Long Hate The King
Why does the hate for LeBron James seem the highest of any star athlete ever?
A long time ago, in a city that may be very far away, a young single mother gave birth to a baby boy. This boy, was not just any boy, he was a king. This king would save his people from damnation and misery, light up the world, start schools for the impoverished, and divide a generation of sports fan like never before. This boy, you guessed it, is LeBron Raymone James.
LeBron's upbringing though was not that of traditional royalty. His mother, Gloria James, was a single mother from the start. Only 16 at the time of LeBron's birth, she struggled to find suitable long-term work as her and her baby boy shuffled from apartment to apartment in the grittier areas of Akron, Ohio for some time before Gloria made a move that is hard for any parent, allowing her child to go live in a different home to save him from the struggles that he had become accustomed to. He moved in with a football coach in Frank Walker, and that is when the future king would find his love for basketball. For Gloria, this would not be permanent and she still played an enormous part in her childs life.
With finding basketball, this was a match made in heaven. The kid from Akron was already growing at an incredible rate and had shown a knack for sports, but basketball was a natural fit. Joining an AAU team in the 5th grade, LeBron's life would forever be changed as he joined 3 of longtime friends in Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and Dru Joyce III. Coached by Dru's father, Dru Joyce II, LeBron and this team started to run the gambit of Ohio area traveling basketball teams. National AAU success led to some heavy popularity for the group self-dubbed "Fab Four", and James announced that he and his crew would be attending St.Vincent-St.Mary, a private school in Akron. This is where we can see the first seeds of hate being sown. SVSM was a predominantly white school and didn't feature much diversity so the decision was heavily criticized as many had expected LeBron to attend the local Akron High School which featured a more diverse student body.
The negative press didn't last however as right off the bat LeBron led the team as a freshmen to an undefeated season and a state title. His sophomore year led to similar success and as his popularity grew, SVSM was forced to start having some home games at the University of Akron's Rhodes arena that sat nearly 5,500 people. Named Ohio's Mr. Basketball after this year, the national exposure for LeBron rose through the roof. His Junior and Senior seasons area already heavily noted in the 2008 documentary More Than A Game, so we don't need to cover the finer points there. The second seed of hate we can see came in the form of some senior year scandals involving gifts from a local sports memorabilia shop and a Hummer H2 gifted from his mom that she was able to finance based off of his future earnings. In the end he served a two game suspension for the gifts he received, but with every small mistake, the haters will come. He had already been branded as "The King" or "King James", so this only added to an image that would carry throughout his career, the entitled one.
So for this kid who struggled as a product of a single parent home, why do a good amount of people hate him? LeBron is easily the most polarizing athlete of our generation and is only really comparable Muhammed Ali in how people violently love or hate him. So, the question is, why do people hate LeBron James?
"People will hate you, rate you, shake you, and break you. But how strong you stand is what makes you"
So, Let's break down why there is so much hate for the Kid from Akron. I personally believe there are three overall categories we can break the hate down into.
On the court
Off the court
Perception and story
Why we hate the Player LeBron James.
Standing 6 feet 9 inches, and ranging anywhere from 245 to 280 lbs through his career, LeBron is the most physically gifted player we have seen in the NBA. He runs as fast as a point guard, he is as strong as a center, and even at 36 years old has show he can play well above the rim. But, why would we hate that? Every time someone found a crack in LeBron's armor, he made it a strength. Starting his career off the major knack was LeBron was an average or slightly below average shooter. Never shooting above 36% from the 3-point line until his second season in Miami, the old joke was to stop LeBron you just had to give him space. While the overall numbers don't reflect it, 'Bron has always been able to make the clutch three more often than miss it.
That then raises the second point of hate. He was too unselfish. Many times in the first Cleveland run, we can recall where he was blasted for not taking the final shot of the game. How dare the proverbial king pass up the last shot! It didn't matter if he was triple covered and had an open man with a good look, there are just some things you don't do as a superstar and that is be unselfish. Though he was too unselfish at times, it ended up coming off as he wasn't confident in his ability in the clutch. Another downfall of the superstar is you must always be supremely confident, hell even cocky, but don't ever show anything otherwise. Excuse my language, but it's better to be an asshole than a pussy. The narrative was just that, and he demolished it. Even though he still only has one season of 40% 3p% (2012-2013 in Miami) he shook that narratives of his shooting and clutch play in Miami. Miami was the evolution of the king. More of Prince in the first Cleveland run, we saw the most hated, but also the most dominant version of King James.
In Miami, that is when the hate was turned up to the maximum. Starting with the decision, LeBron did what no one had done before and held an ESPN special to announce his intentions in free agency, spurning the hometown Cleveland fans in the process and drawing a bullseye on his back for everyone who wasn't a south beach fan. Teaming up with the nicknamed "Big 3" he joined Dwayne Wade and added Chris Bosh. They held a party the very next day in American Airlines Arena where the famous "not one, not two, not three..." was coined. That bullseye, just got even bigger. First off, you don't leave the team that drafted you, even after years of mediocre rosters around you. Second off, he publicized this to an extreme and then had the balls to back up this newly found superteam by essentially saying they were going to run the NBA and no one could stop them.
Through the defeats and triumphs, 2014 saw LeBron return to Cleveland. All was right in the NBA. The best player in the league went to right his wrongs and win his hometown a title., and win he did. In 2016 LeBron finally brought a title to Cleveland, a city that had notably had a drought and horrendous run of sports success and luck. All was good, right? We can stop hating this once in a lifetime player. He fixed every mistake, so all should be forgiven....right? Wrong. There is still more to hate!!
Why we hate LeBron James the person
Around the time of the return to Cleveland, we saw a different side of LeBron, the social personality. In 2016, Donald Trump had just been elected president, Collin Kaepernick was a hot topic with his protesting of the National Anthem and this country was starting on what would be a social revolution and division. The country started to divide like we hadn't seen in recent history. Athletes on a mass basis started speaking up on issues such as systematic racism, police brutality and an overall corrupt system that showed a high bias against African Americans and other people of color. Incidents of fatal shootings started to make the news and LeBron started to become a face for the NBA's support of organizations such as Black Lives Matter. This, in my opinion, was the ultimate divider. In a time when the nations was drawing a defined line, LeBron took his flag and firmly cemented it. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Ever since he entered the league, LeBron has always been an activist. Starting multiple charities in the Akron, Cleveland, and Miami areas, he has for a long time given back to the community. Even in The Decision, he held it at a Boy and Girls club in order to raise awareness for the organizations. This was different, this was political. I am not here to dive into the issues, only state that LeBron has his side.
"Shut up and dribble." The statement made by FoxNews host Laura Ingraham came on the tails of criticism of President Donald Trump. This was taken as not only an attack on James, but on all athletes. Essentially, focus on sports and leave the politics to......everyone else. Contextually take it how you please, but the way it was taken by LeBron and most who agreed with him was "black athletes need to stick to sports, your voice doesn't matter in politics." It only fueled the fire that had started to get a little out of control. To the opposite point, having someone who is viewed as biased and inexperienced in the political world using their influence can be a tricky thing if not taken properly. This either made you love LeBron, or hate him. He evolved into his final form, the polarizing one. The man who you had feelings about, good or bad, you felt some type of way about King James
On the personal aspect there is one more thing I will throw in as well, and it can go either personal or professional, but that is LeBron James the actor. More importantly, the flopper. Flopping, or the act of faking how serious a foul is or that contact was made all together, has become common place in the NBA. Almost everyone does it, but when you have the most eyes on you, you become that guy. And no one has been criticized for flopping more than James. Now I do stand on this side of the distaste for Mr. James as I don't like it, but flopping has had it's place in any sport. It's playing the mental game, getting the edge in areas deemed disgraceful and bordering on cheating. So naturally, when we see this man who is bigger than most of the NBA, oversell a poke to the eye, a foul inside, or trying to draw something out of nothing all together, you have to dislike it. Why fake it, when you're already better than everyone?
Why we hate LeBron the Legend
Finally, the last point of contention, is LeBron and his career as a story. More importantly, how he has been compared to Michael Jordan from the start. That was the downfall. He was too close to Michael Jordan in greatness and time frame. Think about it. We saw LeBron first come into the spotlight in 2001. 3 years after Jordan's retirement from the Bulls (disregarding his Wizards run). Since then in every aspect of his career he has been compared to MJ. Even though they don't play the same position, have different styles of play, different personalities, and are different in more ways than they are similar. That, in it's own right, ruined LeBron from the start.
Imagine the greatest player of all time. The legend, the aura that surrounds his name, the legacy he left behind. Now, be constantly compared to that man from the time you are 16 years old. Every single time you fail, there's always someone who says "Well insert legend name would of done it better." It is something that would fold most players. High expectations will kill a mans career quicker than anything. Yet, LeBron has taken it in stride. Never once defaming Jordan, he merely carved his own path. The player I would say that most closely resembles LeBron would be a Jordan rival in Magic Johnson. None the less we compare Jordan's untarnished 6-0 record in the Finals, while looking down at the fact that LeBron has been to 10 NBA Finals, but has only won 4 times. We commend MJ for leading Bulls teams that had legendary coaching, all-star teammates, and a Hall-Of-Fame sidekick in Scottie Pippen. LeBron has had those things as well, but not constantly. Dwayne Wade, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis could be Pippen-esque in talent, but what did he have in the years without those guys? I mean, look what happened every time he left a team. Cleveland sank to the cellar of the NBA, Miami in purgatory of good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to be taken serious. As of this article, Cleveland still has yet to make the playoffs following his second departure. Sure, the Jordan Bulls imploded the second he left, but the Wizards were arguably better off without him in the long term.
Hated in Cleveland for not being able to win a title. We knew the teams around him weren't good enough help him win a title, but shame on LeBron for not being good enough to carry them. We so easily forget Jordan only won one playoff series before the arrival of Scottie Pippen, but who cares. 6-0. So he doesn't know how to win the big one? Well, he was going to learn how to win. The heel turn of the century is what boasted the most legitimate hate. Choosing Miami over Cleveland was only logical. Take a look at Miami before Bron. Dwayne Wade constantly brought teams to contender status even though the rosters didn't look as so. Pat Riley, ever the magician, seemed to make the right moves at the right time. Micky Arison was a hands off owner and wasn't a total prick. Not to mention a young and gritty coach in Erik Spoelstra looking better than Mike Brown or any Cleveland fill in. LeBron wasn't exactly supposed to stay home. But MIAMI?!?! Who would dare choose the sunny beaches, thriving nightlife and lack of a state income tax over the gloomy and doomy city of Cleveland. It was as if Hulk Hogan had dropped the leg on Randy Savage to join the NWO again. Anakin turned to the dark side as "The Chosen One" chose to be the eliminator, not savior.
In Miami, LeBron learned to win. He learned that it was ok to be hated. He let the hate fuel him. I may sound like a Sith lord here, but Miami was his true coronation as the King of basketball. 4 finals and 2 Championships saw him go from a great all-around player to a bonafide legend. Any weaknesses that were called out he fixed, the narrative of the "bad teammate" was washed away as Miami was fun....for everyone who was a Miami/LeBron fan. The rest of the league boiled over. The act of beating King James was enough to turn anyone into a folk hero. Dirk Nowitzki was a legend in the making but his biggest accomplishment was beating LeBron. Kawhi Leonard became a star by locking down LeBron in his final Miami Finals. People loved to see the King humbled, and hated the two years in between where he was a champion. After that last finals though, whispers started to spread. Where will he go after this year? Does he resign in Miami? What about the home he left? Would Dan Gilbert really welcome him back after the scathing letter he released just four years before? The answer....YES!
In Cleveland, The King came home and started the redemption tour. It turned everyone back into LeBron fans....except everyone who had supported him on behalf of the Miami Heat(Still salty, so let's just not talk about it.) Let's establish one firm fact too. There are LEBRON fans. There were Jordan-only fans too, but it was never obvious because he was a Bull most of his career and his swan song in Washington is a footnote. Jordan was a Bull. How many fans though have now three different team jerseys now though (4 if you count the Cavs complete redesign) all with the James name on the back. There will always be a finite amount of the basketball fan populous that will always straight just cheer for LeBron. There are people who have hated him all along. The middle ground has swayed back and forth though and in his second Cleveland run the middle seemed to love him. But, just as when he left the first time, the tide changed with LA.
Cleveland was for the fans. Miami was for his game and legacy. LA, is for LeBron James the individual. As his career winds down, he gets into acting, and expands his personal brand, Los Angeles has been the smart move. But no one wants to see an already great player go to a historically dominant franchise. LA had a couple of years of struggle during Kobe's twilight and after years, but it still felt that they weren't too far removed from their title years in 2009 and 2010. Then to "get" Anthony Davis (even though the Lakers gave up a shit ton to get him, and it was management not LeBron who executed the trade), LeBron was at it again. Recruiting superstar teammates in one final quest to dominate the league. There is a touch of a boost on the 2020 title win with it being during COVID and after the death of Kobe Bryant, but this past season we've seen this all come to a head. As injuries start to catch up and LeBron faces a bit of a decline (being an MVP candidate during your decline, one could wish to be so lucky), the haters grabbed their megaphones and started yelling from the rooftops. Then, within a week of this article being written, he lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career. Never mind the fact that Anthony Davis was missing, never mind his teammates around him underperformed, it was all LeBron's fault. Then add to it the early exits from the bench with time on the clock still. Notable disappointment all across his face and distancing himself from teammates (all of which are rightly hateable behaviors from a so called leader), but this was it. Sound the trumpets, LeBron is done. He's old and too injury prone (mind you he had 73 days of rest between the finals and season start), he can't lead a team (that was facing a great young team in Phoenix who was led by BFF Chris Paul who is an genius at team basketball) LeBron isn't worth the headache he creates as a social personality. LeBron has finally let his ego to his head and he is about to get comeuppance. Still, I won't defend him flopping though. Stop that shit LeBron. You're better than everyone. Act like it.
Throughout that entire roller coaster of his career, there is one sin LeBron has committed time and time again.....he isn't Michael Jordan. He never will be. No one can be. Kobe Bryant was the closest in style, personality and just overall legacy and we still have a firm space in between the two. So why is LeBron, someone who is nothing like Jordan, constantly put up next to him? Because they share the same greatness.
Why be a King, when you can be a GOAT?
Michael Jordan will forever be the player who changed basketball the most. Undisputedly, he brought basketball from a 3rd or 4th most popular sport in America, to firmly the 2nd place behind football (which only took a day of the week away from the church if that tells you how powerful football is in America). He raised the bar, created nightly highlights and wowed people like we had seen before in several athletes, but not in one. Jordan commercialized basketball, built the Nike brand and was everywhere in the 1990's. Plus, he just never quit(I mean twice in his career he technically did, but shhhhhh....6-0). Jordan was bullheaded in his approach. He was everything the American Man wanted to be. Stern, but polite. Serious, yet funny. Playful, but a pure competitor. He was a Ram truck commercial with a Hardees burger in hand while country music played in the background. Michael Jordan was a fucking MAN!! This, Ladies and Gentlemen is my summary of the LeBron hate. We hate him because he just isn't Jordan. He isn't the guy who drops 40 nightly and then hits the club or casino. He drops 25,10, and 10 then goes home to Savannah and the kids for Taco Tuesday. He didn't make a billion dollar sneaker empire, he got a billion dollar deal then decided to open up a school for kids who come from rough and impoverished backgrounds. LeBron has made the mistake of not being Sex, Drugs, and Rock'N'Roll. He is the highlight reel that plays to smooth jazz. He's a little boring. He never had a gambling scandal, multiple retirements or personal drama. He is hated for what he is passionate about. I can't even say it is his political opinion because stopping the oppression of minorities and people of color in this country shouldn't be politics. Now he has been a little chummy with China on the politics side with their well established civil rights issues so it does muddy the water a bit there. But so is Jordan, or may I remind you that Michael Jordan is a billionaire who owns a team. Michael Jordan owns a sneaker brand that makes shoes in said country of disputed civil rights issues. So in that fact, he is a bit like Mike. But we loved to see Michael create that himself and do it, not LeBron though. He isn't allowed to be like Mike unless we want him to be like Mike. Isn't hypocrisy fun boys and girls?
You don't know what you got, til it's gone.
Now, this entire article will show a heavy bias towards LeBron. To that I say, LeDuh. I was 9 years old when LeBron was drafted in his oversized vanilla suit. I saw LeBron the kid turn into King James the man. I haven't always liked him. I have loved him, I have been spurned by him, and I have had a great distaste for the man. That is why I think I have a good point of view. I know why people hate him. I know why people love him. He has sickened me, he has also made me hit my head on my ceiling jumping from my bed in pure joy and excitement. Everything the previous generation felt about Jordan, I have felt that about LeBron James. That is why I think the hate is mostly unjustified. Sure, LeBron is a flopper when he doesn't need to be. He backs China while fighting for civil rights here in the United States. He tried to trademark Taco Tuesday for gods sake like how can you be so dense?! That's been a thing for-e-ver. Though these aren't the points that are brought up. Being 4-6 in the NBA finals may be a negative but in five of those losses he was facing legendary Spurs and Warriors Teams. The loss to the Mavericks is still inexcusable in my book, but how many times are we going to bring the same excuses to the table. Michael Jordan doesn't even have to be brought up, but someone will base a whole "LeBron sucks" argument around MJ. Nevermind the 4.372 other NBA players who have registered an NBA minute that he is better than, there is one player he has been constantly compared to that will forever be his crux. The LeBron/Jordan debate is not the topic at hand. The point I am trying to make is simply this. LeBron James is the greatest basketball player most of us have seen and will see for a long time. We are approaching the twilight of his career when we should appreciate how great he has been, and still is. We never have truly as a group of fans ever actually appreciated the man as we should. That in it's own right is a tragedy. Because if Kobe taught us anything whatsoever, it is simply the same Cinderalla lyrics we quote.