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

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

About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

17 Responses to The Definitive Answer to the Hatred of LeBron

  1. Good article. The hatred and scrutiny of LeBron is perplexing. Oh! One side note, in the first paragraph you said they reached the Finals 3 times in a row. They made it 4 times which is what made it historic

  2. Chris

    To your mind which defeat was more shocking ? The Heat’s lopsided series’ loss to the Spurs or the 2004 NBA Finals when the Pistons blew out a Lakers’ team that featured Gary Payton , Karl Malone , Kobe and Shaq ?

    tophatal …………………..

  3. colickyboy says:

    Likeability in entertainment is simple: don’t do anything publicly polarizing. (Your analogy to likeability in politics doesn’t apply b/c politics is a different animal. Liberal vs conservative worldviews comes more into play with politics more than you think, even for someone like Obama who still draws very extreme likeability ratings on both ends of the scale, depending on the worldview of the person you ask.)

    Jordan didn’t do anything publicly polarizing during his career. Few knew about his womanizing habits or teammate-punching events b/c it wasn’t well known. LeBron, OTOH, did that TV spectacle for his “Decision” that showed what an egotistical, self-serving douche he is. He followed that up with the spectacularly arrogant comments in the Big Three’s intro party in Miami. I actually was a big fan of, and cheered for, LeBron in Cleveland, so I’ve not been always a LeBron hater nor was I neutral on LeBron before…in fact, quite the opposite, even though I don’t live in Cleveland…which I suppose punches a small hole in your theory.

    If LeBron had just sent a short press release saying he was signing with Miami, rather than, I dunno, hold a one-hour televised circus show that he was “taking his talents to South Beach” followed up with the other televised circus show that introduced him with arms-crossed, “easy” championship hubris, then I’m sure his likeability factor would be much higher than it currently is, even though he still left his hometown.

    I’ve also been a huge Tiger Woods fan and Lance Armstrong fan but now am an even bigger Tiger Woods hater and Lance Armstrong hater since their respective, very publicly-known, publicly polarizing episodes that reveal what arrogant douche bags these guys are.

    It’s one thing to have a private gambling problem; it’s another to tell the world in all seriousness that you’ll win 8+ championships with a 65-year-old point guard after you and your two superstar buddies teamed up.

    I liked MJ less after his HOF rant, which was publicly polarizing. But on the whole, MJ has been substantially less publicly polarizing than LeBron. And that’s why it’s so easy to hate LeBron.

  4. Willie Santana says:

    The hate on twitter is real. I think it was Damian Lillard, who posted on twitter yesterday talking about he respects LeBron for what he has to go through. I respect him as well because most of the criticism is irrational. You are right. He invited the hate by wearing #23 and etc. Some of the hate is a little too much sometimes.

  5. Hate seems to disappear when you win. LBJ is easily the most talented player in the NBA and perhaps up there with the best of all-time from a pure talent perspective. His biggest downfall isn’t really his fault. He’s SO incredible that we all want him to be like Mike, but he’s not. We want him to be the second coming, but he won’t be. He’s Lebron and he’ll have his own place in history. Just imagine the time the guy labelled “The next Lebron” is going to have in this league. He’ll get crushed for everything that he does too.

    Great post.

  6. danzimmer1 says:

    great article. Great use of social media as evidence of your point. I enjoyed reading and followed your blog. Thanks for the comment on mine.

  7. Rachel says:

    I think we’ll appreciate LeBron more in 10, 20 years. But now, he’ll never have that “it” factor that MJ had.

  8. America does love Paul Rudd. Poor LeBron though. Don’t we want our stars to be confident? My dad was rubbed wrong by LBJ “colluding” with his buddies to join forces. I think he had to do something though because Cleveland wasn’t doing enough. Maybe he should have had more patience, but he already had such huge expectations and no one can say these last four years hasn’t been a success. Wade, maybe he was hurt, or maybe the heat just ran into the best team in basketball history. Either way the heat have been flawed throughout this era. They have been able to cover it up with great athleticism and defensive schemes. Being in the east is beneficial and they probably won’t have to change much to be right back in the finals but LeBron did seem a little worried about his future during the post game presser. I think he never expected to lose and was legitimately shocked. Pat Riley (emperor palpatine) will find a way to get younger or convince wade and bosh to take significantly less money to add another star to the evil empire. The one problem I see is wade though, having that player option that can restrict their ability to add pieces. I think lebron will carry his hobbled ass one more year and delay this “decision” until next year after Carmelo and the bulls take them out in the ECF

  9. its Jeff says:

    As a Knicks fan I once hated the Miami Heat. That team was our biggest rival for a number of years. If Bron was on the club during that time span I’d undoubtedly despise him as much as I hated a Tim Hardaway, a Reggie Miller…Hardaway ran the rival, Reggie dismantled the Knicks D when it was great….so with that in mind, I NEVER liked Jordan. Call me blasphemous, but he was what stood in the way of Ewing, Oakley and company getting a ring (OK, so was Olajuwon and the definition of brick performed by Starks, along with a rookie Tim Duncan).

    The Knicks weren’t a non contender this year because of James, and other than his questionable decision that placed him alongside a star and a half (Bosh, a mere 3-point shooter now, may have dropped below a half), so I’ve never disliked him, LBJ. Yes, LeBron explodes at the Garden. But even Rajon Rondo scores at MSG (and hits all his free throws!).

    So all in all I’d say that’s my reasoning. Since the day I saw the Sports Illustrated with the high school junior on the cover, I somewhat admired LeBron. And as (not) often I got to watch him in the finals over the last few years because of working at night and a now 20-month old son (we’re currently watching Curious George), I’d select him as the most entertaining player to watch any day.

    Add in his similarities to Jay-Z (my favorite artist), the fact one of my (semi-) idols is from Akron and that he’s pretty much my age, and I can’t foresee disliking him, the King, anytime soon.

  10. akositrebs says:

    I liked your point that Lebron is just not likeable, and He is just a tremendously gifted basketball player. 🙂 good point! very good point! that’s why to my point of view, he is just the next AI, Tmac and VInce Carter, some of the most tremendously gifted basketball players.

    Ayways, I just realized, the timing of losing a finals match and his expiring contract are perfect! The Decision 2.0 is going to happen anytime soon after the draft! 🙂

  11. yusuf says:

    Very well written Chris ,and very informative! I often say Micheal Jordan will be the most beloved athlete and Lebron will be the most hated!

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