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The cost of greatness

POSTED: June 18, 2014 9:00 a.m.
Lory Kaun, Joel Samuelson/Barrow County News

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The NBA Finals this past weekend saw the San Antonio Spurs defeat the Miami Heat, thus ending the Big Three's bid for their own big three trophies, and I could not have been happier.

I will readily admit my distaste for LeBron "The King" James and his ilk. I admittedly want to like Dewayne Wade, but that's tough to do so long as his success also becomes LeBron's success.

While I participated in the timeless traditions of getting beat by my wife in putt-putt while on vacation in Daytona and watching the Braves pull out a late win over the Angels, I reveled in the fact that Miami would not get to call themselves the defending NBA champs for another year. 

It brought such a smile to my face, honestly.

But why? 

Why was I so joyful at watching Miami lose? I'm not really a San Antonio fan, I'm not. True, Miami is in Atlanta's division, and we often find ourselves at odds with Miami sports teams, so I have those reasons to dislike the Heat, but it goes beyond that. There are fans all over the country who hate LeBron more than they like any particular NBA team. 

Is it simply because LeBron James is the supposed greatest of all time? Or is it because he deigns to capture such a lofty title?

It could perhaps be a combination of the two, but consider this. People often point and say that LeBron James will never live up to Michael Jordan and we should hate him for trying, but did we say any of that to Michael Jordan?

Did people look at His Airness and tell him that he was being rude because he tried to be better than Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? 

Sure, there was a video game called "Jordan vs. Bird," and pretty much every kid had it on their NES, but that's not a criticism so much as it is awesome.

My grandfather is an avowed Yankees fan. I can't stand it, admittedly, but he is. I, for one, can't stand the old Bronx Bombers, which may have a lot to do with them having beaten the Braves for a couple of World Series back in the day, but enough of that.

I even had the gall to deride my own father for wearing a Yankees hat on Father's Day. Son of the year, folks. Son of the year.

If you ask my grandfather or my dad why they like the Yankees, they'll tell you it's because of all the greats who have graced Yankee Stadium and donned the pinstripes, and we let it pass.

Nowadays, if someone tells you they follow a team (like the Yankees) because of all the great players they have, you'll laugh and call them a bandwagon fan.

Now I don't mean to insinuate that my grandfather is a...ahem...a dirty bandwagon fan. Heavens, no. He just admired the talent of those great ballplayers. 

So what happened? At one point did we stop being able to admire talent? I've done it. The only NBA game I've ever been to was a Hawks vs. Bulls game where Jordan came to play in Atlanta for one of the last times ever. I wanted to see this man who had played with Bugs Bunny.

Now, if you cheer for the winning team, you're not a real fan. You're no longer allowed to like someone who's good. We expect all fans to suffer through mediocrity and disappointment like we do annually. 

Oddly enough, we did the same thing to the Cowboys in Jordan's era. We hated them for being the best.

While there is merit in being a die-hard fan of a team, and I would never advocate for switching to become the new norm, maybe we have grown too harsh in admonishing the great and those who adore them.

Then again, what about Tim Duncan? After the Spurs beat Miami, people started coming out of the woodwork to hail Tim Duncan as one of the greatest ever. So why, as a society, do we not hate him?

I'm sure fans of the Heat, the Thunder and the Mavericks hate Duncan, but I don't. Do you? Probably not. Why does he get a pass? He's great, too.

Is it because we just don't want our greatest to actually believe that they are the greatest? Do we want them to just be quiet about it and not assume that they're great?

If we're being honest, the great Jordan was no patron saint of humility. He knew he was the best in the game and he wanted you to know it, too. Not that that makes him bad, but we tend to think it makes LeBron bad.

So what is it? Is it the arrogance of his TV special four years ago? Is it just his general demeanor? Is it because we all have built up Jordan to be our idol and we don't want anyone to challenge him?

I can't answer these questions. The only one I can answer is this one: Yes, I will keep hating LeBron James.

Hate on, haters.



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1 comment
jsamuelson: June 18, 2014 8:15 p.m.

The reason LeBron is hated so much is that he left his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the Miami Heat. Everyone hoped, especially those in Cleveland, that he would bring the trophy home to the state of Ohio. He led the Cavs to the NBA finals, but they couldn't seal the deal.

Then there was the TV special where he kept everyone in suspense for an hour or two.

He is not the greatest to ever play the game. Not yet.

When I was in high school, I , a wrestler, argued with our school's basketball coach over who was the best player ever to play the game. He argued that it was Kareem because, "They gave him a trophy stating so."

I argued that it was Michael Jordan. I also argued that it was easy being 7-feet tall and doing hook shots in the paint, whereas Jordan had to work, albeit almost effortlessly, to get his baskets.



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