Before I start I need to make a couple things clear, I am not a fan of LeBron James or the Miami Heat in any way, shape or form. I despise everything they do down there in South Beach. Derrick Rose is my favorite athlete hands down and I’ll argue all day how Rose will be a more accomplished player come the end of his career. But that is beside the point. For once I’m going to defend LeBron, not becuase I like him…but RESPECT him.
Back on July 8th, 2010 LeBron James shook the world (and Cleveland) and took his talents to South Beach. Leaving the Bulls, Knicks and yes the Cavs heartbroken and wondering what could’ve been. Instead he joined forces with (once a beloved Chicago Star) Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. James would go on to be named the most hated athlete in 2011. As Andy Sandberg’s spoof of Nick Cage on SNL would say, “That’s high praise.” Throughout the 2011 season everywhere he went, everytime he touched the ball, he was constatly booed. Sites like Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, LA and EVEN Houston, a place LeBron never mentioned as his possible locations let him have it. He really never took it well throughout that year, He was the new villian of the league and he still wanted to be America’s High School King. Never did it look like he was having fun during 2011, in an interview with ESPN awhile back LeBron said “I was playing to quiet the bo0s, not playing to have fun and win”. So whenever the Heat played someone you would root for whoever played them beacuse no one wanted to see 3 superstars achieve that glory. So when Dallas took out the Heat on their turf last year it was Cleveland’s way of punching LeBron back in the face by saying “You won’t win no matter what” giving James the feeling they once felt.
Things and opinions have changed since then. This year there wasn’t as much coverage on Miami as last year, the “taking my talents” joke soon died off and it seemed as if the world had forgotten about James and Co. Cleveland drafted a new upcoming superstar in Kyrie Irving which helped ease their pain. But then came Christmas Day 2011 and once again we were introduced… to the new but all too familiar LeBron James. The same one Cleveland had loved so much before. He was smiling again, while putting up an easy 35 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while dishing out dimes left and right. The old ‘Bron was back and he was better. A lot better. He was scarey good, Coaches couldn’t find a way to stop him all year long . They’d throw zones, full court presses etc. at him. Didn’t stop him. He finally figured out that his 6′ 8” 230 pound frame and his lightening quickness that rivals Rose’s was his greatest weapon. He dominated the paint all year, took fewer three’s, drove to the basket more, got to the line more often. He was evolving like all the greats did, and most of us were too busy making that cliche “takin’ my talents” joke still. This year LeBron’s game earned him the MVP, All-Pro team and so on, not his name.
This year’s playoffs you’d think James’ back would be sore the way he’s been carrying the Heat (and Wade). Even though I hate to admit it, but I think it is his year. Looks like the Heat will blow through Boston, but if this is Doc and the Boston three party’s Battle of the Bulge don’t expect them to go down looking. Then comes the Finals, if/once he gets this year. And I think he’ll play just as well as any other athlete has done that has been criticzed come crunch time (most recently was A-Rod in the ’09 WS). If James keeps playing like he owns the playground he will most likely get that 1st ring and that is why I respect him. All the stuff he has gone through and he’s only gotten better. Sure I’ll be rootin’ for OKC or the Spurs but watching James play like this is truly a treat hardly anyone will admit. And that is the greatest respect LeBron can earn from all his haters, winning a ring with basically no help from his bench and with Bosh out he only has his wingman in Wade. Even Jordan had Pippen people. Sounds a lot like why he left Cleveland and is ironic that the same situtation has come upon him in Miami.
So while these last weeks of the 2011-2012 NBA season wind down and all the nay-sayers of James post their “hatred” of the man to Facebook and Twitter, I’m gonna sit back and admire the God given gift that he possesses as well as all the hard work he has put in to be the best. And that is why he earns my respect, because every athlete like myself will do his/hers most to be the best. What’s your reason?
PS, Sorry to all Cleveland Fans out there, maybe you’ll get lucky and win the Anothny Davis sweepstakes tomorow night, and who knows does he come back in 2014?