5 Reasons The LeBron Backlash Is Total Bullsh*t
Looking at the coverage 24 hours after the Mavericks twisted the dagger and the Miami Heat bled out, it’s not surprising to see LeBron James be the recipient of vitriol. It was surprising to see how much of it there was. People were calling him a failure and saying that his legacy was tarnished, labeling him a loser and other things far worst.
The fact is that the guy is 26 years old, has two MVP trophies, and three finals appearances. And no rings. I’m sure that’s frustrating, and people will be critical. But he’s still an asset in every sense of the word. So why is he the nation’s whipping boy right now? I was just going to make the “haters gonna hate” argument and turn in my piece early, but since my editor probably wouldn’t pay me for that, I offer a more comprehensive analysis of why he’s being criticized and which accusations are unfair and untrue.
But mostly: Haters gonna hate.
5. He Has Never Had the Killer Instinct
The guy hasn’t had the fangs that Jordan, Kobe, or Bird had. He’s more on par with Shaq as someone who was the best at their level for so long that they got caught off guard when they had to work to be the best. LeBron is more physically gifted than any player in the league save for maybe Dwight Howard, but he doesn’t seem to have the compulsion that separates the legends from the greats.
It’s a weird thing to say when I’m arguing someone’s defense. Only I’m not arguing on behalf of LeBron, I’m arguing against the backlash. What causes a backlash is a change or perceived change. Nothing has changed with LeBron. He’s still acting like a goofy teenager. But to turn on him because he isn’t a great seems a little misguided. People loved the guy when he was goofing off his first three seasons. However, now they’re pissed he can’t get his house in order enough to spend time in the gym to work on high post moves and steps towards the basket. I’m not saying that his lack of teeth is a good thing, but considering he never had them, its illogical to call him out on it now.
4. He Had a Decent Playoffs by His Standards, and a Great One by Anyone Else’s
He fell off in the finals, but over the course of the playoffs, BronBron put up 23.7 PPG, 6.4 Rebounds, and 5.9 assists. To put it in perspective, Dirk Nowitzki, the darling of the playoffs, put up 27.7, 8.1, and 2.5. The lines are pretty close to equal. I would have to be insane to make the argument that these two were equally impressive in the playoffs. Dirk turned on and off like a light switch, shooting approximately 6,322% from the free throw line and owning the game when he needed to. LeBron only owned games when he could. Dirk led, and LeBron didn’t. But to argue that King James played poorly in the playoffs just isn’t true. He didn’t improve, and he didn’t lead, but he played well enough to make the argument that didn’t play well a fallacy.
3. The Stats Don’t Tell the Story
Often times, a great player will step up their game with a new team to become legendary. However, much more often, a star will join a better team and see his numbers fall, regardless if the team succeeds or fails. The reason for this is clear: A team only gets X possessions per game, so if more talent on a team will dilute the number of possessions any player has, putting a lower ceiling on their numbers.
It’s pretty clear that this is the case in Miami. On Cleveland, LeBron was the alpha and omega of that team. When it came time for the playoffs, if he didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. Consequently, he was tracking among the league’s best in scoring. Well, LeBron doesn’t have to do it all himself now. Wade scores and Bosh gets boards. Just because LeBron doesn’t get as many rebounds doesn’t mean he’s not as good a player as he was. It makes more sense to simply look at the performance of the team upon his arrival…more on that in the next point.
2. He Helped the Heat Become the Nation’s Second-Best Team
The over/under from myriad sportswriters on Heat championships immediately after “The Decision” was probably around 2 or 2.5. How quickly we forget. His first year in, he was part of a young, new team that were two wins away from being champions. Call this a failure if you must, but most players should be so lucky. This is not a now or never situation. Second place is frankly higher than I would thought they would be. With that much talent and pressure from not only the playoff environment, but the haters out there, I would view this season as a success. Of course, if you’re good enough to get there, you’re good enough to be disappointed when you lose, but that’s a fan’s mentality. The LeBron detractors aren’t fans, so that doesn’t apply. They are focusing on the fact that he (they) lost to one team, rather than admitting they finished better than 30 others.
1. He’s Not That Bad of a Guy
People are really hating Lebron right now. Sadly, the hate for LeBron specifically and the Heat in general is about 3x as prevalent as the love for the Mavs. Which is unfortunate because it diminishes what the Mavericks did. (Full disclosure: I’m from Dallas and an enormous Mavs fan.
As some of the points above indicate, the backlash isn’t really about statistics or even reality, but rather just hate. People hate Lebron because they want to hate him. Which I suppose is as good a reason as any, but the fact is, I don’t really think he deserves it. He’s had the misfortune of making a few very high-profile mistakes recently, but none were made out of anger or malice. He’s a big dumb kid. I’m pissed that he hasn’t grown up faster and become as special as he’s capable of being, but I don’t hate him for it.
The decisions he’s made are misguided at best and stupid at worst, but he’s not a bad guy. “The Decision” was (I assume) the result of bad handlers and probably some pressure from ESPN. The “Welcome Party” I’m comfortable laying on the Heat. Hell, his decision to play for the Heat was just the result of a 25 year-old kid wanting to play with his friends in South Beach. I don’t think it was a good decision, but I’d say the punishment as meted out by the court of public opinion far outweighs the crime.