LeBron James has become one of the most polarizing figures in basketball history. When it comes to views on James, the public has strong opinions. Many consider him the spoiled kid who left his hometown team in the dust to chase championships with his current Miami Heat. Others view James as the opposite. They see him as a player who never received any help as a Cleveland Cavalier and now root for him to get every ring possible in South Beach.
No matter what side of the argument one falls on it remains clear that James is on everyone’s mind.
But the obvious question is why hasn’t the hate of James subsided? It’s been almost three years since the television special announcing his intentions to leave Cleveland. Time has passed but the animosity hasn’t. James clearly has been a positive role model off the court, and he’s been spectacular on the court. “The Decision” is old news. Why must the hate continue?
As I thought about the polarization of James, it led me straight to LeBron’s basketball role model, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Jordan was the total opposite of James as he was universally loved by all. Everyone knew Jordan and most importantly everyone admired him. He was the biggest thing in basketball on and off the court.
James now finds himself as the face of the NBA. He is a living legend and already widely considered as one of the greatest basketball players ever. Why can’t LeBron seem to get that same love we gave Jordan?
Well, the answer lies in the fact that Jordan was just too good. We all remember signature Jordan moments and the epic nostalgia still remains today. Memories of Jordan remind us of greatness, and the feeling he gave the NBA world can’t be erased. Jordan’s legacy has to be protected, and this is why LeBron James will never feel that love Jordan received. It’s not James’ fault; this could have been anyone. But the love in the NBA lore belongs to Jordan.
Even the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant tried and ultimately failed to take the crown from Mike. Remember Jordan’s last year with the Bulls in 1998? It was his swan song. Through that year much was made about Jordan passing the torch to Kobe. Many were all in on Bryant, and it seemed fitting that Jordan would pass on the NBA to a new leader. Jordan gracefully bowed out and the NBA was Bryant’s.
The people loved Kobe. He quickly became one of the most popular players in the game. Things were going well, but soon Kobe began to accomplish a little too much. He start winning those little things called championships. On top of that he made Jordan’s infamous comeback with the Washington Wizards a living hell in Jordan’s final stop in L.A. Kobe proceeded to drop 40 points in the first half as Jordan helplessly looked on.
What was Kobe thinking? How dare he do the great Michael Jordan that way. Kobe had to be stopped!
Soon, the media turned on Kobe. He went from being known as the face of the NBA to a selfish ball-hog who couldn’t get along with teammates. Kobe added to the flames with his personal off the court problems. Jordan was considered at times to be a ball hog and bad teammate, but it didn’t matter. Jordan was protected, and Kobe didn’t have that luxury. So the greatness of Kobe was seemingly minimized overnight. Until this day one would think Bryant scoring 81 points in a single game was a myth.
LeBron James now finds himself walking that slippery slope that has left all men sliding and falling before they reach the great Michael Jordan. James is brilliant and maybe the most unique player the game has ever seen. It was great as long as King James was in Cleveland losing titles and choking in the playoffs, but his decision to go to Miami worried everyone. The problem wasn’t with “The Decision.” When James playfully joked he might win seven titles, the hate began. Many wondered if James might actually get that seven to pass Jordan’s six. Something had to be done! So once again, a face of the NBA turns into a super villain overnight because after all, we simply can’t have this guy threatening Jordan’s legacy.
Good luck, LeBron.
Jay Smith is a writer for RantSports.com.