Monday, June 13, 2011

The Fall of King James

LeBron James has become the Darth Vador of the NFL.  No he doesn’t talk in a funny deep voice or wear a funny helmet; he is the new face of the Dark Side and his team the Miami Heat are the NBA’s version of evil.  This all seems a little harsh to me, James was never an angel but yet he only became hated following his departure from Cleveland to join Wade and Bosh in Miami. 

James became a household name in his junior year of high school at St Vincent – St. Mary’s in Akron, Ohio.  He was featured in ESPN and Sports Illustrated as the next big thing and a number of his games were nationally televised.  He came under some heat in his senior year when he was investigated by the Ohio High School Athletic Association when a bank approved an $80,000.00 loan so his mother could buy him a Hummer for his 18th birthday.  In addition, James had accepted two throwback jerseys from a local store violating the athletic rules of accepting gifts of $100.00 or more.  Originally James was ruled ineligible for his senior season, but he appealed and being the big athlete that he was, only received a two game suspension and his team was forced to forfeit one game. 

James was then drafted 1st overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.  His talents brought Cleveland out of the basement of the NBA and into the playoffs.  He made 6 All-Star games and won two league MVP’s in Cleveland.  In 2006-2007 James led the Cavaliers to the NBA finals with one of the greatest playoff performances ever.  He scored 48 points in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 29 of his teams last 30 points in a double-overtime win against Detroit.  The Cavs would go on to be swept by the Spurs in the finals and James has never put his team on his back like that again. 

Following the 2008-2009 season James and the Cavs would lose to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games.  Following the elimination game, James walked off the court and refused to shake hands with Orlando players.  He made up some BS excuse about being a “competitor”, but the truth is his signs of being a poor sport were beginning to show.  In 2009-2010 James and the Cavs had the best regular season record in the NBA.  The playoffs were a different story, the Cavs lost to the Celtics in 6 games and James put a heartless effort onto the court in the last three games.

Despite the early off the court antics of accepting gifts and buying $80,000.00 Hummers before ever having a dime to his name and despite the disappointment’s of his first seven seasons in Cleveland, LeBron James was still King James in the NBA and very well liked.  Being a member of the Cavaliers made him an underdog and fans love underdogs.  Where it all changed for James was on July 8th 2010 when he announced in a one hour special on ESPN that he was “taking his talent’s to South Beach”.  James had accepted less money and went to a team where he felt he could win a Championship.  Following his announcement, the Heat held a ridiculous pep-rally where James announced that winning would be easy and the Heat would win many championships. 

It’s not that James did anything wrong in leaving Cleveland.  He was a free agent and could choose to go anywhere he wanted.  It’s the fact that instead of just announcing his choice at a usual press conference, he did it in a narcissistic one hour special.  Then his confidence turned to cockiness with the announcement that the Heat would win “Not one…Not two…Not three etc…”  The big three became the most hated three in sports. 

There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness.  James has become cocky despite never winning anything at the NBA level.  If he had remained humbled and respectful, he would still be likeable and have fans routing for him.   His comments following the finals loss to the Mavs only shows how far removed Lebron James is from reality.  He stated:

“All the people that were 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. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
James has opened himself up to criticism, not only by his off the court antics but also by his lack of heart on the court.  His Miami Heat teammates should be his biggest critics today.  They are the ones that he let down the most by not showing up in the fourth quarter.  At a time in the game when great players become legends, James seemed to shy away from the ball and the spotlight leaving it up to his teammates to carry the team.  If you want to be the man and get paid like the man then you have to live up to that billing in big moments.  Lebron James has failed to do that ever since his last gutsy performance in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007.  If he can find that drive again and humble himself a little bit, there is still time left for Lebron to live up to expectations, if he doesn’t he may become one of the biggest “might-haves” in NBA history. 

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