Why We’re Not Angry at LeBron James Anymore
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Game 5 of the Cavaliers series against the Celtics, when LeBron James infamously “quit.”
Okay, he didn’t actually quit anything. He just lost.
Maybe he lost his will to play. Maybe he lost his will to care. Maybe he lost his will to pretend he was staying in Cleveland. Or maybe he just lost the game against the Celtics.
Whatever, it’s been a year since the downhill slide of LeBron’s public image began and, you know what, I don’t care anymore.
I mean, I care. I care about watching LeBron be awesome, like he was last night as he poured in 10 points at the end of the fourth quarter to finish off the Celtics (he couldn’t have picked a better day to do it on). And I care about whether or not his jump to the Heat justifies itself in the form of titles.
But I don’t care enough to keep being angry at LeBron. Which makes me entirely different from the city of Cleveland, which is apparently still really, REALLY, REALLY angry at James for what he did.
Don’t believe me? Just go read this article by Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, calling yesterday “Quitness Day.”
Everyone will probably always remember where they were when “The Decision” went down. It was a poorly planned, horribly executed, disaster of a PR move that stuffed James’ Q-rating in the toilet and swirled it around for good measure.
America collectively wept for Cleveland. And that seemed right — Cleveland did nothing wrong but trust and love their homegrown superstar. And he jabbed the city in the collective back.
So why don’t I care? And why don’t you care? And why does everyone outside of Cleveland seem ready to move on?
Well, there are a few reasons, actually.
1. Sports are Cyclical
It’s extremely easy for us, as fans, to get really outraged about stuff. Remember when Kobe dropped the f-bomb (the other one) and everyone got really upset and there were tons of reasons to hate him?
Yeah, that didn’t last very long, did it? And Kobe’s action was — and I hope everyone agrees with this — like 1,000 times worse than anything LeBron did.
The only difference is that LeBron purposely called attention to himself. Oh yes, and that he didn’t, you know, use a totally derogatory word on national television that makes him come off as a homophobe.
There are some things that don’t change, like the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees. There are plenty — like the need for everyone to remain angry at LeBron — that do.
2. LeBron is Quite Good
It doesn’t hurt things that LeBron is winning — while everyone may have wanted to root against he and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to fail, and while people might still root against them going forward in the playoffs and if they end up playing the Chicago Bulls they’ll almost definitely be the enemy, LeBron’s not nearly as hated as he was a year ago.
In fact, I saw an Outside the Lines poll that said “only” 64 percent of people are pulling against him. That might seem like a high number but it’s not 100 percent, and it’s important to remember that when you’re talking about rooting for a sports team, no one has a 100 percent approval rating.
There are, after all, two teams playing.
No offense intended to the city of Cleveland, which is a pretty swell place, but it’s not like there’s a whole lot of reason for the world to care about Cleveland.
And maybe Cleveland isn’t as angry as LeBron as Bill Livingston is. (Why is he so angry? It’s not like LeBron stabbed his first-born.)
But it had to be known that, at some point, the rest of the world would give up on trying to be sympathetic towards Cleveland and simply move to watching basketball. After all, this is sports. Teams and cities and geographical areas get screwed over all the time, regardless of how nice they are. If they don’t have a big profile, well, they’re not going to stay in the limelight.
4. An Amazing NBA Season
This, to me, is probably the biggest reason of all. The NBA was epic this year, thanks to one of those rare changing-of-the-guard seasons that only comes along once in a generation. There are any number of reasons — Derrick Rose‘s ascension is probably No. 1, if you’re looking for a microcosmic viewpoint — for the NBA’s success this year, but all that matters is the league suddenly became more popular than it had been in a while.
And while a new wave of stars becoming popular was a big reason for that, so was the villainy that is the Miami Heat. It was easy to mock ESPN’s “Heat Index” for it’s sheer ridiculousness, but the fact is that people care about Miami.
Which is to say they care about LeBron, too, because we’re all inherently tied to his success and/or failure, given our original emotional investment in the early stages of his career and his decision to bolt from Cleveland.
Or, hell, maybe it’s just “Time Heals All Wounds” or something like that. Either way, it’s really odd to think that I’m supposed to hate LeBron James. Which is why I don’t.
Will Brinson is the Senior NFL blogger for CBSSports.com, the Tech Editor at Guyism.com, and has been published on FanHouse.com, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, NBA.com, The Sporting News and a number of other different online outlets.
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