Yes, I have jumped the Oklahoma City Thunder ship and am now riding tall with LeBron and the Miami boys. Call me a flip flopper, a fair weather fan, a backstabber, whatever. The national hatred for LeBron James has finally gotten to me and so I’ve decided to be a LeBron supporter rather than a hater.
Going into this NBA Finals, I thought I would stick with the Western Conference and go with OKC to win. I like the way the young duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are able to score points. OKC is a young exciting team and despite what Lakers fans would lead you to believe, they are the face of the NBA right now.
As I got into the first two games of the Finals between the Heat and the Thunder, I was pulling pretty hard for the Thunder. And after two games, tied 1-1, I liked the direction the series was going. But then, after reading too many sports columns and listening to too much sports talk radio, I learned that most of the nation’s sports junkies who don’t have a horse in the race are pulling for OKC just because they don’t want to see LeBron win a championship. Besides fans in South Beach, most people are going for OKC and it’s not because they truly like OKC. It’s because they truly hate LeBron James and everything he stands for in the NBA.
Of course, all of this stems from LeBron’s exit from Cleveland and his WWE-style “The Decision” to move to Miami along side his two buddies Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. We all know the story here. The over-hyped decision to move to Miami that played out on a stage complete with spotlights, fog and a host of special effects was a shot directly into the heart of Cleveland Cavalier fans. Not only had LeBron turned his shoulder on Ohio, he basically gave them the middle finger while doing it. Cleveland fans responded by burning LeBron jerseys with utmost anger. Most others outside the state of Ohio weren’t impressed either.
I will admit I wasn’t impressed with LeBron’s way of making the decision. It was over the top and conceited. Being a Nuggets fan, I didn't care a whole lot about it, but it didn’t improve LeBron’s image in my mind at all. For many, just his style of making that decision is why they hope LeBron will never win a championship. Others look to the notion that he orchestrated the move with Bosh and Wade in hopes of winning a championship the quick and easy way. He put together a dream team to win a championship and this isn’t the way it should work in the NBA. You’ve got to work for it over a long period of time, I guess.
So when LeBron and Co. made it to the Finals last year and lost to the Mavericks, the nation of sports fans, myself included, breathed a sigh of relief. LeBron’s grand experiment didn't work. So here we are a year later after an OKC Game 1 win in the Finals, and I found myself sighing with relief again that maybe LeBron’s experiment in Miami won’t work again.
And then, after a Game 2 Miami win, I changed my mind.
It hit me that I really shouldn’t care about the way LeBron treated Cleveland in his departure. In fact, I don’t like Cleveland in any way. It occurred to me that some of those (older) fans who were burning LeBron jerseys were the same fans that, over 20 years ago, threw batteries at John Elway as he played in a few of those nasty AFC Championship games in the Dog Pound. So yeah, I still hold a grudge against Cleveland (even though Elway and the Broncos severely burned the Browns in those games) and it’s no wonder LeBron wanted out. I would have left Cleveland too. The Cavalier organization seemed to be in no position to contend for a championship.
And that’s what it’s all about, right? Winning championships? All of a sudden I have no problem with LeBron speaking with Bosh and Wade behind closed doors in an effort to get them to Miami. LeBron wanted to put together a championship team and he had the means of doing it, so why not? Is it unfair? Maybe. Is LeBron the only player in the NBA to ever do such a thing? Hell no. These are the kind of actions the Los Angeles Lakers are made of. They buy championships all the time, every time. So now, LeBron does it and we don’t like it?
Hell, people would rather see the cheating liar Tiger Woods succeed before LeBron James. That can’t be right, can it? LeBron ditched Cleveland in search of a championship. He helped put together a championship caliber team. Despite all the criticism, he knows that it’s all about championships and that’s what he’s striving for.
I know this column isn’t going to change any minds about LeBron. He’s well-hated and will be for some time, even if he does win this Finals against OKC. I will say, however, that since I’ve warmed my heart toward LeBron, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the man in action a hell of a lot more than when I hated him. His work so far down in the paint, fighting for offensive rebounds and then drawing fouls, has been terrific. It’s no mistake he’s been crowned MVP once again. He’s the best in the league right now and I am glad to be able to now enjoy his play.
I do wonder if sports fans in general will move on to the next best villain if LeBron wins a championship this year? Or, will LeBron be a villain forever? Somehow I don’t think it will happen, as a new, even worse villain is beginning to surface. That man goes by the name of Dwight Howard. We thought LeBron’s antics were bad. I think Howard is going to be even worse and already may be.
Perhaps now is a good time to move our national hatred over to Dwight. I mean, he did get Stan Van Gundy fired, right? I hate him already. I’ve moved on, you should too.