Unless you missed Game 1 of the NBA Finals last week, then you know the amount of scrutiny LeBron James was under for his infamous cramping. In case you needed a recap of what that criticism looked like, just check out the trending #LeCramp on Twitter.
James is, by far, the most scrutinized American player in professional sports. His success on the court is largely overshadowed by any fault that can be exploited. And I’m not talking about by media outlets such as ESPN or FOX Sports — I’m talking about fans and observers of the game.
LeBron James is the most dominant player in American sports right now, yet he is still vilified. And for what reasoning? When you ask people why it is that they don’t like him, they can’t come up with an answer that adequately represents their disdain for the Akron native. Sure, they may go back to him leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the likes of the Miami Heat as a reasoning for such hatred. Or you may talk to one of those many others who call back to “The Decision” in which he broadcast his choice to leave the Cavaliers as a selfish act worth their loathing.
An act that was so “selfish” that it raised more than $2 million for 59 Boys & Girls Clubs around the country.
An act so “selfish” that it sent nearly half a million dollars to clubs in and around the city in which he was leaving.
An act so “selfish” that it resulted in the donation of $500,000 in computers from Hewlett-Packard and $500,000 in gear from Nike that was arranged by James himself.
In a country that is based around selfishness and personal success, James is anything but that — on and off the court. He is the ultimate teammate and well respected by those who play with and against him — admired as much for his skill as his personality.
He’s a man who married his high school sweetheart.
A man who, along with his wife, is a loving and devoted parent to his children.
A man who started with nothing as a child and has become the epitome of the “American Dream” by working for every dime he has earned.
By the very definition of the word “success”, he is a story worth celebrating. He is an advocate and role model for future generations. Yet, to us, he is despised and criticized. And for what exactly — being the best?
Our hypocrisy is astounding. As a society, we rally behind Johnny Manziel for “overcoming adversity” and succeeding in college before being drafted into the NFL. You know, a white guy coming from a rich family — major obstacles to overcome.
We continually are willing to overlook issues with athletes in order to give them a second chance. Meanwhile James has broken no laws or ruined any families, yet he is loathed by the majority of people outside of Miami. Remember how suddenly we were willing to forgive Tiger Woods for his infidelity so that we had someone to peak our PGA interest? What about how quickly we turned a blind eye to Ben Roethlisberger and his accused rapes in 2008 and 2010? Or Jason Kidd and his inability to stay sober behind the wheel of a car? The list could go on and on.
So why do we hate LeBron James? There is absolutely no valid reason.
He is a devoted husband, loving father, caring son, selfless teammate and the best player on the planet — all of which have the makings of one of the greatest success stories of our time. Yet our country hates him, America. We were more than willing to watch Ray Lewis every weekend, regardless of his questionable past, than we are James. We cry for “better role models for our children” in sports, and then when they are given to us, we tear them apart.
We have taken the man who is the absolute poster boy for everything that makes our country so great and we have turned him into a punching bag. We have taken a great ambassador for the game and nation and turned him into a joke. We have unfairly diminished a man who has done everything perfectly by the book.
Yet when was the last time you heard James cry afoul about the unwarranted hatred being spewed his direction?