The Hate-Watching Of LeBron James

On Sunday night, Michael Jordan notched a triple-double at a time where all hope was lost after his team’s point guard had his knee shatter before our eyes in Thursday’s Game 1. He shot at a blistering 69% clip, grabbed 39 rebounds and threw the most clutch ten assists in NBA Finals history.

"Oh, wait… that wasn’t Mike Jordan? Well, who the hell is that imposter in the #23 jersey?"

On Sunday night, Draymond Green notched a triple-double at a time where…

In all seriousness, most reporters, writers and bloggers are running out of superlatives to describe LeBron James’ efforts in this postseason. Meanwhile, most of the rest are too busy sifting through memes and excessive uses of exclamation points that emphasize his flaws. Both sides are centered around one theme: whether James is being Jordan-esque or not.

Geez.

When you think about how players like James are examined, it’s utterly amazing how much we watch the past in the present. Not in the sense of watching them and being reminded of the evolution of the game, but in feeling like an active player is openly disrespecting the past by placing his or her own name in the history books.

Where we watch some of the NBA’s best and brightest through the prism of James’ dominance, we view the Cleveland star through Jordan-hued lenses and Jordan-hued lenses only. When we’ve dissected the hell out of guys that aren’t Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, we look at the NHL’s leading men as if they are an affront to men like Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. For the hell we give to players that aren’t as “elite” as Tom Brady (Deflategate withstanding) or Peyton Manning, those two quarterbacks get thrice the damnation for not being Joe Montana, John Elway or for greater context, Johnny Unitas.

This has to be what hate-watching television shows must feel like.

For the uninitiated, hate-watching is the strange and silly phenomenon some people engage in where they watch a show that they claim they dislike in order to discuss how much they dislike it with other people. It’s unquestionably a stepchild of social media, but contrary to popular belief, many behaviors of social media are just adaptations of what people had always done offline in the past. Instead of waiting until you got to work the next day to chat with co-workers about a show, it can be done instantaneously and with a mix of friends and total strangers. If a comment gets retweeted or shared among fellow viewers, then for that commenter, it’s almost like Christmas in July, or rather, June.

(Sort of like how humblebragging is actually bragging with fake modesty, hate-watching is actually liking a show while adding forced comedic commentary.)

When it comes to sports, and particularly when it comes to the best of the best, it feels as if the sycophants of past legends are the hate-watchers among us.

Perhaps Jordan stans are the worst thing in modern sports, yet with all due respect, same can be said for the reflexive LeBron obsession or the almost-from-left-field insertion of Kobe Bryant into these discussions. While people need to fall back when it comes to expressing their Jordan-flavored disdain for James, why can’t everyone with a comment about who is or isn’t Jordan take a breather for a moment?

Why do we collectively refuse to let any athlete in team sports write her or his own story?

You would have thought that the modern media climate would have given us all-seeing ability to do just that. Yet, what we have done with our platforms and all the information at our avail is turn these great times in sports into exercises in hate-watching athletes of renown.

The chances of people who already “hate” LeBron James – most especially those carrying a torch for Michael Jordan – coming to some sort of appreciation of him during the remainder of the NBA Finals is as low as a snowflake in the desert. It’s not happening now or any other point in our lifetime. It’s in their nature to hate-watch him or just about anyone else who may flirt with the stature of the best marketed entity since Jesus.

Yet, he is going to keep writing his own story in sports history, just as every other athlete in team sports attempts to create his or her own. And the hate-watchers among us will have to settle for not being able to edit the text.

5 Replies to “The Hate-Watching Of LeBron James”

  1. My personal distain for Mr. James is not to compare and contrast him with anyone who has played the game before him. He is obviously a magnificent player and at the end of the day, especially if he wins this series, arguments can be made that he is the greatest athlete to ever play the game. It is his character, selfishness, egocentricity, and "I am the center of the universe" attitude that generates disrespect. He believes he the coach, the only player on his team with any real talent, and it is all about him. Even when he praises his teammates, there is an air of condescension as he "pats them on the head" with platitudes about playing beyond their normal talent. He blames the refs, in order to intimidate, even when his team wins the game…and it works, the refs bow to him in the next game. He is a bully and a petulant child who believes he is not only the center of the universe in professional basketball, but in the universe. He has no loyalty to his teammates or the city for which he plays. He can drop them like a dirty rag when they no longer serve his agenda. He is not a nice man; if he were, he would still have his detractors, but "hate-watching" of LeBron James would not be worthy of a column. The inference in this column is that "hate" for LeBron is based on jealousy; when for many, it is just that he is a jerk.

    1. Jayne, I thank you for commenting. I have no qualms about disliking a public figure that could rub someone the wrong way for various personal reasons. We all have them, warranted or not. Yet, this is about those who can only see an athlete from the context of someone else's history as has been the case with James in the context of Jordan.

      With that said, I never mentioned jealousy nor did I infer such. I can't help how people may interpret all words written here, but I can tell you directly that I don't think jealousy it at play here at all. In fact, I would argue the complete opposite; it's more about bragging and boasting about what Jordan has done and holding that above James' head.

      1. Well said…and I appreciate your respectful response. I have tried to like LeBron James and I certainly admire his athletic ability…a strong argument can be made that he is the greatest ever. There has been a massive marketing effort to make him more amiable and down to earth, but it doesn't work…because it is fake. Michael Jordan wasn't always a nice guy and he often strutted down the court after an amazing basket, but he did it with charm and lots of humor. His marketing campaign wasn't trying to make him into something he was not…in fact, they played up his good natured arrogance and people wanted to be "like Mike." Jordan rarely made it to the playoffs until he became part of a great team…Kerr, Pippen, Rodman, etc. were part of his brilliance and he acted like it. When he hogged the ball and scored 50 or more points a game, Chicago lost…when he started to pass and play as part of a team, he was invincible. If James can humble himself to do the same (rather than just give occasional lip service to his team mates when they win and imply he can't do everything when they play poorly), his legacy would not be just as one of the greatest to ever play the game, but a hero who unselfishly stuck with team and delivered championships to the town he once abandoned for greener pastures. That being said, if he pulls this series off…the credit will be his and his stock will go up big time.

  2. It's preposterous to say that he has no loyalty to his teammates. His first run with the Cavs lasted seven years as he fulfilled two contracts. The Cavs were not able to attract free agents and I don't believe he played with another All Star the whole time.
    Yes, he availed himself of free agency that was collectively bargained and was his right to do so. He saw a better fit for himself and his family and made a move. Who wouldn't do the same?
    True, he sometimes sounds a little pompous, but it isn't easy answering the same questions hundreds of times. He is proud, he works hard, and sometimes that pride in his achievements slips out, just as it did with Magic, Michael, Bird, etc.
    If you've decided not to like LeBron, that's your right. But let's stick to the facts when criticizing folks.
    JAG

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