Why LeBronenfreude Is Okay


As much as I wanted the Mavericks beat the Heat, I also dreaded it, because I knew it would bring out the holiest of the holier-than-thous in the sportswriting racket, ready to leap all over LeBron James because he had not earned it yet. I’m assuming such people dislike him in large part because of the way he left Cleveland, which brings up a thorny sports-related issue I’ve discussed on this site before: If you think an athlete did something that makes them a bad human being, saying that a loss on the playing field/court is “just deserts” for that offense implies that a win would have redeemed the offender.

LeBron James is nowhere near as awful as some of the examples I’ve cited in the past. Really, his only “crime” was to turn his back on the established narrative of his career. If you want, you can add toying with Cleveland’s emotions to the list, plus rubbing salt in the city’s collective wound by celebrating his move to Miami like a 45-year-old creep who just divorced a woman his age and snared a trophy wife. All crummy behavior, to be sure, but not as bad as guys like Ben Roethlisberger or Michael Vick, whose failures to win championships were seen by some sportswriters as “payback” for their off-the-field deeds, an attitude that suggested winning would have forgiven them their trespasses.

So in the immediate aftermath, I cringed at the thought of such pieces on LeBron. I even considered feeling sorry for a 26-year-old billionaire who had so many expectations resting on his shoulders. Not to mention that obsessing over what he did or did not do during the Finals served to diminish what the Mavericks accomplished. By concentrating on LeBron’s “failures,” you essentially say that Miami lost the series more than Dallas won it, which seems extremely unfair to everyone involved. Then there was the narrative of the Mavs being a “team-oriented” squad while the Heat were a “superstar” one, which is usually sportswriter code for “we’re rooting for the white guy.”

So there were a few reasons, initially, to not want to join in piling on LeBron. Until he opened his mouth, that is. Then I realized all the haterade was justified. Maybe even necessary. Because the truth is, he is one eminently hateable human being.

First, it was his postgame press conference response to questions about the hate that’s heaped on him, and how that makes him feel. Now, there’s no easy way to answer this. It’s the kind of question for which a million different responses can come across as whiny or insensitive. Luckily for us, LeBron left no room for ambiguity. He exposed his soul by giving the absolute most head-slappingly douchey answer possible.

All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.

As bad as that looks in print, it was even worse when voiced. It was not an off-the-cuff remark spoken without thinking in a moment of weakness and frustration. The ease with which he said these words indicated they were thoroughly premeditated, a line he either rehearsed or believes in his heart of hearts.

Now, do people who actively root for the failure of others have problems? Yes, to varying degrees, depending on how deep and sincere those wishes are. And I suppose anyone’s life appears to be full of “personal problems” compared to someone who will never have to worry about money. But to actually say something like this out loud, that only people with crappy lives dislike you, that takes a colossal amount of ego and self delusion. About the same amount that would make you call yourself “King James” when you’ve yet to win anything, I guess.

Not long after this insanity, he tweeted that the Heat didn’t win because “The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.” Amazingly, after years of comedians joking about athletes blaming God when they lose, someone actually went and did it. It wasn’t LeBron who failed to show up in the fourth quarter of every game this series, but God.

Also, note the use of the phrase “The Greater Man.” I’ve never heard that used to mean “God.” People usually say, “The Big Man Upstairs,” or something like that. The use of a comparative word (Greater) implies that LeBron thinks he’s on a plane comparable to The Almighty. You know, not quite as big as The Creator, just a few ticks below.

To top it all off, we find out on Monday that LeBron didn’t talk to ABC or ESPN because, according to Jack Ramsay, “James felt the network didn’t report “The Decision” accurately.” That goes beyond chrome-plated balls. That takes gonads made of pure adamantium.

How the holy hell could ESPN not have reported “The Decision” accurately?! They gave LeBron an hour-long infomercial and asked him exactly zero hard questions! ESPN could not have treated him more reverently. The network has LeBron in the same space in their pantheon as Brett Favre (pre-dick pics), someone whose every move will be obsessively followed but never questioned. What more could LeBron want from them? The Oprah soft-focus-lens treatment on every dunk?

I wonder if LeBron is trying to play The Heel, because I can’t think of another reason why he would say such inflammatory things otherwise. Well, except that maybe he’s still a spoiled child whose had nothing but sycophants and enablers in his life for so long that he has zero perspective.

LeBron has been told he’s The Best for so long that the words have no literal meaning to him. LeBron James is The Best. The Best is LeBron James. Everything else in his life must be redefined to fit into these parameters. Those who deny his Bestness do so only because they have personal problems. If he is denied a championship, it is because of an act of God. If “The Decision” makes him look like a creep in the eyes of some, it must be the faulty reportage of the network that carried it, even though said network gave him complete creative control.

If you believe this might be a form of mental illness, you’re free to reserve judgment. Otherwise, hate away.

  • http://twitter.com/AdamDCallan AdamDCallan

    Has anyone lost more good will and at a faster pace than LeBron? It’s really incredible. Also, fuck that guy.