If you hate Lebron, you probably hate the sport of basketball too
You might not know Sacramento Kings play-by-play announcer, Grant Napear, but I’m sure you’ve heard of his famous catchphrase:
If you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA basketball!
Well, for me, if you don’t like Lebron James, you simply don’t like NBA basketball; maybe even basketball as a whole.
Let me explain.
First of all, let me give you a quick context on where I’m coming from. I’ve been a fan of James since ‘06 (yes ‘06 — halfway unto his first stint in Cleveland, and not ‘03 — the year he got drafted) I live in the Philippines — the basketball capital of Asia, and I’ve never been to the USA (well, I did if you count my trip to Disneyland when I was like 7 or 8) so no team really stuck out. I just followed individual players mainly because of their playstyle.
My (so-called) Basketball Career
I first got into basketball 2002, mainly because of my cousin, when Sacramento (the likes of Doug Christie — the vintage Iman Shumpert and Peja Stojakovic — the first ever sharpshooter I knew, way better and more sustainable than Steph Curry in my opinion) went against the ever-so dominant Lakers. The time when Kobe and Shaq once saw eye-to-eye and can stand to be with each other in the same room, breathing the same air.
2003 arrived and I heard news about a high school phenom, named Lebron Raymone James coming to the NBA, I didn’t really pay any significant attention to it; didn’t really acknowledge his presence — Jordan was still number 1 (cause again, I didn’t know much players back then and Michael was in Space Jam!)
Later that year, I got to know Detroit (Bad Boys v2.0 with Mr. Big Shot Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Corliss Williamson and co.) and their original #3. I’m sure y’all know Ben Wallace, right? The captain at the time, whose team shocked the world by beating the star-studded Lakers the very next year? Yeah, that guy. He was my inspiration, my blueprint, growing up. He validated my defensive mindset and served as my icon during my high school days. He made me realize that it was OK to suck on offense as long as I compensate being a fly-swatter on defense. The feeling of rejecting a shot, my goodness, was the best feeling in the world — especially when you spike the ball out of bounds or to near halfcourt, or straight up grab it from mid-air.
Anyway, as Ben Wallace and the Pistons started to deteriorate after their championship season, specifically when they got Antonio McDyess *rolls eyes* *sighs heavily* I had to find myself a new inspiration.
As I grew and started to beef up, with minimal formal training, my basketball IQ somehow improved. I realized that my skillset on offense needed an upgrade to still play and not embarrass myself. So OK, in my head, I’m no Ben Wallace no more; I actually learned how to shoot from mid-range and even from the 3. So I’m like, OK, I think I’m gonna try to emulate Lebron cause he’s well rounded, and does awesome chasedown blocks. No biggie. (LMAO to the younger me)
There’s no eureka moment like what I had with Ben Wallace. We didn’t have that same style of play like what I saw in Big Ben. It was like: “OK, I like how you play, I’ll give it a shot. You’ll be my next basketball inspiration.”
The Lebron Effect
OK so here it goes.
So Lebron scored a lot of points, snatched a lot of rebounds, dished a significant amount of assists, yada yada yada — big whoop. He was just another stat-sheet-stuffer, basically. But again, he was like Jordan to me back then; I saw no difference, so I’m sticking with Michael as my GOAT.
I didn’t feel James’ colossal impact ‘til the start of 2010 — his last year in Cleveland. The way he commands the Cavs, the way he (constructively) critiques young bucks like Daniel Gibson, the way he imposes his will in the block against big guys like Duncan and Garnett (that poster on Garnett though, man, one of my favorites), and the way he locks his guy down from the perimeter to the paint, suffocating him, providing almost-zero vision of the basket. But the real standout for me was his ability to run a full court sprint, soaring through the air like a hawk and unleash a zero-remorse-I-don’t-fuckin-care-if-it-hits-a-fan chasedown block. It wasn’t no Tayshaun Prince swipe-on-the-Reggie-Miller-layup block, oh no, it was a get-out-of-here-why-are-you-still-in-the-NBA block. That’s when I said to myself: “Man this guy’s going to be special. Can he actually push out Jordan as my GOAT?”
Note: These were the times when I started to actually sit down, watch full basketball games without switching channels or zoning out. This is when I began to appreciate the game and this is when my obsession of the King began.
So I began digging files, videos, everything I could find of him — from his high shool years, to his magazine covers, to his rookie year, even to his marriage — basically everything I missed before ‘10, wanting study his history and how LBJ came about. I’m like, OK, this is the guy I really want to copy, to tailor-fit my game to, and believe me, I’ve been trying ever since.
Then came the year of The Decision — where he decided to leave his home state of Ohio to join Wade and the Heat in Miami. So, I’m like OK, whatever, I’m a Lebron fan, so I’ll gladly follow him and become a fan of Miami. (For the record, I didn’t burn my Cleveland Lebron jersey like most did)
This is where it got tricky.
People were putting Lebron under fire, and believe me, I totally understand that — leaving your city and all, but c’mon, it’s not like he fucked you over, he still needs to take care of his interests, make money, and win rings for himself. He doesn’t owe Cleveland anything. But again, I totally understand why people are mad and I’ll give them that.
But as it went on, and on, and on, I was like, when are you people going to stop hating and actually watch him play? He’s still the same explosive, impactful guy when he was in Cleveland, just with different teammates in a different city. When are you going to take off the media goggles, stop the scrutiny, and actually watch him play the game? (Guess that’s a never)
As much as I want to argue with all of the haters out there who discredit Lebron, I’m not going to. I’m not going to focus my attention on that since most of you won’t listen anyway. I’m taking the same high road Lebron took when Klay threw shade at him in the recent Finals series.
2016 NBA Playoffs
As I watched the 2016 NBA Playoffs unfold, I saw how scrutiny still followed Lebron everywhere, but that’s nothing new. I kinda gave up on humanity on how they can’t understand greatness. Media’s just too strong to change people’s perception. Media captures Lebron’s surface, but when you actually watch him play, you’ll understand.
I came from playing american football; recently stopped cause I’m going to get married this October and I don’t want to risk walking down the aisle on crutches. So I switched back to my first love — basketball. I’ve been a playing lot lately, and last night as I played with Wes and Watson, some of Xavier buddies, in Ronac’s Playground. I had an unusually odd, (yet I would think) reliable, unbiased, observation.
I was sitting outside the gym, on the plastic benches, peacefully reading my book on about how Twitter was built, waiting for the 6PM gametime. I heard a couple of guys (who shall not be named) talking about the recently concluded NBA Finals. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop cause one guy was very animated about his opinions and the other was calm, collective, as if he was trying to reason out and plead his case. So I pretended to read my book, hid my face behind it and consciously analyzed their conversation.
The conversation went like this (translated from Tagalog):
“I was really betting on Golden State to win the series. I think Steph Curry deserved it more than Lebron.” the first guy furiously implied as he sees his buddy wearing a Cavalier baller ID, as if he had put money on the series.
“Steph didn’t play well enough to deserve the championship. He didn’t show up. Draymond played better.” the Cavs fan countered.
“But Lebron’s cocky. Lebron’s not a clutch player. Kyrie saved his ass. He didn’t deserve to win the title, even more undeserving of the Finals MVP.”
“But Lebron had consistently put up numbers all over the board throughout the series. He made the most impact in my opinion.”
“Kyrie deserved it more. Period. He hit the dagger to seal the Warriors’ fate.”
After that statement I zoned out and thought to myself, do they hear their arguments? The exchange’s not sound. The Cavs guy are throwing in numbers on how Lebron contributed to the team while the Warriors fan (or a plain Lebron hater) was mainly concentrating on Lebron’s off-court mishaps. Hey I’m not saying Lebron’s not cocky, he’s cocky as fuck. But it’s OK as long as you can back it up, right? But why would you use off-court antics and imperfections to try to justify why he didn’t deserve on-court recognition? There’s no winning the argument for the Cavs guy. I’m not taking credit away from Kyrie either. Man, he really saved the Cavs collective asses and really hammered the nail to coffin with that 3 over the unanimous MVP that season, but didn’t you see Lebron’s block on Iguodala? Didn’t you see his triple-double? I just don’t get it why people can’t appreciate that. All they see are the turnovers, the inefficiency on the 3, the him shying away from shots in the 4th quarter — people! He knows he’s not a clutch player, that’s why he adapts! That’s called greatness! Knowing your weakness and actually finding a way to solve a problem even if it doesn’t involve you directly! That way was Kyrie.
Luckily before the exchange could escalate to a heated level, the admin came out and signalled us that it was OK to play. Whew. I would’ve hated to join that irrational, illogical argument.
In between pickup games, Wes, Watson and I would catch up and talk about our lives, businesses, and of course, sports. We had mutual admiration in Lebron’s game dominance. We talk about how he finally delivered his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland and those Soldier Xs he wore during game 7.
Wes and Watson are good team players; I love playing with them. I’ve played with them for the longest time, and I can feel that they enjoy and love the game genuinely. They play 3–4 times a week. We rarely talk about how Lebron off the court — we usually would exchange conversations about his flashy highlights, and how much points he put on the board against which team. We also talk about other players, as unbiasly objective as possible. And of course, their sneakers. Those were the 3 main topics we talk about; minimal about the media rollercoaster — mainly to laugh about how people react to it.
Then it hit me, people I knew who appreciated Lebron was either good at basketball or is really knowledgeable about it.
Let me provide you with a list of hardcore LBJ fans and their status to justify:
- Philbert Yiu, my St. Jude batchmate, dominates our high school alumni games. Throw him the ball on the block and the defender folds.
- Philmon Yao, one of Wes’ Xavier teammates, is the MVP of their school. He plays with finesse yet you feel his physical imposing presence anywhere. His precision on stealing the ball, his shot, his cuts and slashes, are impeccable.
- Michael “Decky” Decano, one of college schoolmates, is an And1 Streetball-er. No explanation needed. Just watch streetball videos, you’ll understand.
- Ronwell Caidic, the nephew of the famous PBA legend, is a summer basketball camp coach and is also one of 360 Fitness Club’s coaches.
These are to name a few.
Whenever I see these guys, we never fail to ignite an exchange about Lebron — whether it’s about his overall performance in a game, his game-saving layup or block, or just his sneakers, we effortlessly always find a way to talk about him.
I’m not saying all Lebron fans are as decorated as these guys are, and the sample size is be too small to justify my claims, but I have that gut feel that the pattern will follow among most fans.
While on the other end of the spectrum — the haters, like the guy talking smack about how Lebron didn’t deserve a ring — didn’t really do very well on the court (hey, maybe he was having a bad day. I don’t know) As me and my buddies were conversing on the sideline, I had an eye on the guy who’s being a nuisance to his team. He was bombing airballs from everywhere, setting illegal picks and turning the ball over almost every possession. His hard take on Lebron didn’t seem to be so credible anymore.
In my opinion, this kind of people are mainly bandwagoners of the hate. I’m OK with you being a bandwagon fan, really. I don’t care if you jump from one team to the other year after year. Coming from the Philippines. I totally understand. But for this unique breed of unappreciative imbeciles, for me, they just want to stay involved. They just want to belong in the conversation about basketball. But since they have minimal knowledge on the actual game of basketball, they’d settle for smack. They think they can stay relevant jumping into the mix with their second-hand information from media outlets that merely scratches the surface of the game.
Most people in my circle who loves Lebron are either good at basketball or good at analyzing the game of basketball so therefore creates that sense of credibility and reputable essence of genuine love and knowledge for the game. Through that argument, I feel that people who see the good in Lebron, wholeheartedly appreciates the game of basketball without any prejudice and/or bias.
On the other hand, most people in my circle who’re haters of Lebron (of course I won’t drop names, I would still want to be friends with them) I feel that they don’t understand the game as deep as hardcore Lebron fans do. They’re stuck seeing the facade the media illustrates for them and stops there. To generalize, I feel that these haters are fans of the media rollercoaster and not the game itself.
To compile everything to one analogy — LBJ fans are to students of the game, while LBJ haters are to media puppets. Lesson of the story is — don’t let media pollute your perspective. Make sure to go an extra mile of effort in studying the game and the player before unleashing a barrage of judgmental illogical arguments to discredit greatness.
As for Curry fans, oh my, don’t get me started on that. That’s for another article.
If you reached this far. Thank you taking the time to read. Much love! Agree? Disagree? Let me have it! I’d love to have a healthy debate.