Is LeBron James now the most likable guy in the NBA?

LeBron James is now doing rom-coms and winning fans ... and it's all spectacular.

Lost in the laughs stemming from LeBron James’ surprisingly deft turn at acting is its own stunning truth: By stealing scenes in a rom-com and accompanying Funny Or Die video with heavyweights like Amy Schumer, Bill Hader and Judd Apatow, LeBron has made perhaps the most interesting comeback in sports history.

Forget LeBron going from the hated-one who couldn’t close out the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals to a multi-time champion and all-time great in just four years. That’s just basketball, and, at least looking back, something that feels inevitable. He’s upped his non-sports likeability factor to a pop-culture sphere not seen in an athlete since a country hummed "I want to be like Mike" more than two decades ago.

This goes beyond winning a game. An athlete who once had his effigy burned in the streets and booed by everyone outside Miami turning himself into the likable, winning buddy in a hit movie while mocking the very peculiarities of fame that felled him in the first place is remarkable. As is this: LeBron James might be, along with an incredible athlete, a damn good actor, too.

This column isn’t about rehashing LeBron’s culpability or unfair treatment when he left Cleveland and all that followed. It’s enough to agree that back then many, many people hated him — vehemently — and he often did his own cause little to no good.

One of a lot of examples from that time: After his old Cavs team lost in a historic beatdown 112-57 to the Los Angeles Lakers in January 2011, just before he suited up with his new Miami Heat team to take on the Clippers at the Staples Center, LeBron tweeted this out:

So, back then, did a Twitter-age fan base and a ravenous media horde (including me) that snapped up and reported on every LeBron James bout of anger, petulance, discomfort, unhappiness and unlikable behavior. That little doozy reminded a lot of people — that is, if they’d forgotten in the six months since The Decision — how much they couldn’t stand the guy.

That LeBron eventually won back the basketball world despite the bad press and sinking Q-rating is not a shock. Sports, in the end, are about excellence in one game or another, not likeability, and being the most talented athlete on Earth at a given sport nearly guarantees a happy ending.

What is amazing is that LeBron’s troubles and tribulations have been so erased that cutthroat, dollars-are-the-bottom-line producers in Hollywood think he’s the guy for whom people will plop down hard-earned money to make them laugh and feel better for two hours.


He’s won back not just the sporting public but the public in general — no less in a rom-com, featuring the breakout comedian of the moment, by displaying a cutting self-mockery and deep well of good-natured humor and ease.

Like all redemption stories, we sometimes lose site of the full arc that takes a man from the height of our ridicule and dislike to the pinnacle of our respect. And, particularly in both our sports landscape and Hollywood, neither of those locations in the zeitgeist tend to be fully earned. We lift up some further than they deserve, and tear down many for reasons rooted in anything but fairness.

Watch the Funny Or Die video, where LeBron takes to lunch the director and stars of "Trainwreck," in which he plays a key role, and you’ll see a LeBron in his hometown playing so well off of the arrogance of fame and sensitivity of stardom (spoiler: He kills off Hader in his pitch for the sequel) that you can’t help but think he’s channeling his own experiences.

Apatow has talked about how shocked he was by LeBron’s comedic skills and timing, and it’s true LeBron is great as an actor. But that’s not the most impressive thing.

We forget, four years and two championships later, how much so many of us disliked him. And how much, at least up close, LeBron often seemed to not like being himself — or at least to not be comfortable with all the ill will and suddenly not-so-loving attention.

LeBron has done the thing few of us who covered him thought he might: He took the angst, the talk about divas and drama and arrogance and stardom, and long after we moved on channeled those very things in an acting turn that cements just how thoroughly the King has won over new subjects well outside the realm of sports.

Bill Reiter is a columnist for, a radio host in Los Angeles and regularly appears on FOX Sports 1. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at