LeBron James made "The Decision" this summer and shortly after that, I made mine. I chose to sever my allegiance with his highness, forever.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one, because according to the Q Scores Company, James is currently the sixth in a list of most disliked sports personalities today. Only Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Kobe Bryant ranked ahead of him. To non-sports fans, this may seem surprising since LeBron James hasn't been accused of cheating on his wife or killing any dogs, yet.
James' fall from grace has been an astonishing thing to watch. The once-chosen one of American sports became the poster boy for criticism and the arch villain of an entire city, literally overnight.
Cleveland fans burned James' jerseys in the streets and wept openly at their king's departure. The once-famous Nike "witness" billboard in downtown Cleveland was torn down piece by piece, signaling an abrupt end to the LeBron James era. We were witnesses all right; witnesses to the fall of the king.
If there were a fan club devoted to hating on James, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert would be the spokesperson. After James decided to flee to South Beach, Fla. Gilbert wrote a scathing letter condemning his former star player.
Gilbert described LeBron's actions as constituting a "cowardly betrayal," calling him a "self-titled former king" and then guaranteeing that the Cavaliers would win an NBA title before James would. By the time Gilbert had finished his letter, he had all but put a hex on James. Wait - he did that too, saying that along with his talents, James would be taking "bad karma" and a "curse" with him to Miami.
Though his attempt to knock James was overly exaggerated and desperately futile, Gilbert did accentuate the issue that both he and a majority of public had turned on James. But for what reason? What, exactly, did James do wrong? In truth, he actually took less money than he could have and moved to a city where he would be playing second fiddle to his buddy Dwyane Wade.
Humility is not a characteristic we are used to seeing in athletes today, especially from ones called "King James;" however, it is clear that James' main goal is to win championships and not to protect his self-image. Whether or not you think that diminishes his legacy or his "brand" is irrelevant, the fact is that James actually took the road less traveled and is getting destroyed for it.
Yes, "The Decision" was a joke - a public relations nightmare Tiger Woods couldn't cook up - but is LeBron James being treated unfairly? Actually, no.
There is an unwritten rule in sports culture that no matter who you are and no matter what franchise you associate yourself with, when someone or something disrespects "your team," it becomes personal. It is one of the few universal rules connected with being a sports fan. That is why Gilbert freaked out and that is why LeBron James better think before planning his next vacation to Akron, Ohio.
Is this behavior both selfish and irrational? Yes - but it persists nonetheless. The truth remains that the only thing that has been able to unite Buckeyes and Wolverines, Lakers and Celtics, and Yankees and Red Sox is the mutual hatred each fan group has for the other. Yankee fans don't know why they hate the Red Sox, Red Sox fans or anything red for that matter. They just do. In the real world this would seem ridiculous, but in the sports world it's common practice.
This type of extreme sports hatred can be extended to individual players, á la LeBron James. Some players just seem to catch more flack from the general public than others, some justifiably, as in the case of Brett Favre, and others not as much. I call this the "Francisco Cervelli Effect" because some players are just meant to be hated and that's the nature of sports, take it or leave it.
Don't be fooled, James is not an idiot; he knew the consequences of leaving Cleveland to join his friends in Miami. Don't feel sad or pity LeBron because of his new Q Score, to him it was a calculated risk.
So, I'm sure you're wondering why I dislike James so much. Well, although I do not have any ties to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I do call myself a fan of the New York Knicks - one of the five or so teams LeBron snubbed for the Miami Heat. The Knicks had been waiting patiently and suffering through mediocrity with the hope of enticing James this past summer.
Even though the pain of LeBron's rejection still stings, I look forward to making him the most hated player since Reggie Miller to set foot into Madison Square Garden and that's a promise.