For those of you who pee sitting down, don’t follow basketball or simply haven’t heard, the Dallas Mavericks have won the NBA Championship. Which means the Miami Heat, and, more specifically, LeBron James, have lost it, a fact I take particular delight in. Why, you may ask? Well, because LeBron James is a coward and I’ve gained a taste for seeing karmic justice served ever since the death of Bin Laden.
For those of you not in the know, so that I might explain to you with why I dislike him, allow me to give you a summary of the career of LeBron James. LBJ began as a high school basketball phenom in Ohio, which led to the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the NBA’s perennial doormats, selecting him with the first overall pick in 2003. (I’m going to pause right here and take the time to mention that, as far as professional sports go, I’m pretty sure Cleveland is the most winless city in America. Not only that, but it’s goddamn Cleveland. Being a sports fan in that town is like going to the doctor about a nasty cough you’ve been having lately and learning it’s due to the cancer that was caused by your AIDS. There’s such a history of failure and heartbreak that no single word can cover it. It requires one of those Kraut words, like Götterdämmerung or Scheißeinmeinmut, that is actually five words mashed into one, to convey it all.)
As time passed, LeBron’s career in Cleveland seemed a runaway success. He carried the team to the postseason routinely, even their first NBA Finals berth. Sure, there were some whispers that he was a bit of a prima donna, probably playing an instrumental role in getting not one but two of his coaches fired, but, for the most part, basketball fans worldwide were enthralled by the unquestionable talent of the young man who seemed the heir apparent to Jordan’s throne. When his contract with Cleveland expired at the end of last season, the basketball universe waited to see if James would stay with his hometown team, which he had dragged out of the dirt and forged into a formidable contender, or if he would abandon them and seek his fortune elsewhere.
What followed next was one of the largest PR disasters in recent sports memory. LeBron concealed his intentions regarding the following season for months, finally announcing that he would reveal them in a live ESPN broadcast titled The Decision. Most people assumed this meant he would remain with the Cavaliers because, hey, what kind of cold-hearted fuck would use a primetime television special to defecate publicly on such a downtrodden city? The answer, it turned out, was LeBron James, who let the world (including his now-former team) know that he would be abandoning Cleveland to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami the following season.
It was the sports equivalent of a male Abercrombie model dating an average looking woman for several years. As far as she’s concerned, their relationship is in a great, healthy place, even if she’s recently heard whispers that her man is getting a little restless. “I’ll make myself better for you, more deserving of your love,” she tells him. “I’ll lose weight, I’ll get my hair done, I’ll even buy some trashy lingerie. I just want to make you so happy.”
“Okay, do all of that,” the man replies. “And, once you do, I have something special in mind for you. There’s going to be a huge dinner, to which I’m inviting your family, your friends, practically everyone in your world to. And I’m going to say something that will put an end to all these rumors you’ve been hearing.”
The woman does everything she’s promised, thinking “Oh my God, he’s going to ask me to marry him! Why else would he invite everyone to witness it?” She shows up at the dinner, dressed in the most beautiful outfit she owns, totally done up. Her chiseled, Robert-Redford-in-his-prime looking boyfriend pulls out her chair and seats her at the head of a table packed with her nearest and dearest, then, with a smile on his face, states the following: “Honey, I know there have been some rumors recently that I’ve been planning to leave you for some time, texting another woman behind your back as I made plans to jump ship to her. Well, I’d like to confirm those rumors and state that, in fact, I am leaving you for said woman, who happens to be younger and possess far larger breasts. I think you guys can handle the bill for dinner. Peace.”
And that is why I, and most of America, hate LeBron James. Not because he’s a rich black athlete who decided his own future (though I do despise athletes for being in better shape than me, rich people because I’m poor, and I’ll assume LBJ has a bigger hog than me, so that’s not earning him any points). It’s because he showed no comprehension of what role, whether or not he liked it, the public perceived him in. We saw a warrior, a leader, possessing gifts we could only dream of, a man we hoped to watch in appreciative awe as his talents one day led him past every single one of his competitors to the pinnacle of his sport. Instead, he chose to be a cog in system, discarding the tantalizing possibility of legendary individual accomplishment.
That’s not how heroes roll. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker didn’t think to himself, “Jesus, Darth Vader really kicked the shit outta me. You know how I’m going to get him? Me, Han and Chewie are gonna band together, sneak up behind him, and fire a shitton of lasers into his back until he dies in a manner so anticlimactic you kinda feel sorry for him.” Biggie didn’t conclude that Tupac was a better MC and, in order to sell more records, abandon his solo career and appear on Pac’s cuts as a “featured artist.” One day, LeBron James might realize what he has forfeited by joining the Miami Heat, and he may choose to reclaim what was once his. I for one would embrace such a classic tale of redemption, and I suspect the majority of Americans would as well. Until that time comes, however, I will be unable to root for a man who, for whatever reason, cannot accept his destiny.