I owe LeBron James an apology. I’m sorry for hating you and even calling you overrated. You are clearly a generational talent. I mean, I always knew that, but some part of me hated you so deep that I did not care.
For people who know me, know that LeBron James and I have had a contentious relationship over the years. But every relationship has its ups and downs. For the most part, James sums up everything I love and hate about sports. He is the true epitome of a star, on and off the court. To give full context, let’s start at the beginning.
As a young lad, I was much more into basketball than I am now. I got Knicks tickets to see him play at the Garden his rookie season, where the Cavs blew out the Knicks and he had a huge breakaway dunk that stunned the crowd. I even had a Cavaliers jersey with James’ 23 on the back. I was all in on LeBron, pushing for him to bring a championship to the lowly city of Cleveland
As I got older, my time got more and more valuable. I understood what I loved about sports, and what I did not love. Basketball is a team sport, but as far as team sports go, it is apparent how much of a difference one player can make on a team. This started rubbing me the wrong way. James in his prime would play 45+ minutes every game. He was an all-around player. Dominating drives to the basket and could guard the opposition’s best player. Having him on your team has guaranteed a NBA Finals appearance, as the last 6 NBA Finals have had James, with him going 3-3.
The appeal of basketball slowly dwindled for me even before the summer of 2010. That’s when “The Decision” happened and James left Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach. Boy, was I out on LeBron. What a selfish decision to have an hour show on ESPN declaring you were leaving the Cavs. Talk about a low-blow for the city of Cleveland. The next four years, James was a marked man by many, including myself. Free agency is a part of sports, but to do so on national television is humiliating. There was no need. Even if he announced he was coming to the Big Apple, I would have still be disliked him and his treatment of the city of Cleveland. This was also around the time I stopped watching ESPN, but that’s another story . . .
On the Heat, James and Co. were enemy #1. I don’t think there was a player in sports I disliked more than James (Marty Brodeur might have been #1, but that’s due to his domination of the Rangers for years). I vowed to never root for James again. I wished him all the worst.
After 4 years on the Heat and 2 NBA championships, James decided to go home and win one for Cleveland. Admirable. But this did not bring him immediately back into my good graces. No, not yet. He teamed up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. That summer, you could sense this could finally be the year for Cleveland.
(LeBron James was fantastic in the movie Trainwreck. An important step in rebuilding my relationship with him. This needed to be mentioned.)
Then came the Golden State Warriors out of no where. They met the Cavs in the Finals and ran through them for the most part, as Love and Irving were injured. James could not do it on his own. Onto the next year.
The Cavs dominated the East and pretty much coasted into the Finals, where they faced the Warriors, again. This time, however, everyone saw this matchup coming. This Warriors team broke the regular season record for most wins with 73, upending a Jordan-led Bulls team from 1995/’96. James and the Cavs were underdogs and not given much of a chance.
I was already pulling for the Cavs to win it all when the playoffs started, but I was really pulling for them once everyone seemed to give them no chance. Everyone was aboard the Warriors bandwagon. You know, all the people who rooted for the Panthers in the Super Bowl also became Warrior fans. Gave the Cavs even more of that underdog appeal that I look for.
In my heyday of hating James, I criticized him for being overrated. Again, we had a troubled relationship. I was blinded by ignorance and hate. Watching him win those final three games showed truly how great he still is. He did all the things you would expect LeBron James to do. He was a force of nature (THAT BLOCK ON IGGY). I don’t care how good Steph Curry is at shooting a basketball, he will never be as dominant a player as James. It boggled me that some voices in the media dismissed James and the Cavs, deeming this 73 win Warrior team as being too great to lose.
It goes to show you how great James is then, if he could defeat the team with the most regular season wins in NBA history. It also goes to show you that this Warriors team was a tad overrated. You think that record setting Bulls team would blow a 3-1 series lead? Not. A. Chance.
Greatness overcoming the odds is a story that will never get old in sports. Seeing James hoist the trophy for Cleveland was truly a sight to behold. A city that has starved for sports supremacy. Any win for the Cavs would have been memorable, but they won their first championship in 52 years in true fairy tale fashion.
So, LeBron James, I hope you accept my heartfelt apology. Maybe now you can come to the Knicks and bring a championship here. A kid can dream, right?