The Decision

Recently, two ESPN articles have come out talking about Lebron James and how he is seen by the public.  So I’ve decided to take up the issue of James and his image, especially now with his Heat on the precipice of the NBA championship.  So here you have it – the reasons why people hate the Heat and more specifically, Lebron James.

One of the articles on ESPN referenced something that we had known all season – Lebron James is not a popular athlete right now.  However, even since just a few hours after Lebron’s fateful “decision,” experts and analysts everywhere have been trying to understand why everybody is so upset with him.  I think I have the answer, but it’s not the answer generally given.  At this point, if you were to ask a sportswriter or even (due to the proliferation of popular opinion) a middling sports fan why he hates the Decision, he’d say that it was because of how Lebron treated Cleveland, leaving them out to dry, not telling them before he took his talents to South Beach.  But, honestly, who is really up in arms over that?  I want a show of hands.  Of course not – nobody cares that much about Cleveland or Dan Gilbert or the Cavaliers.  No, what people cared about was something much deeper than that.

What got you, me and the nation so riled up that evening wasn’t how Lebron acted or where he went or anything like that.  You and I were angered (and continue to be to this day angry) because James carelessly and brazenly popped your idealist bubble.  You see, we (I’d venture to say Americans, but I’m not sure this doesn’t apply to everyone) want our heros to be self-made – to overcome all adversity and to be made stronger by it.  What Lebron did is cheat the system.  We, maybe strangely, maybe not, honor the long and difficult path, sticking our noses up at those who cut across the grass and achieve their goals not by the sweat of their brow, but by changing the playing field.  Lebron James advanced all the way to “GO”, got his cake and ate it too.  He cheated the American Dream.

The Dream is supposed to take effort, to be difficult, to be fulfilling in and of itself.  But by making the “Decision,” Lebron James spat in the face of the inherent goodness of the more difficult path.  Why climb the mountain if you can ascend it effortlessly.

You see, we’re idealists.  We want people to succeed, but not if it means cheating the system.  The SuperFriends colluded to form a super-team and nobody roots for OPEC.  We want the rags-to-riches (probably so that we can keep dreaming that one day it will be us), but when a Kennedy gets elected, a Rockefeller donates a library, when a Walton opens a superstore, we don’t blink – we don’t care.  For some (seemingly) bizarre reason, we want our athletes to be humbled, to admit their mortality so that we alone can immortalize them and crown them champions, not watch as they host their own coronation.  We look fondly upon those who tried and failed (John Stockton) far more favorably than those who sold their souls for fleeting glory (Karl Malone).  Greatness is ours to give, not a destiny that they can sway with an hour ESPN special.

So is it fair that we hold such a grudge against Lebron?  I guess the answer to that depends on whether or not it’s fair that we hold on to our idealism, though it seems more outlandish than the Birdman’s body decor.  I would argue it is fair for us to hold such expectations.  We want to believe that immortality is earned, not destined, because that’s how the world “should” look.  Lebron James didn’t “cheat,” but he most certainly cheated the system and in doing so sapped much of the hope and joy we had in watching young players grow into men not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.  We gave him the deck to shuffle and he decided he’d rather hide the 4 aces up his sleeve rather than play the game on the even playing field.

And that’s why all year, we have been pleading and begging with every team to beat the Heat.  We want to prove to Lebron as much as we want to prove to ourselves that there is something to taking the hard route, that talent cannot just overwhelm hard work, that sacrifice and pain do make one stronger.  That’s why with ever basket made, with every lead take, with every game won by the Heat, my heart will be racing, hoping, praying that someway, somehow, the Mavs prove us all to be right in the NBA finals.  We wanted Lebron to learn to be a champion the hard way, but he figured out a shortcut that’s destroying our paradigm and we hate him for that.

Yours Truly,


    • Becca
    • May 31st, 2011


    • Snoke
    • May 31st, 2011

    I think you hit it pretty well on the head, but I disagree with your conclusion. I love the fact that LeBron crushed the dream we try to force onto sports. I love that he gave the figurative middle finger to the NBA (and sports in general).

    Major league sports are supposedly set up so that there is parody and equal opportunity for all teams, and the Heat put together a team within those limitations. Would we want to put together a weaker Olympic team on purpose, so that certain individuals could rise to the occasion and become “heroes”?

    I for one am very happy that I don’t have to watch sappy promos before the game about a team that fought against all odds. The truth of the LeBron matter is that people don’t like watching their team lose, and from the beginning, whether they admitted it or not, people knew the Heat would win.

    • couple things: I agree that there’s something slightly twisted about us desiring parity so much in a sport, when all we want for ourselves is to get ahead. But here’s the thing, if you watched the Dallas v Miami game last night, it was so clear why we need more parity. Dallas played as hard as it could, scrapping for every shot and board while Wade and James cruised for 3 quarters. Then they turned on the jets and left Dallas in the dust. We want our athletes to overcome adversity (Lance Armstong without steroids; even Mike Vick post dog-fighting), we don’t want them to pre-ordain their own victory.

      As to your Olympics metaphor, the problem with that is that it’s a bunch of individual sports. Imagine if the US (or China or USSR if you will) swept every single gold. The Olympics would be so incredibly boring. The reason we love the Olympics, though, is that even though we know (more or less) the order of medals each country will win beforehand, every individual race and game holds an independent and unpredictable outcome.

      I agree that everyone “knew” the Heat would win. I’m just saying that that really ticks us (sports fans) off. Rightly or wrongly, sports fans feel like they’ve been cheated, because Lebron stacked the odds. It’s actually similar to stacking the deck or Tim Donaghy in that we feel robbed of the “true odds.” Only thing is that those are cheating, so we can call it that. This is legal so it confuses us why we get so upset by it. I’m not trying to argue for why Lebron should have made a difference decision, I’m mostly trying to explain why people hate it so much even though Stan Van Gundy declared on-air during game 1 that there was no reason in the world that anyone should have any beef with Lebron. Well, I think people do, and I think this reason explains why (at least to some degree).

      Feel free to disagree 🙂

        • Snoke
        • June 2nd, 2011

        I understand why people are angry, but I wanted to challenge our idea of the way sports should be. I say create the best team possible within the limitations of the game, and let us watch the superstars battle it out. It belittles all the other great athletes out there to claim that they can’t put together a better combination than LeBron and Wade. I don’t believe for a minute that some other NBA team can’t put together something to compete with that duo. Even in baseball, where there is no salary cap, teams like the Yankees don’t always win.

        Also, on a completely different strain of thought, what if LeBron had gone to Chicago (the next closest choice)? Then it would be LeBron and Rose playing together. How would that be any better?

      • dad
      • June 4th, 2011

      parody or parity? i think parody, while unintended, hits it on the mark

    • dad
    • June 4th, 2011

    OK, I don’t like (hate is too sinful) the Yankees since free agency because they buy pennants which proves nothing. (I love Stengel’s Yankees because they are fun to read about. Not sure how I feel about about the Ruth/Gehrig/early DiMaggio Yankees.) I applaud Cliff Lee (who I otherwise dislike) for not going to the Yankees, but only out of spite (also sinful; need more grace). The Yankees don’t win every year because the best baseball teams only win 60% of the time and maybe only 55% against other quality teams. So a lousy team like the 2010 Giants or 2006 Cards can win the North American (not World) Series. Free agency comes late enough in a career that a small market team with lots of young talent can win before it runs off (Tampa Bay). But in the NBA playoffs, the better team almost always wins a series. So its not fair to the small market teams if players collude and join up. The salary cap helps enormously, but what does it prove if La Bron and Wade together can beat anyone else without Bosh even in the mix? The deck is stacked – why play the season? Just to hope they lose. Nothing deep about OPEC or ideal heroes – just a lack of balance and loyalty to the local fan base. But still we watch (well I would if I had TV) because we love highlight reels and sports history being made.

  1. Isn’t this is the reason lebron came to Miami, he can hide behind wade when it gets physical and he get bumped around, they don’t get loud and call him out, what more can he ask for, besides a ring. He couldn’t hide behind a player in Cleveland so he ran to wade.

  1. July 8th, 2011

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