In the world of sports, being an evil-doer is easier said than done. Polarizing athletes such Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant and Richard Sherman have sported the villain role and excelled while doing so. With assuming the role of the villain, there has to be a motive on why one would want to embrace the inclination of some form of acrimony. It could be championships, stats, legacies or overall greatness in their respective sports. Most sports leagues have a person playing that role, but can’t be said in today's version of the NBA.
It would be an understatement to say that the NBA is in dire need of a villain. Although the baby-faced assassin Steph Curry has stolen the hearts of NBA fans, their needs to be the anti-hero to what Curry is on the court.
There is a certain player that wore the villain hat just a few years ago, and would perfectly ease back into that role, and that player is LeBron James. In a past life with Miami, the King didn’t fully embrace that role, but it may be best for himself, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. Just a few years ago, in an interview with ESPN's Brian Windhorst he stated that:
"It basically turned me into somebody I wasn't," James said. "You start to hear 'the villain,' now you have to be the villain, you know, and I started to buy into it. I started to play the game of basketball at a level, or at a mind state that I've never played at before ... meaning, angry. And that's mentally. That's not the way I play the game of basketball."
James has been ridiculed as of late due to the firing of David Blatt. As expected, James denied having any involvement, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put the pieces to the puzzle together. Let’s face it, this would not be the first time where an all-time great sent their coach packing. Magic Johnson did the same to Paul Westhead as well as Michael Jordan had with Doug Collins, and Shaquille O’Neal did with Stan Van Gundy. In a recent interview with ESPN, James had this to say about the firing.
"That's not my concern," James said. "I found out about it just like every other player on this team at 3:30 yesterday. ... I think [Griffin] was right on everything he said. ... Like it or love it or hate it, we got to respect it."
As I heard the comments from James I sat back and thought:
For obvious reasons he can’t come out and say that he had something to do with Blatt being fired, but what he can do is embrace that hate and resentment that is coming his way. To piggy-back on what Fox Sports' talkie Colin Cowherd had to say about James, it would be great for the King to go heel.
In the early days of the Miami Heatles, they resembled the "N... W... O!" and in the process, they pissed off fans in opposing arenas, overpowered teams, and did so in exhilarating fashion. James and these Cavs have the moxie to take on that attitude, and it may suit them better on the hardwood.
Let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to hate the Golden State Warriors because they are so fun to watch. It’s also hard to dislike the San Antonio Spurs because they play the game of basketball the way it’s supposed to be done. Outside of the top-tier teams in the NBA, that leaves James as the sole steward to be the villain.
As of December 2015, the ratings are down across the board. According to the Wall Street Journal:
"Through last week, the average audience for TNT’s national games is down 8.2% from 2014, according to Nielsen, while ESPN’s national games are down 5.6%. Both cable networks also saw early-season losses in the valuable demographic of adults ages 18 to 49, with TNT off by 12.7% and ESPN down 4.5% through Thursday."
"These drops are part of a steady decline in the NBA’s cable viewership since the 2012 lockout season. NBA audiences last season fell 10% on ESPN to 1.5 million viewers and 12% on TNT to 1.7 million—their lowest since 2008."
Despite their being some great basketball being played, there isn’t enough suspense in the NBA. There are only a few storylines that are intriguing, at least to the casual fan:.
- The Golden State Warriors are damn near unbeatable when healthy.
- The San Antonio Spurs are awfully good, despite having players on the team that are nearing AARP age.
- The masonry tour of Kobe Bryant is coming to a city near you, and he may not even show up.
- Byron Scott hates young players *cough* D'Angelo Russell *cough* Julius Randle *cough*
- Who will win the tanking battle for Ben Simmons?
What’s missing is that feel that James and the Heat gave basketball for a short four-year span. Very few people didn’t like how they assembled their team, and it created a level of resentment that was and still is unfathomable.
LeBron has revamped his image since “The Decision” and is back in good graces with the fans across the NBA. It's evident that he is a nice guy off the court, but on the court it may be time to turn back the clock to the days when he was with the Heat. The Cavs are in need of an emotional surge despite being the top team in the Eastern Conference. With a pissed off #23 the affects could trickle down to his teammates which could give them the edge that they are lacking.
The truth is that channeling his inner "Hollywood Hogan" may be needed for his team and for the betterment of the NBA. Since James is getting the brunt of the blame due to the firing off his former head coach, he might as well embrace the slander that is coming is way. LeBron has had many Hulk Hogan-like moments during his career. From being the ultimate hero to being a loathed villain he has shown ability to produce in either role. The return of the LeBron World Order may be desired by few, but if we sit back and think how fun it was to watch him play as a villain all will be forgotten.
With that said, all he is missing is the air guitar, bottle of black spray paint, the championship belt, and a little bit of Jimi Hendrix, or better yet—Future Hendrix.