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Peterson: NBA fans need to rethink their senseless LeBron bashing

LeBron, I’m sorry. I fell victim to the plague that spread across America, the one that claims you’re a villain and the one that hopes each and every year to see you fall short and fail to achieve your goals. For 11 seasons, like much of the United States, I’ve rooted against you at every turn, whether it was cheering for Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant in the MVP race or the Mavericks, Thunder and Spurs in the NBA Finals.

But when I stopped to think about it, what has LeBron actually done to deserve this?

Sure, four years ago he went over the top in declaring his intentions during free agency. It would have been much wiser for him to simply sign the usual way, and especially to refrain from using the phrase “take my talents to South Beach.” He was a jerk to Cleveland that night and came off as arrogant to viewers. But so what?

The best basketball player in the world is confident in his abilities and seemed a little egotistical — would any of us not be a little arrogant if we were that ridiculously good? Oh and not to mention that he raised over $3 million for charity by putting on his supposedly arrogant, condescending show, “The Decision,” for ESPN.

Michael Jordan had a gambling problem. Kobe Bryant was accused, whether wrongfully or not, of rape, and arguably has a much bigger ego than LeBron James ever has or will. Yet we put so much energy into booing and hating LeBron James for much less. He has had no ugly marks on his career thus far.

This year’s MVP race almost felt like a good guy versus bad guy storyline: Kevin Durant, the humble superstar (who is very deserving of the MVP award and the “good guy” persona), against LeBron James, the man labeled as an egotistical villain who steals NBA titles and awards from better human beings. I’m extremely happy for Kevin Durant, and he absolutely deserved to win, but it’s sometimes astonishing that we’re so quick to cheer players and teams just because they’re opposing LeBron. Rose might have been the prime example of this in the MVP voting a few years ago, more so than Durant this year, who has always been a universal fan favorite.

While the tale of taking his hometown team from the dumps to the top would have made for a nicer storyline, LeBron recognized that it might not have even been possible given Cleveland’s poor coaching, management and roster. Besides, every wage earner in America would jump at the opportunity to work with his or her closest friends. We can’t fault LeBron for wanting to play with his known buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For those who claim that LeBron should have won a title by himself without teaming up with other superstars, find me a superstar in recent memory that has won multiple championships, let alone a single one, “on his own,” other than perhaps Dirk Nowitzki.

Is this simply just a case of the New York Yankees effect — we hate him because he’s just so darn good? LeBron is arguably the greatest all-around athlete in the world, even though his game isn’t only defined by his athleticism. He has post moves to complement his sneaky good 3-point shooting ability and otherworldly efficiency from the field. And of course, he can blow by you and get to the rim better than any other player in the NBA. This is only a brief description of his abilities, experience and defining traits and moments that could easily fill up a book.

The saddest part of all is that the prime of his career might be over. LeBron is already 29, and in only a few years, the first articles about his decline will inevitably be written. It’s only a matter of how significant of a decline it will be. The best years of one of basketball’s all-time greatest players were spent listening to raucous boos and suffering from underappreciation from basketball fans everywhere. It’s not just that he’s on a different team — great players on opposing teams often hear from that team’s fans just because they’re good — it’s clearly something more.

However, if you take a step back and look at the sport of basketball at a whole, you start to realize just what a blessing LeBron is for the game.

On behalf of America, I would like to apologize to LeBron for the misguided animosity all these years, whose only crime has been taking his place amongst the greatest players of all time, and perhaps, having a little arrogance along with that. Sometimes you don’t know what you have before it’s gone. If fans don’t recognize the thrilling show LeBron puts on every game and learn to move past habitual dislike to appreciate that, it might be too late to enjoy the greatest player of this generation. I know I’ve already missed out on part of that.

It’s now evident that Michael Peterson has converted to the dark side. It’s a pity, too, because he had so much potential. Send Michael your best home remedies to help cure him from the bandwagon disease at mrpeters’at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him your concerns for his health @mpetes93.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is a sports desk editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • JDM

    I have no idea what I was searching to bring me to this article, but I’m glad I stumbled across it. On behalf of all LeBron James apologists everywhere, I commend you on your effort in understanding the error of your ways. In addition, well said, Mr. Peterson. Well said.