By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
The King finally won his crown. LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Mercenari... oops, I mean Heat, defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 to take the NBA Finals in a convincing five games, including four in a row. As offensively arrogant as James’ assertion that the Heat would win “Not six, not seven...” championships, it’s hard to argue with him, at least for now. The Heat have made two straight Finals appearances, and they’ll be the favorite team heading into next year. The rest of the NBA threw their best at them- the Thunder have been crowned as future champions ever since they drafted Kevin Durant three years ago- and the Heat prevailed.
Granted, the Heat faced a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls and a dying Celtics squad. Rose’s presence certainly would have made a significant difference. But James proved he can close in the playoffs, a fact best demonstrated by his triple-double in Game 5 (26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists).
So where does that leave the NBA, its fan base, and critics like myself?
Well, for one, I will give LeBron credit where credit is do. As much as he failed against the Dallas Mavericks last year, he proved that he actually can play in the fourth quarter. Which begs the question: where was this effort last year? Where was this effort as a Cleveland Cavalier?
Then again, LeBron has never had as complete a supporting cast as he has this year, even compared to last year’s Heat squad. The Heat play better as a team, Wade has ceded all authority to LeBron, Mike Miller was healthy for most of the year, and Mario Chalmers has improved as a player.
So is the answer that LeBron played better because he had a better team? It’s unfair to ignore his impressive playoff performance. He clearly was the most important (and valuable) member of the 2012 NBA Champions. He has a ring. He’s a champion.
But, as much weight as that carries, I can’t forgive LeBron. I can’t forgive him for leaving his hometown franchise that did everything possible to get him a supporting cast. I can’t forgive him for working with other superstar free agents to form a supergroup. I can’t forgive him for utterly failing against the Mavs (although I certainly enjoyed it). I can’t forgive him for talking down to NBA fans after losing in last year’s Finals (yeah, we still do have to go to work. At our jobs. That we earned via college degrees and developed skills. What can you do? Throw a ball through a hoop? Very useful. If it wasn’t for us lowly fans, you wouldn’t be able to be a millionaire entertaining us).
In the end, I want LeBron to fail. It’s not because I hate him as a human being, but he represents everything I hate about sports- disloyalty, buying the best free agents instead of building a team steadily through time on an even playing field, and bragging about how great you are. I hate the bandwagon fans who just love LeBron and the Heat because they’re successful, not because they followed the team through thick and thin (think the Michael Beasley years).
LeBron works best as a sports villain. He is Darth Vader to Kevin Durant’s Luke. Drink it in, James and the Little Two, Heat fans (both old and new), and the mass of sports journalists that will now line up to kiss the ring and shame the rest of us for still “hatin’ on” the King, twisting ankles while jumping on the bandwagon.
I’m fine where I am. LeBron is just too much fun to hate.