(Editor’s note: Please excuse the NBA Finals content. Air Alamo will resume to it’s normally scheduled Spurs content this weekend.)
I’ve been on the fence regarding the league’s most polarizing figure, LeBron James, for awhile now. At the apex of his career in Cleveland, I enjoyed his youthful exuberance and singular dominance. I didn’t quite understand, nor did I adequately appreciate him at the time, what basketball fans were getting themselves into.
You know the drill. James posted the least significant triple-double in a playoff game (27-19-10) in his last game as a Cavalier. He then followed up his uncharacteristic indifference with an absolutely shortsighted move, “The Decision.” It was then that he transformed into an apathetic behemoth out of necessity. Everyone hated him and it was really hard to blame them. I was one of those people.
Watching James dismantle his former team in his first return was strangely demoralizing and, at the same time, immensely satisfying. Of course, that performance didn’t deter me from loathing every aspect of his game, his life and his approach to the game of basketball. Just like the majority of the NBA. Yes, I was one of those people.
After the Dallas Mavericks defeated Miami in six games, I embraced the notion that LeBron may never win a NBA Championship, though, even I admitted, it seemed highly improbable that the best player in the world wouldn’t win a ring.
I didn’t come full circle, per se, until this season when a newly energized LeBron simply played basketball rather than embracing the villain role. Combating the overbearing national media with vitriol doesn’t work with a guy like LeBron who, deep down, is not capable of harnessing that negative energy into something positive. It worked for Kobe and MJ but, for the 1,273rd time, he’s not either of those guys. He’s LeBron James.
Anyway, as I noticed a completely different player with an extra array of go-to moves, I underwent an epiphany. Unlike Cleveland (and I still understand their hatred fully), I didn’t have a legitimate reason to loathe LeBron. Sure, he made a mistake that completely went against everything I believed in as a basketball fan. Succumbing to the pressure of hating LeBron was too easy and, really, completely irrational. I was squandering the little years of ethereal basketball remaining in his indomitable body. I didn’t want to belittle his accomplishments by subjecting him to my inconsequential wrath.
At this precise moment … I became a LeBron James supporter. I wouldn’t use the term “fan” to describe my appreciation but I became the opposing force at my school to all things LeBron. Any debate or occasional dabber into basketball would inevitably lend itself, in one way or another, to LeBron. I watched him closer than every before. I noticed the little things — the way James’ aware of the defense and his surroundings instantaneously — with more fervor.
I would cite his lack of any discernible flaw — well, his mid-range shooting isn’t elite, merely palatable — and his advanced statistics within five minutes of a five-point game (aka “clutch) as indicators of his greatness. I was enamored with James and the ease in which he played basketball.
I wanted him to get his first ring … just not this year. At the time, I believed it belonged to San Antonio (sigh).
Now that he’s finally earned his first championship? I am unequivocally happy for him, as a person and basketball player. No one in sports deserves this moment more than LeBron, who wants nothing more to be accepted rather than being the subject of wide scale ridicule.
I didn’t actually suffer while supporting James (sorry for the excessive semantics) though I was frustrated with my inability to coax anyone into supporting James as well. And yes, I’m not going to enjoy his title nearly as much as Heat fans.
Frankly, I don’t need to. Knowing that I have consulted with my personal vendetta against him and came to grips with his mistake will suffice.