I must take issue with Robert Weintraub and his article “Heat Sensitive: Why I’m rooting for LeBron James – and you should too,” published today at Slate. Mr. Weintraub seems to think he is going against most in America in trying to build a case for liking the Heat and the man most demonized during their run of success. But he’s not. He’s echoing what almost every broadcaster on the ESPN/Disney/ABC network (outside of those in Dallas and possibly Cleveland) says and his argument misses some very key facts.
Weintraub states that he “winced” at James’ The Decision program. Most of us didn’t wince. Real sports fans shuddered that sports had sunk to such a low level as to market and endorse (even after the fact, Mr. Wilbon!) a television show where a single player lifts himself above the sport (with the support of ESPN), and holds the basketball world hostage, all the while trying to portray himself as not merely a great basketball player, but the essence of the game itself. Repeat: we did not wince; we shuddered.
Michael Wilbon and others claim that people either have or will forget The Decision. Some will. I won’t. For me, though, it has been about how Mr. James (a player I very much supported in the past) has handled himself since that point. He calls people who criticized him “haters,” and refuses to admit that the show was childish and self-serving. So LeBron, what is it when you criticize someone’s actions? Loving? Grow up.
But what really gets me riled is when people like Weintraub assume that the criticism LeBron James has received is because of his actual decision to leave the Cavaliers and play in Miami. Weintraub writes, “LeBron put in his time in Cleveland, played out his contract, and chose to go elsewhere, just like millions of other careerists out there. End of story.”
But it isn’t the end of the story. I didn’t hear a lot of noise when Chris Bosh left Toronto. Sure, he’s not the caliber of player of James, but he did it for the same reason: the opportunity to play on a high caliber team and win a championship. The issue, Weintraub and so many miss, is not just in the way James left, but what he has done with himself since then. Had he made the move to Miami, most likely the only people on James’ little “list” would be the people of Cleveland.
Had all this happened when James was still 18 or 19, I think many people would give the guy a pass. Maybe we’d all think, “Hey, he’s just a kid.” But LeBron James isn’t a child star anymore. He’s a grown man, an adult punk.
In a recent column, Rick Reilly gives several reasons fans should root for the Mavericks in these Finals. One of my favorites is this: “Pull for Dallas because Nowitzki stayed with his team, never took his talents anywhere but to the damn gym every day.” Amen to that and Go MAVS!