Sports are basically pretty simple but for some reason we always want to make them seem more complex. My suspicion is that athletes, sportscasters and fans are overly defensive due to the “dumb jock” cliché. So they all go out of their way to talk about how cerebral the game is, or point out that some superstar majored in Economics in college. Fans are always formulating conspiracy theories or looking for ulterior motives to a team or player’s behavior, something to elevate the games to a more intellectual level, anything to distract from the fact that we just spent several hours watching a bunch of millionaires chase a ball around.
Naturally, if you’re the most talked about athlete of the past decade this intellectualization will go to extremes. Thus, people who hate LeBron James really hate him and generally for convoluted reasons – But the same holds true for his supporters. As soon as King James was back in the finals, the cauldron of love and hate was boiling full tilt. Early on, when the Warriors took control of the series, Bron-Bron haters were out in full force. Once the Cavaliers comeback was complete, the misty-eyed romantics came rolling up for a group hug. The thing is, both sides are wrong, or at least their motivations are.
At the epicenter of all this emotional over-analysis is the city of Cleveland. Talk to a typical James hater and the first thing they will bring up is his choosing to play in Miami. “He’s a two-faced liar who stabbed Cleveland in the back!” They will shout. But this is an incorrect dramatization. Look, you can think Lebron was a total douche for the way he announced his departure from Cleveland – and you’d be right 1 – but the departure itself was totally justified. He was on a crappy team with little chance of improvement, so he found a better situation, simple as that. If you had an engineering degree but your boss had you spending all your time unclogging toilets, you’d find another place to work and no one would call you a traitor. (Except maybe the old boss who’s now knee deep in shit.) He played on a weak team for 8 years, that’s an eternity in pro sports. He tried, almost made it work with a bunch of scrubs, but eventually realized that basketball is a team sport, so he went some place with talent. This is what every pro athlete does and is supposed to do – put yourself in a position to win. There was no malice toward an entire fan base, no evil maneuvering to cut the throat of the franchise; he became a free agent, he went to new team, end of story.
Of course, then after a few years, and couple rings, James did a 180 and “came back home” and here is where the LeBron Lovers get totally delusional. Now, everyone wants to make him out to be some caped crusader, like he saw the City of Cleveland in trouble and rushed back to keep a school bus full of orphans from falling off a cliff. Stop kidding yourselves. Once again, The King made a very basic business decision: his team in Miami was getting old and on its way down, meanwhile Cleveland had some young talent, plus money and draft picks to add more. This isn’t rocket science, folks.
James didn’t come back to win Cleveland a Championship, he came to win himself a championship. If the right pieces had been in place, he would have taken his talents to Detroit, Washington or any team in the cake-walk Eastern Conference. Oh yes, you better believe there was no way The Chosen One was ever moving out west. If the league had realigned during his Miami stint and put Cleveland in the Western Conference, do you honestly think Brony would have had his homecoming? Only if San Antonio and OKC got moved east. Put yourself in the best position to win. Simple.
Now that he’s got another Championship, go ahead and cheer for the guy if you want, but do it because he’s good at putting a ball through a hoop suspended in the air and realize that’s what it’s about and nothing more. He’s not a hero who saved his (kind of but not really) hometown. And if you’re a hater, accept the fact that he is not a deranged maniac who went out of his way to torture that same (not really) hometown. He’s just a jock who wants to win games. It’s basically what they all want to do. It’s their job.
- Seriously, a one hour TV special to declare that you’re changing jobs. The only thing more arrogant than that is calling it “The Decision” – Like you’re the only one who has ever had to make a choice in life. And it wasn’t even a difficult choice. Everyone knew you were leaving, asshole; it’s Cleveland for god sake.