The Definitive Answer to the Hatred of LeBron

LeBron James sad

It was a demise that was as quick and painless as it gets. For a team that had reached the finals for three consecutive seasons, it was like going in for surgery, being put under and waking up not being quite sure where you are or whether the doctor actually removed your tonsils. Popovich and the Machines dismantled the Miami Heat in a fashion that few could have prophesized outside of the San Antonio locker room.

As a result, the Spurs have unintentionally fueled another fun-filled calendar year of LeBron James talk show fodder. Off-season speculation of where LeBron might be headed and how it will affect his legacy. MJ vs. Kobe vs. LBJ. And Skip Bayless doing the whole Baylessian ratings whore thing.

Hours will be spent dissecting a man who plays basketball really well for a living. The impossible task of discerning how good LeBron is compared to people he will never have the opportunity to compete against. The more reasonable task of hating on LeBron or attempting to explain why the haters should stuff their one-liners in a sack will be undertaken.

However, when it comes to LeBron’s status in professional sports, there is one explanation that is rarely brought up when attempting to illustrate the reasoning behind the polarizing nature of the King. Even though it is a defining aspect of our everyday non-online, non-twitter related interactions with other humans, there is one factor that we often fail to account for when examining our sports figures.

The likeability factor.

It is a factor that is as intangible as intangibles get. Forgive me for mentioning the man twice in one post, but likeability is almost as undefinable as the intangibles that Skip Bayless drones on about.

There is no rhyme or reason to likeability. Determining likeability is instinctual. We get a feeling of how much we like someone five seconds after meeting them and go from there. First impressions can really be everything. There is often no concrete rationale for liking someone. We just do. It’s human nature that has probably evolved from the time when we were monkeys or gorillas or whatever we were way back when.

Our world is built upon likeability, especially so in the entertainment industry. Similarly to just about any personal quality we possess, it is God-given. People base careers solely off of being likeable. Paul Rudd has been doing it for years.

While professional athletes amaze us with feats of spectacular athleticism and physicality, they are nothing more than entertainers. Most of us watch sports for the same reasons that we go to the movies, see Cirque de Soleil or pay 200 bucks for Britney Spears to lip sync “Oops I did It Again” for the 1335th time in her life. We want to be entertained. An athlete’s personality may not define their livelihood in the same way that traditional entertainers do but public perception of an athlete is an inevitable consequence of the way our primitive animal brains are wired.

Consequently, athletes who are equipped with a character that is unappealing to our animal brains, for whatever variety of reasons, are subject to the cruel reality of the entertainment industry, which is that likeability has the power to trump everything.

This is where LeBron James falters. There is no way to put it other than the man is not likeable. It may be more opinion than fact but it is an opinion that is unquestionably shared by a vast majority of basketball and non-basketball fans alike. He is a tremendously gifted basketball player who is just that. A tremendously gifted basketball player.

LeBron was an ordinary basketball star before ‘The Decision’ rocked our world. The most talented player since Kobe Bryant played in a boring city (sorry, Cleveland!) and wasn’t overwhelmingly adored or despised by fans.

‘The Decision’ was the turning point in LeBron’s career, obviously. It fueled the public’s hatred of LeBron James, many of whom were indifferent to him when he was with the Cavaliers. It showed many a side of him that they didn’t know was there. ‘The Decision’ itself did not cause people to hate LeBron. Rather, it was the gateway for people to see LeBron for the type of superstar that he is. ‘The Decision’ isn’t the type of thing that likeable people do. It’s the type of thing that people who self-proclaim themselves ‘The King” and tattoo ‘Chosen1’ across their back do. No one was going to let LeBron off the hook for this one and his introduction party with partners in crime Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh confirmed that.

Once ‘The Decision’ was made, there was no coming back. The hole was dug too deep for a King who was not worshipped by his subjects. James was revered for his basketball ability alone, which left him vulnerable to the brutality of the court of public opinion. He had nothing to fall back on other than what he does with a basketball. By the time he stepped on the court though, his fate with the public had, for all intents and purposes, been decided.

Athletes become stars because of their physical abilities. The stardom develops into adoration through an unquantifiable mixture of star quality and athletic prowess.

As is the case with many star athletes, LeBron is unable to get away with his mistakes because he lacks the charm and likeability we desire in our entertainers. That is the true difference between Michael and LeBron. People can point to LeBron’s off-court joking, antics and photo-bombing all they want, but that proves nothing. LeBron was blessed with insane physical abilities but cursed with an inability to combine that with superstar charisma. Michael Jordan, however, was blessed with insane physical abilities and combines that with effortless likeability.

Michael Jordan is not a good human being. He is a notorious asshole and story after story proves that. He punched Steve Kerr in the face for disagreeing with him in practice. In his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, he unnecessarily chewed out everyone from his high school coach to the Hall of Fame itself. He’s a billionaire (according to Forbes) but, apparently, a bad tipper.

Yet, it doesn’t make any difference because he is likeable.

We like Michael Jordan. We built up, and continue to build up, his legendary status because that’s what we do to people we like. We don’t mind that he is a gambling addict. We were enthralled with his decision to take a stab at minor league baseball in favour of going for a 4th straight championship. We omit many of his past failures to support the favourable narrative of a guy we like. The man starred in Space Jam for heaven sakes.

Although Twitter may not be the greatest indicator of public sentiment, not long after the Heat’s loss in game 5, ‘Kobe 5X Champ’ was trending worldwide. Of course, another shot at LeBron’s 2 measly championship rings. Kobe Bryant is no Michael Jordan in the likeability department either but what he has done on the court has been enough to earn the public’s respect.

Throw out all the stats you have. How well or poorly LeBron plays only serves as a gauge for which a good percentage of the public uses to determine how loudly or softly they can lay it on LBJ until the next game. It doesn’t make sense that we heap endless amount of praise on Michael Jordan and find every reason to poke holes in the armour of LeBron. Too bad for LeBron that likeability is a senseless endeavour. Not everyone is going to like you nor is everyone going to hate you. The thing is, there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

There is a reason why George W. Bush served TWO, count ‘em, TWO freaking terms as President of the United States. Why Bill Clinton can get away with an affair to end all affairs.

We still cheer for Tiger Woods (who is also a bad tipper) despite the fact that he cheated on his wife a million times. Most of us don’t even know that Steve Nash cheated on his pregnant, now ex-wife with the woman who is his current girlfriend. Charles Barkley can say anything he wants about the supposed fat women of San Antonio.

We still love them (well, except for George Bush). It may be irrational but likeability is irrational. When you’re 5 years old and you go to your first day of Kindergarten without knowing a single person, you don’t gravitate to the person who becomes your best friend for the next 10 years because you have made a list of pros and cons about their worth as a human being.

It is impossible to try to make sense of it. Unfortunately for LeBron James, he does not possess the magic aura of likeability that sports fans gravitate towards. The hatred is less for LeBron James than it used to be. He’s too good of a basketball player for the 2011 level of animosity to endure.

But LeBron is once again the goat, and not the good kind of GOAT. More of the Charlie Brown kind of goat. He went to Miami to win “not 4, not 5, not 6” championships and has only come up with two in four years. That’s not good enough for someone trying to dethrone the true King of the Hill and all-around superstar.

LeBron wore the number 23 until he got to Miami. He happily invited the comparisons to Michael Jordan because he wanted to be bigger and better than MJ. Little did LBJ know that he was doomed from the very beginning. It was too late before he realized that he did not stand a chance against the larger than life expectations. The pushback was unescapable because we like Michael Jordan too much.

LeBron James. He just doesn’t have…it.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Executive of the Year

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Genius.

That’s the best way I can describe Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

What else can you say for an executive who transformed a team from coming off a 3rd straight respectable but mediocre-ceiling to championship calibre season in less than 2 years?

Daryl Morey could have done the safe thing. He could have stuck it out with the roster that he had. Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry as the core to go along with some nice young talent in Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Chase Budinger. The sky was by no means the limit but this team had playoff potential.

As he should have, Daryl Morey said “screw that”.

The NBA, or professional sports in general, are not about making the playoffs. It’s about winning championships. Even though the NBA offers very little in the way of competitive balance, being content with making the playoffs is like settling for ground beef when you can have filet mignon.

In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game!”

When so many teams are hell-bent on sneaking their way into the playoffs, Daryl Morey wasn’t having any of it. His job would have been secure if he was able to finish a 7th or 8th seed. The Western Conference is almost as tough as the MLB’s AL East division, almost.

Yet, he still decided to blow it up.

Daryl Morey was going to do it his way and he didn’t care what anyone thought of his plan.

That’s the crux of being a general manager. If you’re going to be terrible, you might as well be terrible on your own terms. Don’t be terrible by bowing down to media, fans and other voices in the front office. It’s hard enough being a GM, but it must be even more difficult if you’re not going with your instinct.

What Morey did took guts.

He didn’t blow up the team conventionally though. This wasn’t going into full tank mode as so many fans and media types (including myself) would recommend for situations such as the one the Rockets were in. He went pushed the reset button and made it work.

First, he traded an inconsistent Kyle Lowry to polar opposite GM Bryan Colangelo and the Toronto Raptors. He got a pretty much guaranteed lottery pick in return. Then, he boldly went after a questionable commodity in Jeremy Lin, stealing him away from the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. He gambled on Omer Asik. He amnestied another solid player in Luis Scola, while trading away Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and Marcus Camby to stash away a bunch of draft picks.

Most incredibly, Morey found the star player that every franchise needs. He traded some players, picks (the ones he stashed) and Kevin Martin for James Harden. Another questionable commodity, Harden was acquired to be a franchise cornerstone even though no one had any idea if he could actually be one.

Daryl Morey didn’t let that phase him. He knew he needed to make bold moves, despite the fact that every one of those decisions could have blown up in his face.

Jeremy Lin could have been more Sebastian Telfair than Mike Conley. Omer Asik could have been more Kwame Brown than Emeka Okafor. James Harden could have been more Rudy Gay than Kevin Durant.

That didn’t happen though. Daryl Morey is a genius with a rabbit’s foot and four-leaf clover in his pocket.

Whatever. You gotta be good to be lucky and lucky to be good, right?

Lucky and plucky.

He deconstructed and reconstructed an average team into a championship contender in less than 2 years. No matter what you think of Dwight Howard, he makes Houston a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

Without D-12, the Rockets made the playoffs and didn’t have a Milwaukee Bucks type exit from the first round. With Dwight Howard, the Rockets will be picked by some to win an NBA championship. Just like the Lakers!!!

Nevertheless, Morey tried something that very few GM’s would have ever even thought of, much less attempted. Although he could have very easily been kicked to the curb of the Houston Rockets training facility for a failed retool, Morey is now reaping the rewards of a sequence of events that deserves to be immortalized in a New York Times bestseller.

Whether the Rockets go the way of the Lakers or the Heat doesn’t matter because what Daryl Morey has been able to accomplish is something special. He is the real story of this never-ending Dwightmare.

All he needs now is for someone to put a ring on it.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Michael Jordan Standard

Lebron James

Lebron James is the best basketball player on the planet.

So what?

Lebron may make the right plays in crunch time but, when it comes down to it, he will never be a hero. We are a society that crave great leaders and heroes that are so few and far between. We celebrate those that can rise to the occasion against all the odds and still come out on top. It’s why we love movies like Spartacus, Gladiator and Robin Hood.

Call the Lebron haters whatever you want but you can never fault them for saying Lebron James will never be Michael Jordan or even Kobe Bryant.

Forget about the different eras and the hand-checking. Don’t give Dennis Rodman the attention he seeks, Lebron would be amazing no matter what. However, what will never change from the days of gladiators to the end of time is a person’s psyche. Very few can combine the ability for greatness with that killer instinct. It doesn’t matter what game a person is playing or how that game has evolved over the course of time. What matters in this discussion is that the mental aspect of the game will always be a constant.

Whether you are celebrating or criticizing Kobe Bryant for taking a fade-away 3-pointer while he is triple-teamed, there is no denying that those are shots Lebron James is, for the most part, unwilling to take. Whether, from a basketball analytics perspective, taking the low-percentage shot is the right or wrong thing to do in the moment, to be truly great you have to be willing to do the wrong thing sometimes.

Killer Instinct. It’s something that Lebron James does not possess to the extent that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant do.

At this point in his career, Lebron is not clutch or unclutch. He should not ever be labelled as either. The dreaded word is used far too often to define a player when most athletes fall somewhere in the meaty part of the imaginary clutch-unclutch bell curve (see Tony Romo).

Lebron can make as many clutch shots and win as many championships as he wants. It won’t change his nature and who he will always be as a person. Nothing can do that. Lebron is not a killer by trade. This is what exposes him to criticism and justifiably so. He is not a live by the sword, die by the sword kind of leader.

Fortunately for Lebron haters, to be truly great in the game of basketball, you must be a killer. Any semblance of fear or passivity won’t cut it.

Lebron supporters can thank Michael Jordan for that.

Lebron is labelled as passive by his detractors because anything less than a merciless approach is seen as weakness. There is no middle ground. As the self-proclaimed ‘King’, he is measured to a different standard. The Michael Jordan standard is a virtually impossible one for any athlete to reach yet this is how comparisons work, especially when you want to be the ‘King’. Lebron James doesn’t get compared to Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. It’s all relative.

You think it is right for Barack Obama to be held to the same standards as Joe Biden?

It isn’t all Michael Jordan’s doing though. It is from the thousands of years of human history. Stories both of fact and fiction telling us about the warriors who became legends. In these stories, it takes a special individual to be respected for not only his actions but also for who they are as a person.

Lebron James the player is widely respected. Lebron James the person is a whole other issue.

Athletes are the modern day warriors. We hold our athletes to the standards of not only past athletes but also to the legendary warriors throughout history – Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and so on. Warriors that we have heard and read about since we were children.

Real warriors don’t make excuses, don’t get tired and they definitely don’t ask their coach for a breather in game 1 of the NBA finals. As obvious as it is that a warrior may need a little assistance, real warriors don’t call their teammates out to the media or refer back to their Cleveland days to ensure everyone knows how much of a warrior they are being at that time. Real warriors don’t do the King Kong chest pound in game 4 of a 1st round sweep.

Most importantly, a real warrior’s burden should never be too much to carry. At least, in the eyes of everyone else, it should seem that way.

Lebron James may still become a legend in his own right. But a legend only because of God-given physical ability.

Not his mental ability.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Never an Idea

Bryan Colangelo

Sometimes in life, it is a good idea to go with the flow. Be spontaneous. Live in the moment. Don’t worry about what is next and just let life come to you.

Solid advice. Except, not when you’re the general manager of a professional basketball franchise.

Unfortunately for the Toronto Raptors, that’s the way Bryan Colangelo seemed to run his operation on far too many occasions.

It appeared that Bryan Colangelo’s option year would be picked up by MLSE. That is until Tom Leiweke was hired to be the President and CEO of MLSE. After keeping Colangelo in limbo, reports are that Leiweke and MLSE have decided to move the once hyped GM into a corporate, non-basketball role.

After being foolishly extended 2 years ago, Colangelo has rightly been ousted from his position.

Bryan Colangelo wasn’t simply a bad general manager. What made matters worse was that, at a certain point, it became apparent that he was more concerned with keeping his job than building a true contender.

Moves were made on the fly as players would become available. They were not based around a master plan that all GM’s should have. Colangelo lost sight of the big picture and focused more on doing things for the short-term. Moves that he hoped would finally bring the Raptors back into the playoffs. A first round post-season exit would not have phased him because, to the general public, it would have signalled steps in the right direction.

Jerry Colangelo he was not.

The most recent change Colangelo made to the roster was bringing in Rudy Gay, a supremely talented individual scorer. A player who should be able to bring the Raptors to the playoffs next season. The move was flawed from the beginning though. It was only done because the opportunity arose. Otherwise, why extend DeMar DeRozan, the poor man’s Rudy Gay?

But Colangelo could get Rudy Gay at a steal of a price. He sold high on Ed Davis, a solid power forward with a limited ceiling.

The deal on paper was fine. It made the Raptors a better team and brought excitement to the city. However, the deal cost the team much more than Ed Davis and Rudy Gay’s excessively high salary. Once again, it mortgaged the Toronto Raptors long-term future. It was, at least, another two years of mediocrity before the healing could really begin.

The brightest executive on the planet won’t be able to change that.

The past year have featured some of Colangelo’s other finest moments. First, it was trying to bring in Steve Nash with the reason being, well, no particular reason. The man who turned Bryan Colangelo from the son of Jerry Colangelo into ingenious NBA executive couldn’t do anything to save this team. Still, Colangelo tried to seal the deal and he ended up wasting 3 years and $19 million on Landry Fields.

Welp, Steve Nash did not work out so Colangelo had to improvise as he had done time after time during his tenure. He traded a 1st round pick for Kyle Lowry who was given the keys to the franchise. Keys to the franchise? Lowry couldn’t even keep his starting job.

Related: Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Kyle Lowry wasn’t able to turn the keys of the franchise the right way so Colangelo had to work his magic again. He found Rudy Gay. If he hadn’t used the “keys to the franchise” line at the Kyle Lowry-Landry Fields press conference, he certainly would have used it on Rudy Gay.

Luckily for Bryan Colangelo, Bryan Colangelo was always a fantastic salesman. If he sold Bentley’s, I would probably buy one even though it would take me 35 years to pay it off. He and former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Retardi..err Riccardi are very similar. In spite of poor decision after poor decision, they both had the ability to assure their bosses and the fans that there were greener pastures on the horizon. It allowed them to stay much longer than they should have.

If there was one person who could write a book entitled “how to keep your job as a general manager”, Bryan Colangelo would be the author. Mike Milbury and Matt Millen would even learn a thing or two from it.

A couple of weeks ago, Bryan Colangelo presented his supposed plan to Tom Leiweke and the board of directors at MLSE. I wouldn’t be surprised if Colangelo walked into the meeting with a blank piece of paper and handed it to Tom Leiweke.

From the moment when Colangelo’s attempted to convince Chris Bosh into staying in Toronto with a roster featuring Hedo Turkoglu, there has been no one direction (yes, pun intended!) that the franchise has gone. Colangelo has steered the franchise as if he had a broken compass.

His talking of the talk afforded him opportunity after opportunity. He somehow turned perennial underachieving into 7 years as the decision maker for the Toronto Raptors, which makes him the longest tenured GM in the franchise’s history.

Although the future is brighter for the Raptors sans Colangelo, the damage has already been done. Without any real idea of how he would go about creating a contender, Bryan Colagelo has the Raptors stuck in gear 3. Too good for Andrew Wiggins, not good enough to even sniff the second round of the playoffs.

A new general manager can only do so much.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

The Everyman Star

The word ‘superstar’ is thrown around a lot these days.

In game 1 of the Denver-Golden State series, Doris Burke was foolishly anointing Ty Lawson a superstar on the rise. Doris Burke was just doing what so many analysts do. Hyperbolizing the stardom of professional athletes. Those who are only well-known to fans following the particular sport and understand that athlete’s greatness within their sport.

Ty Lawson is not even a star, much less a superstar.

Heck, I would argue that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the NBA’s only two true superstars. They are the only players that have a significant reach to the public beyond those who care about basketball.

Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are stars. They will be known to the average sports fan. However, my mom is going to be utterly confused if I start a sentence involving any of those guys.

Steph Curry?

He is well be on his way to surpassing those stars and he just might be knocking on the door of legitimate superstardom. Kobe/Lebron territory and that’s no joke. Steph Curry is everything that Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are not. He has something that none of them will ever have.

He is relatable.

No, he isn’t tiny like Muggsy Bogues. But Steph Curry isn’t imposing either. He is an unintimidating 6 foot 3, 185 pounds. He went to a small school because no one thought he was good enough. He beat the odds in a Cinderella-like fashion.

His game isn’t intimidating either. He has that silky smooth jumper we all wish we had but he can’t just pull up whenever he wants. Remember, he is not 6 foot 9. He is the opposite of physically dominating. He has crazy handles but they aren’t made for an And1 street ball mix tape in a Jamal Crawford style.

Despite the fact that his Dad, Dell Curry, played in the NBA, there is no sense of entitlement or superiority. There is no gorilla chest pounding after a slam dunk in a meaningless first round series against a relatively hapless opponent.

There is passion though. Lots of it. The man is not without personality by any means. He gets pumped in a manner that doesn’t come across as smug or arrogant. He reacts to the energy of the game the way many of us probably imagine we would as well.

Steph Curry could be this generation’s Allen Iverson, except he won’t be broke at 35. He is not the same player as Allen Iverson in any sense but his appeal to fans is similar.

He is the little engine that could.

With a bum ankle, unthinkable scoop shots, rainbow 3’s and one-handed dimes, Curry carried the Golden State Warriors to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although their double-double machine David Lee was missing for most of the series, Curry was still able to step up and did so at the most opportune moments as only a superstar can.

Most importantly, Steph Curry is a joy to watch. There is more to his game for the average viewer than say, a Chris Paul. You don’t have to be a basketball person to appreciate what Curry does on a night-to-night basis.

He needs a championship calibre team though. No one becomes a superstar without championship runs. Multiple championship runs. Steph Curry could possibly be the scorer’s version of Steve Nash, who is a borderline superstar in his own right (Note: He is a superstar in Canada). Playing in a run and gun system that never fails to generate excitement, Curry already has a sidekick for years to come in fellow sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

With a guy like Curry, any franchise has the ability to build a team good enough to make a run a championships for years to come.

Without Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Jeremy Lin in the 2013 NBA playoffs, Steph Curry has become the darling of the entire league. The underdog role fits him more perfectly than, well, a glass slipper.

Steph Curry won’t be able to shake that label but that isn’t a bad thing. He will always be the little man beating the odds. As a professional athlete, it is what makes him so endearing. To think, this is just year 1 of his rise to stardom. As long as he stays healthy, he will be one of the NBA’s premier stars.

With a little bit of luck, he might be a superstar too.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

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