By Doug Halberstadt
Last month, LeBron James and the Miami Heat defeated Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs teammates for the NBA championship. The series went to seven games and provided even the casual basketball fan with some exciting hoop action. Perhaps game six being the best of them all, it was highlighted by a fantastic 3-point shot by Ray Allen in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter to tie the game, force overtime, and most importantly, stave off elimination for the Heat.
I didn’t realize how many people in this area are “Heat Haters.” From the majority of the people I talked with about the series, I would have thought I was living in San Antonio north. Nearly every single person stated (and I quote), “I hate the Heat!” They didn’t stop there, either.
Not only were they bad-mouthing James, Dwyane Wade and anyone else wearing a Miami uniform, at the very same time they were singing the praises of the Spurs. It was as if James were some evil puppy-eating monster and Duncan were an Eagle Scout doing a project to save those puppies.
Each day for the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t log on to Facebook without seeing something negative about James. If he wasn’t being depicted as a baby with a pacifier in his mouth, there were hundreds of comments regarding his “flopping” or his whining to the referees about calls not going his way. All the while, Duncan was represented being depicted as one of the calmest, coolest, even-tempered, well-mannered players to ever take the court.
I have no idea where the truth lies in all of that. I’m guessing, though, it’s somewhere in the middle.
There are multiple reasons James has alienated himself from so many NBA fans. The way he left his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers a few seasons ago was probably the start of it. From there, it’s simply mushroomed. His actions on and off the court have cost him the adoration of thousands, if not millions, of fans.
I doubt very much whether he gives an eyelash of care about his public persona. He has his legion of “homies” and “hangers-on,” his multi-million dollar contract, fancy house, car, clothes, etc., and now he has another championship ring to add to his collection. I imagine those things keep him sufficiently insulated from the criticism continuously being lobbed in his direction, especially from the “Heat Haters” in this area.
As for me, I really don’t have a strong feeling one way or another about James and the Heat. I don’t follow their every move close enough to develop an informed opinion. All I do know is, the guy can play the game, and when left unguarded, he can drain a 3-pointer or two. For that, I give him credit.
There is one huge thing I do agree with his detractors about, though. They are spot on when they say, “He’ll never be as good as Michael Jordan.” Enough said!
From the July 17-23, 2013, issue