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Monday, June 20, 2011

Sharing is Caring: The Demonization of LeBron James

Starting with the hour long press conference when he announced his decision to "take his talents to Miami," LeBron James is quickly becoming one of the most hated professional athletes in America, if not the world. Oh wait, let me think about this: The burning pitch forks outside of Mike Vick's home are gone, Plaxico Burris has been released from prison and continues to fly under the radar, Barry Bonds is still not talking, Tiger Woods is still Tiger woods, Kobe didn't make it to the finals and Allen Iverson is playing overseas. I can't think of anyone more hated than him sooooo let me change my previous statement: LeBron James is the Most Hated Athlete in America. 

Full disclosure: I have been a fan of LeBron James since 2003. To those not familiar with James' career, it means I have supported him since he was drafted to the Cavaliers and then moved to the Miami Heat. Does it bother me that other people don't like him? Not one bit. Why? Because I know no matter how hated he is by a large number of people, he still returns to a life that is better than 90% of Americans. To put it in his own words,
"For those who want me to fail, they will have to go back to their lives with the same problems they had...” -LeBron James

There was an article on that discussed this phenomenon and they called it The Demonization of LeBron James. You can read parts of it below. 
Now that the NBA season is over, I have taken a moment to reflect. The lasting memory is not of the glorious success of the Mavs. It is of LeBron James and the season-long media/fan obsession with seeing him and the Heat fail. As one weary sportscaster put it, “We discuss LeBron as if he was our media Facebook status.”
It occurred to me that if all I knew about someone is that he announced a job move and staged it so that $2 million in cash would be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of America, my first reaction would probably be, “Now there’s a person with media savvy who is also a good person at heart.”  Add the fact that the donated cash was virtually all the advertising revenue from that single event and I would feel reassured it was not just a ploy for disguised greed.  If I further discovered that another $1 million in computers and Nike equipment was spread among eight Boys and Girls clubs – most notably Akron, and Cleveland, I would feel even better about the donor who gave back something significant – not just empty words and a wave – to the cities he was raised and was employed.
But if I knew nothing more, I would probably scratch my head about why the network that aired the announcement only made a minor footnote of the $3 million chartable aspect of the event.  And I would scratch my head again if the donor is primarily blamed for the event, when the worst part about it was the publicity, controlled by the network. If I took a moment to reflect, I would say, “Wait a minute. ESPN controlled the sickening number of promotional ploys leading up to the decision. Only ESPN could create the hype because only ESPN controls the airspace.” Then I would say, “For all I know ‘The Decision’ was ESPN’s title.”  Clearly, ESPN made the decision to announce the upcoming decision over and over again, day and night as if it was the second coming of Jesus Christ, instead of the second team for King James. Yet, the demon as crowned by the media was James, not the media itself.  This was the beginning of the demonization of LeBron James.
So let’s add a few other facts. The City of Cleveland and the donor’s prior employer had the benefit of his services for seven years.  During that time the employer’s product (a team) went from mediocre-at-best with a half empty arena to a team on the verge of being the best in the world with a frenzied sold-out arena.  The owner made millions. The local economy grew by millions per year. Yet the employee who is leaving didn’t say anything bad about the City before he left. In fact, he said he loved them and he understood their frustration. His kind words came despite knowing they were burning his uniform in effigy and creating as much venom as their imagination could muster.
In response to the employee’s resignation, the employer’s principal owner called him a “coward”, who was “selfish” and one who committed an act of “betrayal” for exercising his lawful right to pick a new employer. Objectively, on those facts, I hope we would all conclude that if the employee gave up millions of dollars in pursuit of a championship, that kind of selfishness is not so bad.  The reprehensible selfishness would have been demanding all the money he could get even if it hurt the teams salary cap – financial stability.
It seems like the popular thing to do is to hate LeBron James. Sadly, seeing LeBron, and consequently the Heat, fail has became an obsession for far too many people. Its stomach turning actually. What did LeBron do to them? Some people justified their feelings by saying LeBron opened himself up to the criticism via his own cocky behaviors. Others are critical of the "haters" for being too sensitive about sports. I think its pitiful. I was disappointed in him as a fan for a short time but I got over it and thats the way it should go. There are people who allowed the way he played to ruin their work week and they took it out on their families. How crazy is THAT? LeBron doesn't even know they exist!! All you can do is hate him from a distance and how is it benefiting your LIFE to do that?

Do people take sports too seriously? Does LeBron deserve all of the hate? Are you still salty about the Mavs winning the 'ship? FYI, I'm still #teamlebron!

I'm listening...


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