the way he did contributes to 80-90% of the hatred and raw emotion. He publicly defecated on himself in a historic way.
    I was a HUGE LeBron fan and defended him against haters up until the TV special. But that event was so over the top that I’ve even given up on him. If he had tweeted, announced via web, had a regular press conference or announced his decision in a sane manner, I would still be a big fan. He had a right to choose whatever team he wanted and choosing to play with Wade and Bosh is fine by me.
    But LeBron’s stupid fiasco on national television will forever soil his reputation and he can blame nobody but himself. One of these days maybe LeBron will grow up and start listening to someone besides a novice like Maverick Carter.

  6. Harris - Sep 25, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    if lebron’s ego were that big, he would have played in NY or Chi. Instead, he teamed up with one of the top 4 players in the NBA. Again, if his ego were that big, why would be play with D-Wade> Lebron was just sick of doing all of the work night in and night out. The same could be said for D-Wade. You can hate him for the “decision,” but you cannot hate him for his decision. Either way, people were going to criticize him

  7. jwhite - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    The task lying ahead of them in Miami is what will decide the ultimate fate of this decision. *IF* they win a championship. Remember that it hasn’t happened yet. There are too variables and three very egotistical personalities there. They can smiley-gladhand and act like brothers all they want during the off-season but in the heat of competition, they could very well self-destruct and not mesh well when pressured. When they hit the hardwood and start piling up wins toward the playoffs, then I’ll start to take notice. Until then, it’s business as usual. Only time will tell.

  8. Holmes - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    You are correct, criticism would come whatever he decided. But LeBron’s ego overruled sense and he went on national TV. That’s why the EXTENT of the vitriol against him is so high.
    LeBron was going to be criticized whatever he did. But he is responsible for transforming himself from an adored NBA player to such an object of hatred. And ego was indeed responsible.

  9. Steve - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    I agree with Patti …people are making too much out of this. If any of us were offered a better job at a different company that fit our needs and desires …we would jump on it. We would also care less what others thought. James and Bosh are no different. They made thier choices for themselves as it is their right too. As far as them leaving anything on the table or sacrifices …I don’t buy that either. Their statistics will be just as good if not better than before as it will be easier for them and the most important stat may be championships anyways. I am not sure the formula is there just yet for that. I believe they might still be missing a piece or two. Finally, the compensation that people think they left behind …well, I guarantee they will make twice as much in endorsements …especially if they can win a championship or two.

  10. Andrew - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    Really its not that he or any of them decided to go to one team (though its upsetting for various reasons discussed), but the whole thing in my opinion was one big charade from day one…Lebron, and all of them knew exactly what team they were going to play on since day 1…if they knew that, which seems pretty clear now they did, then why drag it on so long, why pretend like they may go to different teams…I think thats what upset so many in so many cities, is that Lebron and them played the fans like they were fools, had them following their every move in anticipation hoping they might come to their team, when the truth is they never had any intention…just like his “decision” was designed for more publicity for him, the entire charade they played for weeks leading up to the “decision” was also used to get themselves more publicity. I think thats what is most upsetting, is that they treated the public like idiots, thinking they were smarter then everyone else…ive heard people say they were just trying to be nice and give other teams interviews just to respect them, but if they really had zero intentions, then they really disrespected these teams and their cities, and the fans.

  11. tpack - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    That radio show is on the money come on now you got people like joe johnson who take 119 million 6 yr deal and no one cares??? How about the amare deal ya know 5yr 100 mil no one cares?? Let me break it down to you amare will fail in the knicks they will not be anything higher than the 7th seed in the east and as for joe johnson he will ge them to the playoffs and get eliminated in the 2nd round..What people dont understand is Lebron is selfish for taking a pay cut and putting aside his ego to play with dwyane wade and chris bosh hmmm that sounds unselfish he did this to win multiple rings remember that cavaliers were goin nowhere their big move was an old shaq that couldnt play and antwan washed up jamison Lebron made the right move!!! Oooh and remember this Magic Johnson never won without Kareem abdul Jabbar and James Worthy(Top 50 greatest players all time) Larry Bird never won without Kevin Mchale and Robert Parrish(Top 50 greatest players of all time) and Michael Jordan never won anything except for individual accomplishments without Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman!!!!!!!

  12. Ron_Jeremy II - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    Lebron’s response to the critics should go as follows;
    The Business
    In Line of Business
    Is To Mind Your Business
    But If You Don’t Have A Business
    Then Make It Your Business
    To Leave My Business Alone!

  13. Joe - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    It cracked me up that people like Charles Barkley was dissing all of them for not wanting to “compete”. I guess Charles conveninetly forgot that when it came down to trying to win a ring, he went running first to Phoenix then Houston in search of one.
    As far as “The Decision”, poor choice on LeBron’s part. What people don’t realize is that he is incredibly naive about such things. One thing he got right was getting away from Dan Gilbert, who showed his true colors once the cat was out of the bag.
    I think that once Miami starts playing, all will be forgiven once fans get to see how those three will mesh on the court.

  14. Average Joe - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    It cracked me up that people like Charles Barkley was dissing all of them for not wanting to “compete”. I guess Charles conveniently forgot that when it came down to trying to win a ring, he went running first to Phoenix then Houston in search of one.
    As far as “The Decision”, poor choice on LeBron’s part. What people don’t realize is that he is incredibly naive about such things. One thing he got right was getting away from Dan Gilbert, who showed his true colors once the cat was out of the bag.
    I think that once Miami starts playing, all will be forgiven once fans get to see how those three will mesh on the court.

  15. Anonymous - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    As Vince Lombardi said, Winning isn’t everything. Its the only thing

  16. Hobo - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    What I think a lot of people are missing is LaBron was selling a bill of goods as “King James”, the next great…who ever, and a lot of people of bought into that idea. When LaBron walked away from Cleveland, he walked away from all that and the people who believed in him. The king is dead. Jordan didn’t walk from Chicago, even when they didn’t have a team around him. He waited, played his game, and the team came, and so did the championships. Kobe (post shaq)played on miserable teams,threatened to walk, but is still a laker and won his championships. LaBron quit. That’s what sets him aside. He quit and didn’t fight through the hard times and lessons to become the champion that everyone though he would be. So his whole LaBron kingdom feels let down, and everyone who didn’t like his ego from the start have something else to point at.

  17. steph - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    What you fail to realize is all the other great players in the past have had great players to play with. If he would have joined Boston or LA, I would be right there with you, but he is joining a team that is being built from scratch one and two, won 47 games last year good for 6th place. When Bosh didn’t join Cleveland and they couldn’t pull the trigger for Stoudamire the hand writing was on the wall.
    You say parity? But the biggest and most watched basketball came in the 80′ and 90′s when all the stars played together. There were about 5-6 great teams and a lot of mediocre teams…
    Bottom line, it’s not a stocked team they can be beaten, but any fan of LA or NY or Boston shouldn’t be talking. They have been getting other teams best players for 40 years!

  18. Badu - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    Guys be a basket ball Fan not a basketball player Fan
    think about that!!

  19. MICHAEL - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    i agree its simple they made their decison now lets move on the players before have a right to say what they want and those player if they did not brake any nba rule then that cool too. im rooting for them and let the chips fall where they may god bless them

  20. Allthewaylive - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Cleveland’s business community, and the state of Ohio were making more money from Lebron’s talent than he was. I understand their selfish anger at him leaving–business won’t be THAT good anymore. Why anyone who wasn’t a fan of Cleveland/Ohio sports teams gives a damn about how LeBron conducts legitimate business, is beyond me! There has to be another reason for the backlash against him and his new teammates. Wonder what it could be? I’ll bet it has something to do with the perception(in this Country) about who can conduct business for themselves, and who should be allowed to think and act in their own best interest as opposed to subjugating themselves to the “Boss”! Move on people—it’s done already…

  21. steph - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    Do you realize Michael complained just like Kobe did about getting better players around him. He didn’t leave because he was in the beginning of his contract! Kobe complained and threatened to leave two or three times and that was when he was under contract! Magic threatened to return to school if the bulls got the first pick, so I could care less what he had to say! What people have to remember is this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time a great player leaves one team and joins another. Ever hear of Moses Malone? How about Earl Monroe?? Moses was a two time nba mvp who joined a loaded philly team (Doctor J., Mo Cheeks & Andrew Toney), did anyone complain?? How about Earl Monroe joining the Knicks who already had Clyde Frazier, Willis Reed & Bill Bradley?? No your history it always repeats itself…

  22. Frank Zappa - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    lebron is a devil worshipper…number 6 is for his god, who is Satan…

  23. Anonymous - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    “but each player chose to give up their touches, give up money,”
    Seriously? Exactly how much did each “sacrifice”? I’m not even talking about the tax situation; they’re all close enough to max-contract it’s silly to say otherwise.

  24. Charlie - Sep 25, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    First of all the NBA has the least parity in all of sports. People complain about baseball but they have had way more different champs since 1980. The NBA since 1980 lets do the math, Bulls (6), Lakers (10), Celtics(4), Pistons (3), Spurs (4), Rockets (2), Sixers (1), Heat (1). Only 8 teams have won the championship in 30 years. And lets not forget when the Celts won like 11 out of 13. So its all a scam, its all about who has the 1-2 superstars. I think the refs stink and have way to much say in a game ie, Divac getting 4 fouls against Shaq in game 7 after the first half. So to whine about Lebron, Wade and Bosh is just sour grapes. Its nothing new. The NBA is the most boring league because the only team that has one in the last 30 years is the Pistons, otherwise its all about the superstars. They get the calls and to me its a big fix!!! NBA SUCKS!!!

  25. Anonymous - Sep 25, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Cleveland is no doubt a huge dump. Lebron made the right decision. Everybody is hating on Miami, Lebron, and the Heat. This team is going to be unbelievable to watch and suprisingly good on defense.

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