LeBron James is the most athletic, talented, and arguably strongest pound-for-pound player in the league today. He has the gall to take, and hit, circus-clutch shots like this (skip to 2:54)…and this (skip to :45), yet under 24 seconds in the final period, he’s a consistent no-show.
LeBron James is the “The fans’ pressure greatly affects me” poster-child. And we love it. We fans know we have the collective ability to greatly affect arguably the most powerful character in the NBA.
That’s why it’s so much fun to hate LeBron James – because it works.
*For the record, I do feel bad for LeBron. All he wants is to be loved… it’s just not working out for him.
Here’s a list of your PR moves that made me cringe:
7/8/10 – The Decision, & “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach”
How you interpret this: I’m benefiting a charity. This is a great PR move.
How the fans do: “My talents?!” ugh…and yes LeBron, you are the center of attention. I know that’s what you want. Thanks for making yourself bigger than the game.
11/30/11 – Tossing out free T-shirts at an Ohio St. basketball game
How you interpret this: I still love you guys. I’ll never forget where I came from!
How the fans do: It’s like Benedict Arnold giving out free burgers & dogs on Independence Day.
10/11/11 – Tweeting to ESPN’s John Clayton asking when NFL teams can sign free agents.
How you interpret this: The NBA is locked out, but I’m a football fan like the rest of ya!
How the fans do: Why are you worrying about football?! Don’t you care the NBA canceled the first two weeks of the season yesterday?
2/17/12 – Announcing you wouldn’t rule out going back to Cleveland
How you interpret this: I was loved in Cleveland, maybe THAT’S my key to being loved again.
How we do: LeBron… ugh just don’t say anything.
The interesting theme here is (I feel) LeBron truly thinks these aforementioned slip-ups would result in a more positive public image. However, LeBron has dug himself a PR hole so deep he can’t escape with a few pseudo-events or actions. To improve his image, he must at least play a major role in a Heat championship, and multiple times – a feat immensely difficult. I’ll talk about this more later.
And why, LeBron, do you make your twitter handle @KingJames? It comes off as self-centered to the average fan – especially the ones who love hating you.
On a random note, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Eli Manning, and Albert Pujols don’t really tweet. Do the winners naturally avoid twitter? Do great ones recognize social media as a distraction? A concentration retarder? Let me know in the comments.
Fans try to affect all superstars. The difference is the truly great ones either ignore or thrive off the hate. What happens when Kobe, Reggie, Jeter, Eli, Michael, and any other big time winners get hated on?
Kobe Bryant – He was blacklisted after his sexual assault case in 2003. Today, he’s arguably the closest player to Michael Jordan. Kobe claims he has had not rivals in his career, and I think he’s right.
Reggie Miller – No championships, but if you don’t think there was a direct correlation between pressure and performance, watch ESPN’s documentary Winning Time: Reggie vs. The New York Knicks.
Derek Jeter – Five-time World Series Champion in America’s biggest market. Non-Yankees fans have been trying to hate Jeter for 17 years, yet he continues to show he is unaffected.
Eli Manning – The biggest reason why the Gotham Giants have won their two most recent Super Bowls. Okay, you can argue defense carried them in 2007, but not in 2011.
Michael Jordan – …
LeBron has made some big mistakes in his NBA career – only some aforementioned, but his biggest mistake is one he has yet to overcome – not being himself. He wants to be Michael Jordan so badly. Choosing #23 for the first seven years of his career was LeBron’s inaugural mistake.
It showed weakness. It immediately conveyed he wanted to follow in Michael’s footsteps, not pave his own legacy.
Michael takes the final shot. He didn’t care what you thought. Reggie wanted Knicks fans to hate him – and what happened the last time he played at the Garden? Knicks fans serenaded him with respect – chanting “Reggie! Reggie!” as he left the floor. Barring a crazy steroid scandal or anything unforeseen, Derek Jeter will be cheered in his final game at Fenway Park. I guarantee it.
Fans aren’t dumb. We know who the star players are. Fans judge a player not just by physical ability, but reaction to immense pressure. LeBron has failed to show he can handle the latter.
LeBron, in your best-case-scenario form, here’s how you can become loved again:
1) Fail in Miami. Not on purpose, but if you win even one championship here then leave for Cleveland, it conveys, “Okay, I got one – I’m ready to help you guys now.” Because that’s a slap in the face.
2) Opt Out and Return to Cleveland – Prove to the fans in Cleveland you’ll give up what you went to Miami for – a shortcut to an NBA Title. That will convey, “It doesn’t mean anything if I don’t win it in Cleveland.”
3) Lead Cleveland to an NBA Title
Be The King.
But right now, where’s the killer instinct LeBron? If you don’t have it… that’s okay. Honestly. If you can’t be Michael Jordan it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person nor are you a bad basketball player. If you win in Miami congratulations – that takes hard work. However, you will never be Michael if you win in Miami. You’ll never get back Cleveland’s respect, and you can keep your twitter handle @KingJames because it won’t mean anything.
The King? I have a new one…Dwyane’s Prince.