I can’t call myself an NBA fan. More of a casual observer at this point. That’s the result of growing up in the era during Michael Jordan’s reign. Here in Chicago, every regular season game was must-see-TV. Deep playoff runs were a sure thing. NBA Title celebrations became the norm. Being a Bulls fan in the 90s was a beautiful experience.
Jordan’s second retirement and the 1998 NBA Lockout severely dampened my interest in the NBA. My NBA addiction was replaced by a new focus on the game of football. That year, rookie Randy Moss burst onto the scene with the Minnesota Vikings, torching the league with a combination of size and speed that hadn’t been seen before. I got caught up rooting against Brett Favre and the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. As a Chicagoan, I felt it was my duty. Witnessing John Elway carry the Denver Broncos past the hated Packers on the way to his first Super Bowl trophy cemented my NFL fandom. I’d found a new addiction.
Tonight, LeBron James has an opportunity to close out the 2012 NBA Finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder and claim his first championship ring. The coronation of King James will be complete. The NBA media will be allowed to overanalyze and endlessly dissect another superstar of its choosing.
(Kevin Durant – have a seat right over here.)
Since he entered the league in 2003, LeBron has been touted as the next Jordan – the next NBA superstar to lead his team to multiple titles and create a dynasty of himself. That mission remains a work in progress. This has lead to much scrutiny from the NBA media for the supposed “Chosen One”. He had yet to perform up to their standards in the role they had cast him.
Spurning the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010 national television lead to the vilification of LeBron by the media. At that time and throughout the 2010-2011 NBA season, you’d rarely go a day without a story slamming LeBron for “The Decision” and the celebration the Miami Heat’s “Big 3” had before they had even played a game. LeBron’s performance in the 2011 Finals brought about even more derision. LeBron lacked “the clutch gene”. LeBron is too passive. LeBron is mentally incapable of leading his team to a title. LeBron James had become the most hated figure within sports media.
Fast forward a year later – LeBron James has been essentially unstoppable this postseason. His showing during this year’s playoffs has forced the media to change its tune.
Moke Hamilton of SheridanHoops.com writes “It’s time for us to collectively forgive LeBron James and turn the page on the Summer of 2010. As difficult as it may be, win or lose, it’s time to tip your cap.”
Rick Reilly (widely panned as one of the absolute worst writers in sports media, check Deadspin.com) adds that “People — enough. This whole “Crown or Drown” thinking on James has to stop. Grown men are actually strapping microphones to their ties and saying that if James doesn’t win the title, the Heat ought to be broken up … It took Michelangelo four years to paint the Sistine Chapel. You people would’ve fired him in two?”
First, he was their king. They then turned on him for not playing the way they thought he should. They rebuked their Chosen One for how he left Cleveland. Now, the same people who crapped all over LeBron want us to respect, love, and cherish what he’s doing on the court. I’m sick of the narratives being forced upon us. I’m tired of being told how to think, how to feel.
I’ve watched a lot of his games over the last decade. LeBron is the most physically gifted athlete I have ever had the privilege of watching. He is easily the most talented basketball player on the face of the earth. The things he is capable of doing on a court can never be dreamed of by the average player. I respect the hell out of the LeBron’s game. However, I refuse to bow down to the man now that the media has a new story to push. I recognize the greatness he exhibits – respect my right not to root for him. That doesn’t make me a “hater”. I’m just capable of forming my own opinion.
I planned on having an extensive NBA section here at W&L. However, following the NBA just isn’t as appealing as the NFL is for me. Weekly stories of who’s demanding to be traded where, who will be a free agent when, and where they plan to sign is exhaustive and uninteresting. There are sites out there that go into great detail on the intricacies and strategies of the game. Maybe next season I’ll have to dabble in presenting those. One thing is for sure – it’s going to take more than the so called King winning a title to get me fully interested in the NBA again.