Editor's note: This was originally posted on July 30, 2010
I've always hated LeBron James. Ever since he entered the NBA, I've hated him. So it's safe to say that I am a hater, and that's fine. I'm comfortable with that. I've hated him because he was anointed "The King" before he even stepped on to a professional basketball court. Then, when he finally made it, he showboated on the court and on the sidelines and took part in cheesy games during practices. He never really showed that he was dedicated to winning or had that killer instinct that all the greats had. Sure, he is the reigning two-time MVP and is probably the most versatile player in the NBA today, but after his egocentric charade that he put on for his announcement, I can safely say that I may not ever hate any professional NBA player more than I hate LeBron James right now.
I honestly didn't care where LeBron went. I expected him to go to the Knicks to make a run at becoming infallible. If he won a title in New York City, he would undoubtedly be deserving of his throne. If he won in Cleveland, he would be a real-life superhero. Not only would he be "The King", he would also be able to use Dwight Howard's nickname and make it his own. He would truly be Superman. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, with the ability to fly and jump over skyscrapers in a single bound, he would be LeBron James, vanquisher of curses and voodoo spells. He would be forever loved in Cleveland. Instead, he became forever banished as evidenced by this clip. Whether he likes it or not, he is never going to be able to show his face on the streets of Cleveland again without an entourage of bodyguards armed with riot shields, and to be perfectly honest, I don't blame the people in Cleveland one bit. No true fan that sits through the good times as well as the bad times deserves that kind of jettisoning.
What's funny about the whole debacle is that I couldn't get enough LeBron bashing after he narcissistically took his talents and media circus to South Beach. I read every article on ESPN. I sat on facebook and watched people's status updates come flying in by the minute. Every single piece of writing that I read was laced with enough criticism to last a lifetime, but strangely, it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough that finally this moron had fallen from everyone's good graces to being the most hated player in the NBA today, and I still want more. Call me a glutton, but I want to see LeBron in four years, disgraced, watching Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, or Dwight Howard celebrating with their teammates on the podium as David Stern hands one of them the MVP trophy and congratulating them on beating this underwhelming team from Miami while LeBron sits in the locker room at age 29 with aches, bumps, and brusies wondering where it all went wrong. I want to see LeBron's failures to continue. I want to see karmic justice. Not only would it make me happy, but it would give me peace. I would be able to sleep at night knowing that people who wrong others get their fair due.
I believe every theory that I have read. I believe that he lied and that he quitduring the playoffs last season. I think it was a cowardly move to not at least sit down with Dan Gilbert and the other front-office members of the Cleveland Cavaliers and tell them after the playoffs that he most likely wasn't coming back to the Cavaliers. Also, if he was willing to take a pay cut in Miami, why wasn't he willing to do that for his hometown team? Yet another way this guy turned his back on this city that hasn't won anything for 46 years, but I guess anytime you have the chance to scornfully spurn an entire city and flush your professional image down the toilet at the same time in a matter of minutes, you have to do it.
The best part about all of the hype surrounding the Miami Heat is the pressure and the fact that Kobe Bryant (captain motivation himself) is probably chomping at the bit right now, waiting for the season to start. He's been courting these defensive role players (Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff) to come to the Lakers to help this team three-peat. The Lakers won the championship on June 17th 2010, but anyone that started following the NBA a week after that wouldn't know who won. There has been little to no talk about the Lakers since that Game 7 win over Boston, and really, I think that's just how Kobe likes it. This offseason has surely provided fuel to maybe the most insane athlete when it comes to winning; the guy will do whatever it takes and will use whatever motivation comes his way to try and push himself to the next level. He knows that if the Lakers meet the Heat in the Finals, he is going to have a chance at not only winning another ring, but he will also have the chance of adding a huge chapter to his storied career by knocking off this team of superstars and undoubtedly moving him up the list of all-time greats. Kobe may not be the most likable guy on or off the court in terms of his surly demeanor, but at least his fans and Laker fans know that he is committed to winning and that he's willing to do whatever it takes to put another championship banner up in the rafters of the Staples Center. Like him or not, Kobe Bryant is the epitome of a true champion.
Bill Simmons from ESPN has questioned how the Heat will work due to the fact that there are multiple "alpha dogs" on the team. He's discussed this with Dan LeBatard on his podcast, and LeBatard rebuked him for that statement, saying if it was Boston, Simmons would be all over the trio's ability to work on offense, and he would have no worries about their ability to gel as a unit. Simmons didn't really say much else on that topic after LeBatard called him a homer, but at first glance, it looks like this group can't be compared with the Big Three in Boston. In Miami, we have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two guys that are used to having the ball in their hands and are used to either creating offense for themselves or drawing double-teams and dishing to their other teammates. Chris Bosh isn't known for his passing, unlike Pau Gasol or even Kevin Garnett when he was with the Timberwolves. So what we have are three guys at three different positions that need the ball to play their game, which reminds me of what LeBron said when asked about his concern of him, Wade, and Bosh sharing the spotlight, "Well, it's not about sharing the spotlight, it's about everyone having they own spotlight". Not only was this a grammatically incorrect sentence, it was totally contradictory of a team mentality. Everyone having their own spotlight? How many times has that worked with three superstars? And how can someone read that statement and say that there won't be alpha dog issues a la Kobe and Shaq in 2004-2005? In Boston the big three worked right away because they had Paul Pierce (a creator with the ball through isolation and pick-and-rolls), Ray Allen (a pure shooter that runs opponents rampant around the court off the ball, through several back screens to find the split second opening that will allow him to catch and shoot in less than a second), and Kevin Garnett (who has really always been a pass-first player [almost to a fault], but could also spread the floor and score in the low post). So they had an alpha-dog, an off the ball pick-and-pop guy, and a pass-first low post facilitator/scorer instead of three scorers that need the ball to facilitate their offense. So while it may end up working out in Miami, it is going to take some major adjusting by all three superstars for this to go smoothly.
Right now there are I think three teams that have a good chance at beating the Miami Heat in a seven-game series and two others that have an outside chance at beating them (barring injury). The five teams that will have a chance to beat them (in order from greatest chance to slimmest chance) are the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Thunder, and Bulls. The Thunder and Bulls have an outside chance due to Kevin Durant and the athleticism and quickness that all of their players bring to the table, and the Bulls also just made the Celtics' defensive mastermind their head coach. If his defensive philosophies inspire Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer to play some defense, they'll give themselves a decent chance to at least stay with them. Ultimately I think they will lose to Orlando or Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But in my opinion, losing in the third round of the playoffs won't be soon enough.