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.

Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

It’s Monday, time for some contemplations. Some a bit more casual than others. Starting your work week off right, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations.

Shaq Daddy GM?

I can’t begin to tell you how ridiculous this sounds. It’s even more ridiculous that the Orlando Magic didn’t deny their reported interest in Shaquille O’Neal as their General Manager.

Being a GM is an art. It takes years to learn the ins and outs of the business. Shaq is a sideshow. He is an entertainer. Shaq also doesn’t seem like the brightest individual. Funny, yes. Smart, the jury is still out. I’m sorry that his MBA from the online University of Phoenix doesn’t convince me otherwise. General Manager’s need to be intelligent, dedicated to the craft and savvy. Shaq might be 1 for 3. Although, I’m not sure which one it is.

The desperation is simply pathetic on Orlando’s part. It’s sad to see that they would even consider pursuing an entertaining basketball superstar with ZERO experience in an NBA front office. And don’t tell me that Dwight Howard wants the guy who he allegedly stole the Superman cape from him to be his boss. I don’t think anyone can comprehend this interest on the part of the Magic but thankfully for Orlando fans, Shaq says that he has no interest in the position at this time.

High Rolling

In the latest case of high-profile athletes blowing all their money, former NFL running back Jamal Lewis filed for bankruptcy. Lewis is 3 years removed from football yet this is hardly surprising. It’s another example of a professional athlete’s inability to adjust to life without receiving big fat cheques throughout the year. I understand the temptation of money, especially when so many of these guys come from nothing then suddenly having everything. But for these ex-players to be able to go through so much money so fast is unfortunate.

Guarantees in Sports

The Rangers-Devils series is over. No player on the Rangers pulled a Mark Messier and declared his team victorious before game 6 had begun. Good call, because they lost. The thing is, what would be the point of it anyways?

Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos had an attention-grabbing title to his recent article that read “Guarantees a Thing of the Past.” The article fell flat for me though mainly because he believes that no one has the “cojones” anymore to risk their legacy like Messier did. He thinks that this generation of stars doesn’t have the courage to answer a question with the honesty and boldness of Mark Messier in 1994.

Boy, is Kypreos off the mark or what? Guarantees similar to Messier’s in ’94 are a thing of the past but not because today’s stars are unwilling to risk their legacy. It’s because guarantees have become meaningless. The Joe Namath, Mark Messier type assurances don’t happen these days because too many athletes have used the line. There is no point anymore.

With the increased media coverage, guarantees can come from anywhere. They don’t get noticed all that much anymore. It’s hardly a risk to say it in 2012. Athletes don’t even have to worry if they’re wrong because it will blow over in a very short period of time.

Patrick Ewing guaranteed a win in game 6 of 2000 Conference Final playoffs, they lost. Chad Johnson guaranteed a win over the 2-5 expansion Texans back in 2002, they lost. Anthony Smith guaranteed a Steelers win over the Patriots in 2007, they lost.

Nick Kypreos is right, guarantees are a thing of the past. But only because they are as worthless as a Nick Kypreos rookie card.

French Open Coverage

NBC has the rights to the French Open and what a nice change of pace. ESPN does a good job covering Tennis’ other majors but they miss one key ingredient – John McEnroe. He makes watching matches so pleasant. Colour commentating comes so easy to him. He doesn’t need to push personality into his all around exceptional analysis because it is already there. John McEnroe doesn’t force anything. In the booth, McEnroe is like Federer was when he was playing in his prime. It almost as if he isn’t even trying.

The Dominator

At 47, Dominik Hasek is reportedly planning a return to the NHL. The idea of Hasek attempting a comeback at his age is about as preposterous as Shaq becoming the GM of the Orlando Magic. This is a pretty minor story and probably doesn’t deserve all that much press.

However, it gets me thinking about the dominator and how, ah, dominating he was. The fascinating thing about Hasek is how great of a goaltender he was despite how sharply his style contrasts with the current NHL goaltending “stars” minus Martin Brodeur. His mask tells you everything about him. He is as old school as it gets but still was able to be a very solid goaltender into his 40’s. No butterfly, no gigantic pads, no size (he’s was listed at 6’1”, 166lbs by NHL.com).

It’s refreshing to reminisce about a goalie who played the position the way it was meant to be – with pure athleticism and instincts.

TSN 2

I know that much of my readership resides in the U.S. and writing about something exclusive to Canada won’t mean anything to you Americans. But heck, I’m going to write about it anyways.

TSN appears to be the Canadian sports station with the most money as they get the vast majority of the biggest sporting events. They get so many big events that launched a 2nd channel in 2008, TSN2, to complement their original TSN channel.

However, what TSN does with TSN2 is absolutely slimy sometimes. TSN comes with the basic cable package but TSN2 does not. However, what TSN will do on a fairly regular basis is place the bigger sporting event of the day on TSN2 while TSN is showing something on a much smaller scale. They do this in order to force people to buy the package from their TV service provider that includes TSN2. Last night, while NASCAR (not important to Canadians) played on TSN’s regular channel, game 1 of the Spurs-Thunder matchup was placed on TSN2. Their French Open coverage, which starts at 5am eastern every day, is being played on TSN2. These decisions by TSN do not affect me anymore because I now have TSN2, but I know that there must be many people in Canada who don’t happen to have the extra pocket money or have yet to change their television package to include TSN2. It’s unfair to them.

I think it’s wrong that TSN is able to have the rights to these big sporting events but play them on whichever station they choose. In my view, the purpose of a second channel is to avoid conflict if there are two major sporting events on at the same time. The purpose of that second channel is not to suck people in to purchasing your second, mostly useless, channel. TSN should have to play the more important game/match on their regular channel – the one that anyone with basic cable has.

People in Canada have and are going to continue to be missing some must see TV because TSN is willing to compromise all integrity to make a little extra cash. I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising considering this is the station that callously bought the rights to the iconic Hockey Night in Canada theme song.

Western Conference Final

San Antonio is going to lose game 2. You ask, why? This one is too easy to figure out. The Spurs are 9-0 in the playoffs, have won 19 straight games and 30 of their last 32.

Clearly, they are due for a loss.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

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Memphis Still Needs Rudy

Rudy Gay nails a game winning shot right between the eyes of Lebron James

Despite the 93-87 loss in game 2 tonight against the Spurs, the good times should still be rolling in Memphis. Going back home with the series tied at one’s with arguably the league’s best regular season team should be quite an accomplishment for a team that has never won a playoff game in franchise history.

The Grizzlies hung tough once again with the Spurs last night. No one was surprised. In fact, people were picking this upset before the series started.

The casual fan must be wondering how anyone could fathom Memphis taking a game off the Spurs much less winning the series without their franchise player in Rudy Gay. They just signed him to that fat five-year $82 million contract this past off-season. How can you beat the Spurs without your best player?

The casual fan may be asking how they’re doing it without their star but Memphis fans and those who follow the NBA closely are now questioning Memphis’ need for Rudy Gay. Memphis went 15-10 down the stretch to secure a playoff spot without their star while playing some stiff competition. They even tanked the last two games to assure themselves a matchup with the Spurs.

It’s okay Grizzly fans, not to worry because you still need Rudy Gay and his flabby contract.

The numbers don’t always tell it all. I realize that Memphis’ winning percentage down the stretch without Rudy was .600, more than 50 points better than when Gay was in the line-up. Yes, Memphis was more efficient on the offensive end, outscoring their opponents by 3.6 points per 100 possessions as opposed to 2.0 per 100. Overall, they were better statistically without Rudy Gay.

Well you know what they say, don’t ya?

Stats are for losers.

Rudy Gay may have been playing the best ball of his career this season prior to his injury, averaging 19.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and shot almost 40 percent from beyond the arc. However, that’s not why the Grizzlies need him in order to take the next step as a team.

The Grizzlies need the scoring wing player who can give you your close, late game, isolation offence. They need it as badly as Ron Artest needs his psychiatrist and it couldn’t have been more apparent in game 2.

The recent recipient of a hefty contract extension, Zach Randolph is one of the toughest guys to guard in the league. Sports Illustrated Zach Lowe went as far to say that he is “one of the league’s truly unguardable offensive players.” Nevertheless, going to Z-Bo late in games is not the easiest offense when the defence collapses and the best guy spreading the floor for your team is Shane Battier.

Look at it this way. All the best teams have a go to scorer who can get their offence at will. Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Wade and Lebron, Kevin Durant, Manu Ginobli and the list can goes on. I guess I should throw in Michael Jordan just for kicks.

The Orlando Magic don’t have a scorer who can simply get his at will. It’s probably why the Magic won’t win building solely around Howard.

It would be a capital offence to put Rudy Gay in the same category as the guys mentioned above but at the same time he is not in another dimension as those players either.

Playoff defence is tight and when the best teams clamp down with five minutes left in the fourth quarter it is the weaker teams that have more trouble executing. It’s not a coincidence that only four number eight seeds have gotten out of the first round in NBA history. However, you run your late game offence through a dynamic player like Rudy Gay and suddenly things are looking a little brighter. Remember his game winner against the Heat earlier this year? If you’re not a Raptor or Grizzly fan you probably have no idea that he hit a virtually identical game winner in Toronto.

The current make-up of the Memphis Grizzlies presents a bright future but if you can sit there and tell me with a straight face that that roster has the ability to take the next step without Rudy Gay then you might also want to see Ron Artest’s psychiatrist.

Rudy Gay isn’t at the level that will take the Memphis Grizzlies to the Promised Land. At least not yet. The Grizzlies are growing as a team and Rudy Gay is growing as a player. If Memphis is ever going to make the jump from good to great they will need Rudy Gay to help get them there.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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