In light of the massive amount of backlash thrown towards LeBron James after Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, something hit me. Namely, it was the fact that there was *nothing* that James could have done to get on the good side of those who have an agenda against him. If the Heat won and James played well, the talking heads would have used the air conditioning fiasco against James and claimed it was the only reason that the Spurs lost. Hell, they probably also would have gone after James for not doing good enough in the win – “only” 25 points? JORDAN WOULD HAVE SCORED 40!
But the Heat didn’t win Game 1, and that’s where things got ugly. When James was forced to leave the game due to cramping, the backlash was insane. We’ve covered all of that before, and I’m not going to rehash it here again, but you all know how ugly it got. Despite being the best player on the court for the Heat on Thursday night, it wasn’t good enough for the anti-LeBron crowd, who began to froth at the mouth the moment he left the court. And as more and more criticism and comparisons began to trickle out, I realized one thing – everything that James does will be held against him.
If the Heat end up winning the title this year, the praise for Lebron and his team winning three straight NBA Championships will be tepid and grudging. His greatness will be swept under the rug, and James will be lambasted for “not being able to do it on his own”, or “not performing like Jordan would have”. If the Heat lose, the criticism of James will reach a fever pitch. Only two wins in five Finals! He’s no Jordan! Maybe if he showed more heart in Game 1, the Heat would have won! You know how it goes – the cycle is endless.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the talk about the Spurs is minimal. San Antonio played sloppy basketball on Thursday, and took the game over in the fourth quarter when James wasn’t on the floor. There was no talk about that – it was all about the Heat blowing the game, James leaving the game, and LeBron’s legacy. If the Spurs win the Finals this year, the focus will be on LeBron as opposed to Tim Duncan (who is searching for his fifth title this year, and was one Ray Allen three away from claiming number five last year). There’s no talk about the Spurs dynasty, which has failed to win a playoff series just three times during Gregg Popovich’s 17 full seasons as head coach.
It blows my mind, but I’m not that surprised. The media will cling to its narratives about LeBron and the Heat, and most of those narratives are going to be negative, no matter what happens. It’s a shame, but not surprising. James is such a divisive, incredible athlete, and his accomplishments are almost getting swept aside because….he doesn’t have as many championships as he should? The man is 29, has won four MVP awards, two Finals MVP awards, and two championships. Any other player in the league would be lauded for putting together a resume like that, but James is dragged through the coals on a daily basis.
I’m not surprised by anything anymore, and this is no exception. Expecting something different to happen is completely my fault. It’s just a shame that instead of celebrating one of the greatest athletes of the last decade, we’re looking for ways to tear him down.