No Sympathy For Bron-Bron

I’ve never met Ethan Sherwood Strauss. I don’t follow him on Twitter, and he doesn’t follow me. But I know who he is, and I’m quite certain he knows who I am.

And since I’m a social media crackhead, if you will, I saw a colleague of Strauss’s – of which we are mutual Twitter followers – tweet a link to story that he wrote on Hoop Speak (a featured blog on ESPN’s True Hoop network) entitled, “Can we accept LeBron James as a choker?”

Immediately the title caught my attention and upon reading, I quickly discovered that the piece was extremely sympathetic towards LeBron, because he has come up short on so many occasions and has been trashed for it as a result.

Strauss says:

“Can anybody be sympathetic to LeBron James for choking? The world seems divided between those who frame James as “choker” so as to bash him, and those who seek a less loaded, more analytical explanation for recent playoff flameouts. What I don’t hear is: “LeBron James is a choker because he wants to win so badly. We should feel sympathy for him.” Granted, many feel that he is undeserving of sympathy, but it should be possible to find humanity in his failure.”

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

What is this, teaching a kid how to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time and picking him up and kissing his scraped up knees and elbows every time he falls? Please…

Mr. Strauss goes on to theorize that fear of failure comes with desperately wanting success and, to that point, I take no issue, because it’s true. It’s like wanting to ask the cheerleading captain to the prom, but you’re a nerd sporting a pocket protector, and you know there’s no way she’d be caught dead with you in public so, at the risk of being shot down, you don’t bother to ask her at all. Fail.

But this ain’t that. This is professional basketball. And not only is this professional basketball, this is LeBron James, aka The “Chosen One,” he who is supposed to be the greatest player of this or any generation to come and we’re all supposed to be witnesses.

So given that, why should any of us feel sorry for him when he fails?

Does he feel sorry for the parents who have to shell out almost $200, because their son just has to have his latest sigs? No.

Does he feel sorry for the fans in Miami and Cleveland who had to pay jacked-up ticket prices just to watch him come up short again and again? No.

Does he feel sorry for those people who might feel let down because they bought into the, “Not one… Not two… Not three…” crap he spouted off at the pre-championship celebration on South Beach? No.

So allow me to summarize that it is because of these things, and many others, that LeBron James deserves no sympathy for his failings and he deserves every snide comment, mean joke and choker label thrown his way. Why? Because he makes millions of dollars in endorsements, millions more playing basketball in the No Boys Allowed League, and it comes with the territory of being labeled as “great.”

He’s been marketed, packaged and sold as the best thing to happen to the game since Dr. Naismith thought it was a good idea to cut a hole in the bottom of the peach basket to speed the game up.

Besides, you can’t tell me that LeBron wanted to win a championship so much more than guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant who, incidentally, managed to always come up big during the critical moments; the championship moments. How come they didn’t freeze up? How come they didn’t repeatedly fail? How come they managed to rise to the occasion and overcome the pressure and come out victorious in the end?

When was the last time you saw MJ or Kobe be invisible in the NBA Finals? When was the last time you heard a collective discussion about, “What’s wrong with Mike?” or “What’s wrong with Kobe?” because they were a virtual non-factor on the NBA’s biggest stage?


Great players rise to the occasion. Great players don’t run from the moment and the pressure; they embrace it. Great players don’t fear failure, because they don’t believe they’ll fail. Failure is not an option to them. It’s whatever it takes and by any means necessary to come out with the victory.

You want a “less loaded and analytical explanation” for why LeBron James fails so often? Try this one: mental toughness.

It’s the very thing that separates the greats from the really, really, goods. Great athletes block everything else out and perform regardless of what’s going on around them and in spite of what’s going on between their ears.

So while I respect your opinion Mr. Strauss, and I appreciate the time that you took to sit down and write it all out for us… I’m just not buying the LeBron James as a sympathetic figure bit; not at all.

We shouldn’t accept LeBron James as a choker because that’s a lame, defeatist and enabling attitude. It also ain’t gangsta.

Bron needs to man up and instead of folks constantly making excuses, they should demand greatness of him and hold him accountable when he craps the bed like he did last June. Moreover, he needs to demand greatness of himself and hold himself accountable for failures, since he is the “so-called” best player in the NBA.

And should LeBron James ever win a ring, he should pull a Derek Jeter and send all of the sympathetic bloggers and writers who have made excuses for him year-after-year a limo with a gift basket containing a signed jersey that reads, “Thanks for your support.”

You guys should get something of value for all the time you’ve spent defending him.

And don’t worry about me. I’m fine with walking.

7 Replies to “No Sympathy For Bron-Bron”

  1. Well, well, well Chicago Crawford. You make very valid points. Many of which I'll even go so far as to say I agree with them. I have more to respond to this, but I'm literally falling asleep while writing this. I'll respond more in depth tomorrow.

  2. This one is pretty on point. Until he has proven he can win one, he deserves all that comes with it. Winning is more than an individual accomplishment, but the great one's find a way to get that elusive chip when faced with adversity. We keep referring to the clutch gene but Lebron's seems to have an on and off switch. I think he needs to stop paying attention to what everyone is saying and just be who he is. He looked like an impostor for most of the season last year. If he is indeed that true alpha male, he needs to prove it. Like Mr. Crawford pointed out, too many apologies make me wonder why he is being babied so much.

  3. Good post. Great have to perform when the lights are on. We all know he has talent but until he jumps that's hurdle he can't be considered the best imo.
    If lbj let's a guy under 6'4" guard him this yr I'm through with him

  4. Hey there,

    Wanted to make a few things clear that I perhaps did not make clear enough in my post. This is not about "feeling sorry" for LeBron James; this is about understanding why he failed in a context divorced from dissing him. Explaining is different from excusing. I'm not saying that we should forget LeBron's failure when ranking him relative to other top players. I'm saying we should we aim towards a more nuanced understanding of failure itself.

    While I get the "teaching a kid to ride a bike," analogy, I'm not trying to parent LeBron James. There's no reason for me to apply any kind of tough love to a stranger--he wouldn't hear it anyway.

  5. Can I LOVE this post??

    Nothing annoys me more than the 'Chosen One' before he played his first NBA game, the imma let you finish Lebron is the greatest player of all time, the you minions better watch and witness my greatness that HE himself tries to feed everyone.

    Stop talking. Just play and win. THEN you MAY get SOME of the respect you FEEL you deserve.

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