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Hating LeBron James

Is the LeBron James hate overdone?

Jason Whitlock thinks so. At FoxSports.com, Whitlock writes that the way James handled The Decision made him an unlikable figure. But now, after the past few weeks, Whitlock finds himself rooting for James to succeed again. And he thinks you should, too.

James is having an amazing playoff run. It’s Michael Jordan-esque.

What’s more impressive is the way James is handling himself on and off the court. He’s humble. He’s mature. He killed the pregame powder toss for the playoffs. He hasn’t danced all year. He apologized for the way he left Cleveland. He left all the AAU crap in Cleveland.

Last summer when I was shredding James and Maverick Carter for the narcissism and the lack of class in The Decision, I wrote that their marketing firm, LRMR, needed to partner with an experienced marketing company. In April, LRMR announced a partnership with Fenway Sports Group.

Everything I wanted LeBron James to do — show remorse and grow the hell up — he did.

Reading Whitlock's column this morning, I was reminded of an exchange I had recently with my older brother. He is 31-years-old, lives in Connecticut with his wife, and is a huge Boston Celtics fan with zero ties to Cleveland. My brother is a basketball lifer. He was offered scholarships to play collegiate basketball, coached locally at the high school level, and in many ways, the sport of basketball has consumed the majority of his life.

He loves basketball with every shred of his body.

But he absolutely loathes LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet.

Why?

As my brother relayed to me a few days ago, James comes off as fake. James' mannerisms on the court and words to the media feels contrived to my brother. It seems disingenuous, the lack of celebrations and the sober postgame interviews. And for that, he hates James and the Heat "so much," he says.

I'm reminded of this conversation with my brother because he hates James for the way he's handled himself this season, but interestingly enough, this is precisely why Whitlock has let go of his personal misgivings about James. Whitlock views his outward maturity as a step in the right direction, while my brother sees it as James trying to be somebody he isn't.

It's my opinion that James finds himself in a lose-lose situation. If he celebrates gleefully after a playoff win in front of his home fans, he will be hated for it, for the same reason people hated the preseason pyrotechnics and his on-stage preening. It's childish.

If he quietly kneels at the center court in prayer and pays his respects to the Celtics organization in a postgame interview, he will be hated for it, for the same reason people hate the artificial nature of professional wrestling. It's fake.

Either way, it seems, James will offend many people. Thousands of people.

I've come to learn that people will take issue with whatever James does. If he shows an ounce of emotion, he's a narcissist. If he mutes his celebrations, he's a phony.

I don't hate James. To me, above all else, James is playing some of the best basketball I have ever seen. And as a student of basketball, I don't find James a narcissist or a phony. I find him amazing.