By Dennis J. Freeman
Okay, America. Stop the hating. Miami Heat star LeBron James is perhaps the most hated man in sports. Outside of South Beach, the two-time NBA most valuable player has been vilified by a majority of Americans as some sort of enemy combatant.
And all because of a privilege all Americans enjoy when James decided to change his employment base. When the 26-year-old James decided to take his talents to South Beach away from the grind and freezing cold weather of Cleveland, you would have thought that James committed a crime against humanity.
Reaction from Cleveland Cavaliers fans after James made his public decision to play for the Heat, was especially out of pocket with people burning his jerseys, turning over cars and coming close to injecting a full-scale riot into the hotbed environment. Media pundits and many folks were automatically turned off by the way James made his decision, saying it was classless and in some ways disrespectful to the fans of Cleveland.
What a bunch of crock.
James turned down millions of dollars to play for the Miami Heat, now playing in the NBA Finals. He had given James seven incredible seasons, where he led Cleveland to the NBA Finals once and earned himself two MVP awards.
He achieved all of this without any real talent surrounding him. James left Cleveland because team owner Dan Gilbert never did the right thing and give his superstar a better supporting cast to play with.
Making things worse from a public relations standpoint, Gilbert turned out to be the biggest perpetrator of disdain and hate when he went to ticketholders and blasted James for his betrayal. The only thing James betrayed was not allowing his head to rule over his heart for not leaving Cleveland sooner.
Nearly a year later, the unabashed hate for James has not diminished.
And it’s becoming more and more drawn along racial lines. As I sat in my truck listening to a sports radio talk show host after Game 5 of the NBA Finals, which saw the Heat lose to the Dallas Mavericks, 112-013, for a 3-2 series deficit, the theory grows that more whites are rooting for Dallas because German star Dirk Nowitzki plays on the team.
This is unfortunate. But this is also a reality. As the world has changed, America’s views on race have not changed too much other than the fact it is done in a more subtle and more covered up way. I find it amusing that James has been labeled as a clown, arrogant and much and much worse. Then again, I am not surprised.
There a lot of people who might say the criticism that is being heaped up on James’ head have nothing to do about race. To some extent this is true. But to a much larger degree, the verbal and written castration of James has not been warranted.
The same people who are dishing out the criticism of James, which include journalists, media outlets and the regular Joe, would jump at the opportunity to improve their lives if they were given the chance to do so. To me, those people are nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites.
I think it’s ridiculous for media outlets like ESPN to go back to Cleveland to talk with residents and get their take on what James is doing during the NBA Finals. Really? I wouldn’t give a rabbit’s foot about Cleveland, which were perennial losers before James arrived. They were losers before and they have proven this past season that they’re still losers.
Whether the Heat win or lose this series, it’s time for America to get off the LeBron James hate wagon and celebrate his greatness.