Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ten Reasons Why It's OK To Not Like LeBron James

Yes, It's OK To Hate This
This appeared in my Twitter feed during Game Two.

‏@SI_ PeterKing
This comes from a non-NBA person. But I can’t see how anyone in his/her right mind can be down on LeBron. Fabulous player/competitor.

My first reaction was, well, it's a free country. Hate who you want to hate, and the idea that you should not is just elitist sports writer speak, rather than coming from anyone who might do something so down market as to root for a team, and bear grudges against a superstar from another team. Also, that fabulous competitors are rife, and usually don't come with otherworldly physical gifts.

But there's more to it with James.

So, as a very NBA person, speaking to a blog audience that frequently isn't, let's break it down.

10) He's ended your team, probably many times over.

The man has gone to the Finals from the lEast for the past five years. If you have the temerity to root for laundry that isn't Cleveland or Miami, he's probably ended your season, maybe more than once. He's also done that to a wide number of big markets -- Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia,  DC, etc. It's OK to hate the guys that end your dreams, honestly, it is. Screw national sports writers.

9) His game is impossible to officiate, so every game becomes a referendum on the refs, and that's just tiresome.

In Game Two, the post-game was all about how Andre Iguodala got away with murder, how the Dubs got home cooking on three separate big calls in the fourth quarter and overtime, and how smaller guys would have gotten flagrant calls for the acts perpetrated against James.

Meanwhile, the man's very existence in the lane is nearly always accompanied by a clearing elbow, he blocks shots, rebounds and defends without ever taking real bench minutes and somehow never gets in foul trouble, and he also gets the benefit of the doubt on three-second lane violations and eight-second halfcourt walk-ups.

You can make the case, like Shaq and Kareem and Magic and Moses Malone and so many others, that James is just beyond the rule book, because no one knows how to apply it to someone this big, this fast, and with a perimeter game to go with his block work. You would also be right.

8)  James makes it nearly impossible to determine the relative quality of his teammates.

Is Matthew Dellevedova a quality backup PG with defensive tenacity, or just a guy who can hit open jumpers (nearly every guard in the NBA can hit open jumpers) who can gamble on every possession, because James has his back for a chasedown bock? Repeat the exercise with every other Cav. I think they'd be lucky to be a .500 team without him, but since James is almost never hurt, it's damned near impossible to know. And irritating, too. I like to think that I know stuff about this game, dammit.

7) He degrades the aesthetic appeal of the game.

Walk it up, milk the clock, shoot without passing. It's a defensible strategy, since the Cavs are bereft of trustworthy ballhandlers following the Kyrie Irving injury, the slow offensive set makes the double come and improve the Cavs' chances for o-boards, and it allows James to conserve his energy. But Jebus, it is *UGLY*, and it allows casual observers to think that NBA teams don't run plays, don't work like hell to set up those plays, and that there is fantastic complexity, dance and beauty in the game. James walks ball up. James shoots. The best player of his generation, treating hoop like it's 1 on 5 iso ball from the 1980s, ignoring 30 years of Steve Nash and the Spurs and so on, and so on. GAHHH.

6) James should never be mic'ed up, and always is.

This is petty and speaks more to the networks than James, but man alive, this is not a guy I ever need to hear talk again. There may be no more serial user of cliches in the league, especially as he's gotten older and learned how to play the media game. As a base rule of thumb, athletes should be seen and not heard, and for James, many times over.

5) By staying in the lEast for his entire career, he's helped to perpetuate tanking.

Take a look at the teams that have been most cited for tanking, and they are nearly all in the lEast. With James never taking his talents West, the underclass has more or less seen fit to just pack it in and wait for the man to get old, rather than risk direct combat for an early round playoff exit. It's also helped to keep the nation's focus on clearly inferior ball. (And yes, clearly inferior is correct. 12 of the 15 All-NBA First, Second and Third team players were in the West, with only James, Irving and West emigre Pau Gasol making the cut this year.)

4) He's freaking everywhere.

I try not to hold an athlete's commercial endorsements against him, but man alive, James is banking so much from Corporate A-List, it makes you wonder if he's got a secret family or twelve on the payroll. Honestly, it's OK to say no sometimes, big man.

3) He's inefficient.

Especially in these playoffs, where the 3-point shot has been AWOL, James should be killing teams in the post, rather than dribbling off clock on the perimeter and hoisting away. Had he ever developed any of the James Harden Jedi Foul Tricks, he could be keeping opponents from having the wherewithal to intentionally foul, and it's not as if he's bad at the line. It's amazing to say this of a guy who's playing at historic levels, but Peak LeBron is a facilitator, not an isolation jump shooter... which makes it hard even when you are rooting for him. (For the record, I've rooted for him more often than not, because Celtic Hate is the strongest Hate there is. But I digress.)

2) It's OK to not care about Cleveland's cursed ways.

I root for teams that, collectively, haven't won a championship in 26 years (MLB, A's), 32 years (NBA, Sixers) and 55 years (NFL, Eagles). Once you get past a decade or two, or have rooted for enough close calls, hearing about the woes of some other city is just noise and Not Game. I don't have anything against the good people of Cleveland, but I don't have anything for them, either.

1) Nobody loves Goliath.

Wilt Chamberlain's great quote is still true today, and while it's far from accurate to just credit James' freakish size and athleticism for his success as a player, it is what it is. He may work just as hard as lesser talents, but it will never seem that way, because he's just been so absurdly blessed. Short of a troublesome hairline, there's precious little evidence that James is even getting older, let alone troubled by anything so mundane as fatigue. It all just looks easy to him, like he's never had to work to get this good. Unless you're from Krypton, it's OK to not want to root for that, either.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule