Miami fans rejoiced, while Cleveland fans felt betrayed. Fans in other once possible destinations — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey — suffered disappointment. Weeks later, emotions are still running high, and the anti-LeBron James sentiment appears to have reached its peak.
James has always been a guy that you either love or hate, but his decision, and the way he handled it, has resulted in almost-universal hatred — except in Miami, of course.
James not only misled several teams, including his former team, but he consistently hogged the spotlight and basked in the media attention he received during his free-agency period. When James decided to announce his decision during an hour-long special on ESPN, it all but guaranteed that he would gain enemies in all regions of the world.
Teams that had cleared up so much cap space and vested so much hope in signing the two-time league MVP were left to ponder “What now?” upon James’ decision to play for Miami. The Cleveland Cavaliers were left with a gaping hole in their lineup and, more importantly, still without a championship ring.
There seems to be an overall sense of disloyalty in regards to James, who skipped out on his hometown team for a seemingly easier path to the NBA Finals. Rather than deliver on his promise to bring Cleveland its first NBA title, James bolted to play alongside two fellow superstars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
It’s tough to fault James for wanting to win, but the way he duped several teams and created a spectacle of his decision to leave Cleveland has many labeling the six-time All-Star as classless.
Five-time All-Star Amare Stoudemire also left his first and only team this summer, securing a max contract with the New York Knicks, but his departure was far more commendable. Stoudemire may not be on James’ level in terms of prominence, but he still made sure that he handled his decision with maturity, thanking the Phoenix Suns fans for his eight years with the team via a newspaper ad.
Like James, the 27-year-old never won a ring with his former team. Yet there still appears to be a respect and appreciation of Stoudemire for his overall contributions to the team.
There is little appreciation for James in Cleveland, though, and even less respect for him in the wake of his exit.
Most NBA fans have already become sick of James, whose stardom has almost become larger than the game itself. Rather than loving him or hating him, it is quickly becoming a matter of loving to hate him.
Clevescene.com has posted an array of anti-Lebron apparel, including T-shirts that call the superstar “Wade’s Pippen” and “The Lyin’ King.” Perhaps the new threads can replace the LeBron James Cavalier jerseys that so many fans burned on the infamous decision night.
A popular Cleveland restaurant has even decided to brew a LeBron-inspired beer, called “Quitness,” to mock the former Cavalier star.
But Cleveland fans aren’t the only ones taking shots at James these days.
According to ESPN.com, there was an anti-LeBron-themed party scheduled to take place in New York City on Friday.
Such a party should hardly come as a surprise, since the New York Knicks were one of the teams that swung and missed at the chance to secure James’ services. The hatred was already unleashed in the Big Apple last week when James was booed by fans while attending Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony’s wedding.
So is LeBron James now destined to be the most hated player in the NBA for years to come? It appears so.
Every time the Miami Heat make a run in the playoffs, the world is going to be reminded of James’ 2010 offseason antics, which will make it difficult for fans to forgive and forget.
James had the basketball world eating out the palm of his hand leading up to his free-agency decision, and his lack of humility in the midst of it could forever change the way fans view the superstar.