Wondering what topic to write about this week, I found myself sitting around a campfire at a friend’s lake cabin Friday night. As the twelve of us visited and bounced from topic to topic, the mood was very laid back, as you would expect from a weekend at the cabin. And then one person’s name was brought up, causing the calm, laid back chatter to suddenly turn serious and defensive.
That name was LeBron James.
Instantly, I knew what my column would be about this week. As points were made to defend LeBron, I offered one simple reason to back my distaste for him. One was enough for that discussion, but there were many more in my arsenal. Here are six things I hate about No. 6, LeBron James.
1. LeBron James is the type of athlete that you either love or you hate. There truly is no in between. Just a few years ago, he was one of the most beloved athletes in the country. That is no longer even remotely the case. A decision that he so eloquently named “The Decision” changed all of that. Now, we all know what happened with “The Decision,” so let’s not get into that. For me, that was not the turning point of when I went from a casual LeBron James fan to somebody who cheers against him the same way I cheered against Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. My cheering against Jordan stemmed from a childhood in which my older brother was a huge Michael Jordan fan and I was a huge Magic Johnson fan. Jordan winning also meant my brother was winning and rubbing it in, so naturally I could not cheer for Jordan. Magic won his five titles, but the cheering against Jordan did not work out so well for me, as he captured six rings. With Kobe, it was a bit of jealously, because he came into the league around the same time as Kevin Garnett and enjoyed much more success. The peak was the 2004 Western Conference Finals in which Kobe, Shaq, and the Los Angeles Lakers ended KG and the Timberwolves’ run at the NBA Finals. There’s not much more to it than this; I got sick of watching Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant win. They were/are both amazing basketball players, but the constant winning got to be too much. Here’s the difference. As of today, LeBron James has not won anything. He is two wins away from his first NBA Championship, but has failed to get there as of yet. The “pre-championship” celebration that the Miami Heat held after LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh aligned in South Beach was absolutely disgusting. A press conference wouldn’t have sufficed to introduce the new players? It was a classless move and an overwhelming majority of my dislike for not only LeBron James, but also the Miami Heat stems from that celebration.
2. Since joining the Heat, it seems millions of fans have turned their backs on LeBron James. It is widely stated that James has the type of personality where he just wants to be liked by everybody and it bothers him when he is disliked. If this is true, he doesn’t do a very good job of getting fans to like him. Hey LeBron, here’s an idea; how about you actually compete in the Slam Dunk Contest, for once, during All-Star weekend?! If you want to be liked so much, there can’t possibly be a better way, than to put on an electric show Saturday night of All-Star weekend. Not only do the fans want it, but also the league needs it badly. LeBron is clearly one of the most athletically gifted dunkers in the league and for him to consistently skip out on the dunk contest; he is doing a disservice to the NBA, himself, and what fans he has left.
3. The way LeBron James teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh tells me a couple of things. First of all, it tells me he does not have the desire to be the best basketball player in the world, because to be the best, you must beat, not join, the best. When the Big Three joined forces, Wade was arguably one of the top five players in the league and Bosh was already a five time All-Star. Do you think Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird ever would have left their team to join forces with another top ten player? Not a chance…that never would have happened in any situation because those guys wanted to be the best in the world and they knew they needed to beat the best to become the best. Michael Jordan didn’t win an NBA title until his seventh season in the league, but that didn’t mean he was going to up and leave the Bulls to go play with the likes of Patrick Ewing or Charles Barkley.
4. This brings me to my fourth point, which is similar to No. 3, but has a different spin. LeBron lacks that intense competitiveness that Jordan, Magic, Bird and so many other greats had. It was there every time Jordan or Magic Johnson took the floor. Larry Bird was one of the most competitive players I ever saw. Kobe Bryant has it, even Kevin Garnett. I just don’t see it enough with LeBron. The one time he showed this quality was Game 6 of this season’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. The Heat were facing elimination, LeBron had a focus and determination we hadn’t seen from him before and look what happened. He dominated the game to the tune of 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and went 19-26 from the field.
5. LeBron’s unprofessionalism bothers me. Last season in the NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki was sick during Game 4. Dirk went on to lead the Mavericks to victory, tying the series at two games apiece. Before Game 5, LeBron and Dwyane Wade were shown, walking down the tunnel to the arena, fake coughing, as if they were sick. Another classless move and disrespectful toward Nowitzki. Three games earlier, with a 1-0 series lead, the Heat took an 88-73 lead in Game 2 after a huge Wade three-point shot, right in front of the Mavs bench. With 7:14 left in the game, LeBron ran over and mobbed Wade in front of the whole Mavs team, as if they had just won the game. Not a good move LeBron. This angered the Mavs and they ended the game on a 22-5 run, stealing Game 2.
6. LeBron gets every call and rarely gets called for a foul. As a kid, I remember complaining about how Jordan would seem to get every single call to go his way, but to the best of my knowledge, a majority of those were actually fouls. Some of the calls that have gone LeBron’s way in the Eastern Conference Finals and so far in the NBA Finals have been just absurd. LeBron is a very good defender, but to only foul 1.7 times per 36 minutes played is astonishing. In his career, Jordan, a nine time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, averaged at least two fouls or more (per 36 minutes) every season except two, Magic Johnson averaged 2.2 fouls per 36 minutes, and Larry Bird, 2.4. In this same stat, Kobe Bryant (nine time NBA All-Defensive First Team) is also at 2.4. So, while LeBron seems to get every call, he’s also getting away with plenty of fouls on the other end as well.
Plattner is a Minnesota-based columnist. Catch “The Catch” every Tuesday in the Times-Record