By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank
I ask you to forgive me in advance, or like, stop reading right now if you’re not into the sports stuff, because I am going to talk about basketball for a minute. Specifically LeBron James, who along with his neatly—and very publically and shamelessly—assembled squad of bad guys just won the NBA Finals Championship last night. They beat the good guys, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a decisive 3 games to 1.
I’ll spare you the details of the back story, as I’m sure most people that made it past that last sentence are familiar with The Decision and subsequent The Promise, and how up until 12 hours or so ago, the immaturity, premature celebratory thoughtlessness and downright ridiculousness of those “events” combined to simultaneously create the biggest villain(s), the most highly scrutinized player & team, and ultimately (and previous to last night) the most comical and unanimously applauded failure in NBA Finals history. Hell, even if you pay a minuscule amount of attention to pop culture—as in turn on a TV once in a while—chances are high that you know about LeBron James and the Miami Heat and how they didn’t win the title when they promised the world they would. After all basketball and the NBA in particular, is the one sport that has made the biggest cultural impact and successively stayed culturally relevant, pop as it were or otherwise.
As far as I am concerned, that last statement is an unarguable fact. It certainly isn’t hockey, as a good friend of my once implied. Oh no; of any other sport, it could never EVER be hockey. Culturally speaking—as in the culture of hockey and the culture of basketball—the two are very similar, yes. They have rabid fan bases, they exercise a steadfast unwillingness to accept the other as a credible sport, and they are racially dominated as it relates to the best players—traditionally speaking, that is. Not to mention, as far as throwback emblems go, both the NBA and NHL team logos look really rad on snap-back caps. But as far as cultural impact and relevance is concerned, basketball is second to none. Internationally, soccer, or as the rest of the world that isn’t the United States calls it, Futbol, is not far behind. But other than that, the only thing close—and I know you’re going to laugh at this but that doesn’t make it untrue—is professional wrestling. But that’s an argument for another time. Ultimately, hockey is a wealthy person’s game. Not everyone can afford all the equipment and ice time, whereas all it takes to shoot hoops is a ball and cylinder. Not to mention the obvious parallels and crossovers between basketball and hip-hop. And well, I needn’t say more about hip-hop’s relevance in pop culture.
Anyway, I’m getting totally sidetracked here (which is fine since this a blog post, amirite) when all I really wanted to discuss was how sad it makes me that LeBron’s version of the Heat, in only their second year of existence, have won the Championship. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I’m a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan. (When they are not competing against my Minnesota Timberwolves that is—shoutout to my boys K-Love, Ricky Rubio [get well soon], D-Will, and Michael Beasley [don’t trade him!]) And yes, I am disappointed that they lost, but what makes me most sad is that the Heat’s Championship win could possibly be the end of what I thought was a great, albeit brief, era in NBA fandom: the LeBron Haters.
Initially I felt a nagging uneasiness with my personal hating on LeBron. Traditionally speaking, I’m a certified Laker-hater, so I am no stranger to wishing ill will against a team, or specifically a star player—such as the completely unlikable out-of-court-settling-(alleged)-anal-rapist, Kobe Bryant. At one time it was comforting knowing, as Kobe inches closer to retirement, that I could see a future NBA where I didn’t have to hate on someone. (As a Minnesota Vikings fan, let me tell you, it is hard living in a state that seems to be as equally populated with annoyingly calloused shit-talking Packer Backers. [Here’s an idea: if it’s so great, then move to Green Bay, you asshole.] Hating takes a lot of energy, believe me.) But then LeBron went and did that thing…and that other thing…and then had to audacity to wonder why people didn’t like him, and that made him even more unlikeable, and before you knew it I hated that motherfucker too. But I didn’t really want to. I didn’t like the feeling of hating LeBron and the Heat but I couldn’t help but hate. Nobody could help it. And then something really awesome happened because of that helplessness. LeBron’s heel turn (pro-wrestling terminology, hell yeah) became the unifying factor that brought together all of us basketball fans (that aren’t Miami) to zealously spirit a singular objective: Anybody wins but the Heat!
Eventually hating on LeBron and the Heat turned into something not at all stressful, but rather it was the opposite—it was, well, in a word, fun. We, the LeBron haters, analyzed every single missed shot and end-of-game decision to pass the ball rather than man-up, and tooled it into a justifiable means for our collective hating. It was a blast! As well, we dissected every little nauseating plea-for-approval-esque Tweet—whether it be teasing the idea that he would enter the Dunk Competition or riding Blake Griffin’s bandwagon after he rim-rocked all over Kendrick Perkin’s head. He was so desperate to be liked again, that it made us hate on him even more. What a gas! And we pretended to be mad as hell when the Heat came out to pre-game warmups wearing hoodies after the Trayvon Martin murder; postulating that they were more concerned with seizing the opportunity to sway public opinion back in their favor, than they were actually raising awareness and paying homage to Trayvon. Even though LeBron is an adult and a multimillionaire who lives in the public eye where unrestricted civic scrutiny is totally acceptable, we were treading dangerously close to bullying territory. Yes, we had a grand old time hating on LeBron!
And now, with an impressive team-driven Championship win by the Heat, and even more so, an incredible critic-silencing series of performances by LeBron, the hating will undoubtedly begin to abate. And I am completely saddened by this. My only solace is knowing that, despite winning the championship, LeBron can’t help but look at his Twitter feed (because you know he is) and see some of the last dying flames of #hashtag hatred rolling in, and wonder to himself, “Why do these people still hate me?” And that makes me laugh a little.
Here’s to hoping we can all keep the communal good times that are LeBron Hating alive and well. I for one am just not ready let it go yet. I mean there is always Dwight Howard next year, but that’s kind of a stretch. Come on everybody let’s stay hatin’ on this fool!
PS—How this all fits in with the title of this
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