I’m writing this article at 4:30 in the morning, after having semi-intentionally dozing off during the fourth quarter of last night’s game, well after the outcome had been decided. I’d been telling people the last few days that I couldn’t imagine waking up to a world in which LeBron James had won an NBA championship, but it turns out that falling asleep to such a world is even more challenging for me — every half-hour or so I would stir with the panic-striking thought of “Did that really just happen? There’s no Game 6? Is there really still no way for LeBron James to choke this one away again?” Frankly, I may never sleep again.
I hate LeBron James. More to the point, I am a LeBron James hater, in the Maino sense of the word. I’d always thought that hip-hop’s preoccupation with the concept of haterdom was ridiculous — yeah, dude, like there are really hordes of people out there that want you to fail for no particular reason, and you’re not just a mildly paranoid narcissist — but that’s exactly the content of my relationship with LeBron. There is nothing in professional sports that makes me happier than seeing this guy fail, and I root for it unequivocally, without logic or remorse. Perhaps there are legions of people who legitimately feel the same way about B.o.B. and perhaps not, but I can no longer deny the concept’s existence.
Why am I such a LeBron hater? If you had asked me a couple of years ago — hell, maybe even a couple of months ago — I probably would’ve offered some kind of explanation based around how the man always seemed to me like a basketball half-stepper, a guy who didn’t take the game nearly as much to heart as my favorite players did, who was more interested in the general concept of success (fame, fortune, power and influence) than in legitimate, validating NBA success, and that if he could have achieved the same things he did playing golf or poker or being a motivational speaker, he’d be fine with it. I’d point out his disorientingly unemotional press conferences the last few years after being eliminated from the playoffs as evidence of his lack of personal investment, and I’d point out his obvious front-running with his sports interests (including wearing a Yankees hat to an Indians game while playing for Cleveland) as proof that he didn’t have a clue what real sports fandom was about.
But frankly, all that is beside the point. Trying to defend my hate of LeBron James and base it in some kind of moral objectivity is ultimately as purposeless as defending my love of Kobe Bryant. Even as I argue it, I can hear myself arguing the obvious points against it, and they’re all more valid than the points I’m making. Mostly, I just hate LeBron James because I hate LeBron James. I hate his stupid face. I hate his State Farm commercials. I hate his chest-puffing peacock strut after getting the whistle on an and-one. I hate how hilarious he thought it was that time Donyell Marshall tried to enter a game without his jersey on. I hate how he occasionally forgets not to refer to himself in the third person. I hate his terrible dance moves. I hate his shoe-endorsing grills. I hate that he shot that free throw left-handed in the ’10 Bulls series, seemingly only to bait NBA conspiracy theorists. I hate his childhood friends that he brings everywhere with him. I hate how he never gets injured. Did I mention that I fucking hate his stupid fucking face?
It was actually interesting and a little bit weird for me two years ago when LeBron James went on national TV and actually offered up a defensible reason for me and the majority of America to hate him. As overjoyed as I was to finally have millions of new allies in my personal crusade against LBJ, and as much as it made my black heart sing to hear him get booed in every arena he visited for a year or two, part of me resented the obvious hate bandwagoning — Hey, assholes, I’ve hated LeBron James for years before this, and I’ll still be hating him for years after you’ve lost interest. Sure enough, his otherworldy playoff performance this year and his appropriately contrite attitude towards his behavior in the 2010 offseason have diminished national LBJ hate, and all the fairweather haters are jumping ship. Not me.
Actually, the main reason “The Decision” resonated with me as a reason to further hate LeBron James was because of the team he chose to join; not because of what it said about him as a person or basketball player, but just because my rootless hate for the Heat is nearly as fervent as my rootless hate for LeBron. I hate their uniforms, I hate their stadium (on TV anyway), I hate their late-arriving fans, I hate the font the team name is written in on the court, and I hate hate hate hate HATE their announcer’s “twwwooooOOOOOO MINUTES! DOS! (MINUTOS!!!!!)” call towards the end of the period.
Oh, and I also hate Dwyane Wade. His commercials are even worse than LeBron’s. And I hate Chris Bosh too, though I try not to burn too many calories on that one. In a way, I guess I should be thanking the franchise and players for all assembling into one Death Star of NBA evil for me, and keeping it clean for the other 29 teams.
My LeBron James hate is the really inarguable point though. For reasons that are somewhat beyond me, throughout these Finals, one of my co-workers has continuously sent me articles written about LeBron’s playoff performance, which all have the headline or general conclusion of “Say what you will about LeBron James, but you have to appreciate what he’s doing these Finals.” My response to him has been the same each time: Fuck the Heat, fuck LeBron James, and fuck you for sending me this article. I will not be reasoned with on this matter, and how dare you even try. Do you see me trying to lay out convincing, statistically backed arguments as to why you shouldn’t love your parents? Not. Fucking. Interested.
It’s hard to properly put into words just how validating it had been over the last three postseasons to see LeBron James come up short for no apparent reason. Every single playoff series I’ve ever watched LeBron in, I have assumed he was going to win, because I hate him so much and because he is that good a basketball player. (This is one defense I will never use for my LBJ hate: at any point in the last five years if you had asked me who the best player in the league was, I would’ve answered LeBron, without hesitation. I think he’s underrated, if anything. But that’s all beyond irrelevent.) I have special places in my heart for the 2009 Magic, the 2010 Celtics and the 2011 Mavericks for continually delaying what seemed to be the inevitable, and all players from any are certainly welcome at my next birthday party for keeping the narrative of LeBron James, Professional Basketball Joker alive and on course.
Now that he’s won one, I realize just how fortunate I’ve been that it took this long. During Game 5 last night, my similarly LBJ-hating (though perhaps marginally less devoted to the cause) roommate said something to console himself like “Well … we knew he wasn’t going to go his entire career without winning one.” I made no such allowances. His ascension to the NBA throne seemed equally inevitable each of the last three seasons, never to materialize. The fact that he kept pulling up lame at these big moments, with no easy explanation as to how or why, led me to wonder if there was some higher power out there that agreed with me about his general suckiness, and would protect me from ever having to witness (no Nike) him actually winning a championship. I was grateful. Lord, I was grateful.
Now, I’m just sort of lost. In the past, when the Sixers — the NBA team that I actually wish positive things upon, or “root for” — were eliminated from the playoffs, which has traditionally been pretty early on, I always at least had the cause of rooting against LeBron James to keep me emotionally invested for the rest of the postseason. It just won’t be the same now. No matter what happens here out, with a championship ring to his credit, LeBron’s career is permanently validated, just as it was for one-time “chokers” Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning in their respective sports. You can still keep him out of the Jordan discussion if he doesn’t win many (or any) more, but there’s no doubting the resume now. LeBron James is one of the all-time greats. Harumph.
Still, I will keep the fire burning. No matter what LeBron does or where he goes from here on out, I will be there, praying for his downfall. I’ll be there next year, hoping the Heat’s title defense goes as miserably as it did back in 2007. My liver will pump bile for this man until the day he retires, and then I will hope that his celebrity car wash or whatever does poorly and that his stint as an NBA analyst quickly proves disastrous. The anti-LeBron bandwagon may be thinning, but I’m driving the damn thing, just as furiously as ever. You see me. Hi hater.