BY MATT MERKEL
Lebron James is the most-followed athlete on the face of the Earth. Everyone had an opinion about him when he was in high school. Everyone wanted to compare his potential to those of Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson. As fans, we knew that he was going to be the prototypical superstar of our generation. The Cleveland Cavaliers sold out the Quicken Loans Arena for nearly six years when they drafted James out of high school.
Of course I’m not telling you guys anything you did not already know. I distinctly remember watching him live and thinking about how I am going to tell my future children that I saw Lebron James. The crowd loved to see him throw the hand chalk, fart on his teammates when he was on the bench, and take fake photos with the team during warm ups. He was like a little kid that just couldn’t believe where his life took him. He got his first MVP award in 2009 and got another in 2010, but he still had not won a Championship. Years rolled by as LeBron watched his peers get rings while he watched at home…and then it happened.
James announced to the world during a live press conference that he was going to leave Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat alongside superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Immediately, the world hated him. James was booed out of every stadium and when his Heat lost to the Mavericks in 2011, everyone was happy.
I remember hating James when he made the jump. I blamed him for giving up in the playoffs a month before. I thought he was not being competitive enough by joining forces with Wade and Bosh. I decided to never forgive him for having the biggest body on the court and not developing a post game. I was so mad that a player touted as the best of the generation would sell out. I have felt this way until last month.
After Miami’s loss to the Chicago Bulls ended their 27-win streak, I look at James under a whole new lens. I see a guy who moved to Miami because he wanted titles and there was no way he was getting them in Cleveland. I think of James as the NBA’s Swiss army knife and the Cavaliers only knew how to use the bottle opener. Even making us think that they could touch the 1971 Lakers 33-win streak opened up my eyes to the fact that James made a smart move.
Could he have handled “The Decision” better? Yes. Was he immature for leaving without telling the General Manager of the Cavaliers first? Yes. Was it the best move for his NBA career? Yes. Don’t get me wrong, if the Heat do not win this year, the streak will mean nothing.
But if they win, James will probably get his fourth NBA MVP, joining Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell. It is hard to hate a guy that made the transition from hero to villain back to hero to legend as gracefully as he did.