Friday, June 10, 2011


The hate has gone too far.

Look, I enjoy irrationally saying that Kobe Bryant might not be as good as Clyde Drexler, but only to get a rise out of my friends who are Lakers' fans. But I know that Kobe is the second best shooting guard after Jordan. I appreciate that The Decision polarized basketball fans and gave us a team, and a player, to root against. I love the rivalry and the passion and the excitement. But the hate has officially gone too far.

First of all, LeBron is not who we wanted him to be, and he will not be who we want him to be. If you hated him when he first came into the league and learned to appreciate his freakish ability later (me), or if you loved him when he first came out and now hate him because of The Decision (the rest of you), or if you've hated him forever because for some reason you think Kobe Bryant is a better role model (LA fans), regardless, LBJ is not who we want him to be.

He won't be Michael. No one will. Kobe won't, LBJ won't, Durant won't, Wade won't. LeBron was never going to be the next Michael. There are only new superstars. Name one current superstar who was an exact replication of a previous legend? It doesn't happen. There are only new superstars and no one will be like MJ. But according to my Twitter feed the last few nights, if a superstar isn't the next Jordan than his career is more disappointing than the smell of freshly laid mulch on a hot summer day.

Yes, LeBron has disappointed in the post-season in the past particularly in Cleveland where it was a one man show. Yes, he has disappointed in the fourth quarter of this series against Dallas.

But what about when he basically beat Chicago all by himself? The overall #1 seed in the NBA? With the reigning MVP on the court? What about scoring 11 straight points in the fourth quarter against them to clinch a win, and eventually the series?

I'm not trying to sympathize with LeBron.

I'm not trying to sympathize with LeBron.

I wrote it twice because if you really hate LBJ you skipped over the first line cause you think I'm a empty-headed, bandwagon chasing, superstar loving, no-morals deviant with questionable integrity.

In fact, I just think the hate has gone too far. Way too far. I'd submit that Game 5 was the only game the Heat needed LeBron to take over. They won Game 1, the entire team collapsed in Game 2, and they won Game 3 (On an assist from James to Bosh for the game winner. But that doesn't count cause LeBron didn't take the shot. Just like it didn't count when Jordan passed to Steve Kerr for the game winner...right?).

In Game 4 LBJ put on a tremendous disappearing act. We heard about it all week. In the spirit of this column I will attempt a meager defense. Not that James was tired, that's a weak excuse. Not that the team didn't need him, they did. I just think Dwayne Wade was the one taking over. And if you've ever played pick-up basketball you know when one guy is hot, you get him the ball. You don't also try to also take over. It messes up the flow, it impedes what is happening. LeBron was staying out of the way.

Is anyone buying that? I'm not totally buying that, but I think that played a part in it. When you have two superstars on a team the co-mingling of their talents becomes a problem. We saw it all season and we're starting to see it again now in this series. If Wade needs the ball every possession to stay hot, how can LeBron get in a rhythm? I know...that's not a great defense either...but I'm trying here!

I blame the loss not on LeBron's disappearance, but on coach Erik Spolestra for taking Wade out to give him rest he didn't need while he was firing on all cylinders. That's like nailing a job interview then farting while shaking hands.

Game 5 was a no-win situation for LeBron. His haters were out in full force, and the only way he could dissuade them was by a stat line the reads something like: 50 points, 15 rebounds, 12 assists, AND a game winner over Dirk Nowitzki, Gheorge Muersan, Shawn Bradley, Manute Bol, and the Statue of Liberty. And even then they'd say he hated America and was a sexist for scoring on Lady Liberty and not calling her after.

Otherwise anything else was going to be a disappointment. He could score 48 and if the Heat lost it'd be LeBron's fault. If he scored 20 points and they won his haters would shout "He had a terrible game!" Unfortunately, that's not an overstatement. I know it to be true because James had a triple double last night, one of the most difficult things to do in basketball, and I STILL heard that he had an awful game.

Was it James' fault? Or was it the Mavericks shooting 68% from the 3-point line? Was it James' not scoring 40 points that lost it for them? Or was it Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Nowitzki coming up huge in the fourth quarter, at home, with all the momentum on their side that won the game for them?

Sure James only had 9 points in the first half, but the Heat had scored 57 points and were only down by 3. God forbid we make basketball a team sport.

OK, I've done enough.

Here's my point: The hate has gone too far with LeBron James, and you have to see how this series (and his career) play out before we place him among the Legends of the NBA.

To be clear: I'm rooting for the Dallas Mavericks in this series. They've earned this series the right way, building the team from within, having their superstar take his game to the next level in the playoffs, knocking off the reigning champs, and having a great coach make all the right adjustments. But all the ill-focused, irrational, and uneducated hatred towards LeBron makes me want to root for him just so all the haters will be put in their place.

I won't. But I just want you to realize the effect you're having on my sanity. Jerks.

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