NBA

Easy decision to root against LeBron

Marques Johnson previews the Thunder-Heat matchup.
Marques Johnson previews the Thunder-Heat matchup.
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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining FOXSports.com. Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

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Rooting against LeBron James opens oneself to amateur psychology attempts by others.

I am a hater. I am a racist. I cannot stand young athletes deciding their own fates. I am incapable of forgiveness. I am a contrarian. I would not feel this way if he played for my team. I am an idealist. I am a girl. I am a bitch.

None of this is true, save, for idealist, girl and occasionally, when necessary, the last one. And none have anything to do with why I hope LeBron and the Miami Heat do not win the NBA Finals.

The case against LeBron is simple and best articulated by the late John F. Kennedy: "To those whom much is given, much is expected." And as far as I can tell, what many believe to be the greatest basketball player in the world has used his significant talent and platform, with one notable exception in donning a hoodie in support of Trayvon Martin, to gloss King James.

We love to glamorize the lessons sport teaches and the values it imparts in moment like Katrina and Joplin, JoePa and Lance Armstrong. We say this is what sports is about. We congratulate ourselves for this. Then we absolve players from learning them or being governed by them.

Why I root against LeBron and almost certainly always will is because of how he handled the Cleveland exit. And redemption from that hubris and cruelty will not come in the form of a championship, or a ring, or even eight.

It is not that he went to another team. I am a capitalist. I believe in free agency.

What bothers me is not who he is, but rather who he chose not to be because it was too hard. LeBron had this opportunity to be something to a city he claimed to love. He could have been what Peyton Manning was to Indianapolis, or David Robinson to San Antonio, or even what Kevin Durant has become to Oklahoma City.

LeBron James

FAIL ME NOW

NBA history is full of playoff heroes — but also these 10 playoff fails.

The closest parallel is Manning, an unbelievable talent who ended up in a town probably too small for him. He had “coast” talent and charisma, yet always seemed content where he was. It was not easy. Manning was foiled by the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and had to hear how he was never going to win. He stayed, anyway. He stayed and won, and when he finally had to go, when the Colts decided to move on without him, he handled that with class, as well, thanking everybody for having him and leaving behind a children’s hospital with his name on it.

This is the type of relationship and legacy it is almost impossible to have in Miami or really any big city. There is just too much going on, too much to do and, frankly, too much going for it to have its civic pride wrapped up in a player.

In a town like Cleveland — with all due respect to the flats, its art museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — LeBron gave its citizens a national identity it could brag on.

A ring was not guaranteed there. It was going to be hard. This is why he left. And when he did, he did so in the most cowardly way possible — telling Jim Gray before telling the city.

We can’t have it both ways — praising Peyton for what he did for Indianapolis and pretending what LeBron did not do for Cleveland does not matter. Yes, teams move under the cover of darkness sometimes, relocate for money or better arenas or fresh starts. Those are corporations. We almost expect that.

celebrities at nba games

FAN-TASTIC

Celebrities at playoff games like to see and be seen.

The people we expect more from are the people, guys like LeBron, who knew on a very personal level the inferiority complex of the Midwest.

I do not know what was worse, LeBron telling Gray, “It was a tough decision because I know how loyal I am,” or the fact he did not immediately balk when told the idea to spew this grammatically suspect b.s. on national television.

Jeff Van Gundy, TNT color analyst, said there is a “statue” of limitations on LeBron’s public relations gaffes, The Decision, the pre-emptive pep rally, the guarantee of “not five, not six, not seven . . .”

I disagree, although, I almost feel sorry for him for this last one. They are the words of someone who has never won and thereby has no idea how hard it is and how it can not be guaranteed by where you sign or how many of your talented buddies come along.

Basketball is a test of who is the best team, which is how LeBron and the Heat ended up losing to a team with less raw talent, the Dallas Mavericks, last June.

LeBron has talked a lot since then about his maturation, and we have been regurgitating this. Each ensuing round, each mesmerizing game providing proof — as if LeBron were not here a year before, as if he had not told us how easy it was going to be, as if this was not his excuse for leaving Cleveland.

“I never wanted to leave Cleveland,” he told Gray on that fateful day.

It was the most disingenuous thing he said. If he did not want to leave Cleveland, he simply need not leave.

The irony is, after leaving the Cavs because he believed the supporting cast was not good enough to help him win a championship, he again finds himself undermanned. The Dream Team in Miami is not as deep and not as good of a team as the Thunder.

What they are is dangerous.

The Heat became dangerous when LeBron realized this was his team, not Dwyane Wade’s. He has stopped deferring to him and started charging toward the basket again. This guy is so crazy talented he will eventually win a championship. And when he does, people will say he redeemed himself.

All he really will have done is won a championship. Redemption requires Cleveland, and that road is forever closed.

LeBron is not a villain. He is probably not even a bad guy. He is just not what he could have been had he seen it through in Cleveland. And that is why I root against him.

Tagged: Heat, LeBron James

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