Why I Stopped Hating on Lebron and Why I’m Happy For Him

I haven’t really cared about the NBA since Michael Jordan shoved Bryon Russell out of the way and sank the game winner sinking the Utah Jazz and picking up his six ring. Of the big three sports, the NBA is the hardest for me to get into and in the beginning of this season, I was all for the Lockout because it was one less thing to keep up with.

Over the years, I’ve tried not to hate on anyone too much but I’ve made by share of Kobe, Shaq, and Lebron jokes. I have never liked any player that was hailed as the “next Jordan”. And I didn’t like Shaq in the beginning because I just thought he was a lame. Exhibits A & B: Shaq-fu and Kazaam (though I never saw them, I was horrified by the trailers and that was enough).

A few years ago, I wondered why I took so much delight when Kobe lost or in the humiliations of “King James” or in Shaq’s inability to make a free throw (seriously, I loved that he couldn’t make a free-throw). Initially, I think I was reacting to their arrogance and entitlement. There is this pleasure we get when we see someone like this not get their way. There’s a word for it too – oh yeah … spite.

I know that I can be spiteful and further I knew I was being inconsistent because I don’t react this way to much of the entitlement I see in others and I certainly do not respond this way to my own self-entitlement. I try to justify it by saying things like, “I don’t really hate Lebron personally, I hate the whole celebrity-hype persona of what he represents, see?”

Then I thought perhaps it was because of their superstar egos, the ridiculous endorsements, the entourage, etc. When I thought about it, I didn’t like that Lebron left Cleveland. Though I didn’t tune in for the Sports Center Decision Special or the ridiculous introduction of the Big 3 in Miami, I’ve seen those clips countless times, that I could narrate the details blindfolded (like when they emerge from the floor of the arena with their backs to the audience and James and Wade turn to their left and Chris Bosh turns to his right and does this awkward flexing-yell thing).

That may have been the day that I just started disliking the whole league. I thought ESPN, the NBA, the Cleveland fans were ridiculous (even blogged about it – The Cleveland Crucifixion …). And though, Dan Gilbert’s open letter to Lebron was comical, it was also really sad. There is a lot I like about sports (especially MLB and a far second, the NFL) but I started realizing that having an opinion about any of this is a bit of a luxury. My life is so privilege that not only can I be entertained by the game, but also by the drama surrounding the actual playing of the game.

What was especially telling to me was how the media reacted to Lebron. They fueled the decision (they asked the guy everyday if he was leaving Cleveland), gave him a mic and an hour spot to tell the world where he was taking his talents and then took turns bashing the guy for the decision. It was during last season’s Heat drama that it seemed odd that even the media hated on Lebron. I know this is not new but it was so ugly.

Here’s where things start changing for me. I imagine being among the most despised professional athlete changes you. I also understand that many of these athletes (and child actors/musicians/celeberities/etc.) grow up a little differently than some of us. Many of them are being told early in high school that they are stars and their sense of self-awareness is stunted and sense of entitlement escalates (what’s the excuse for the rest of us though?). Many are surrounded by yes-men, enablers, manipulators, users, and who knows what else.

As Dirk Nouvietski and the Mavericks walked away with the Finals trophy, I imagine that sent Lebron reflecting on the rest of the summer on what was happening in his life and career. It was understandable not to win in their first season together, it must have been difficult for so many to revel in the failure of it though.

I also had to ask myself, why did I enjoy Lebron losing so much? I’m not a Mavericks fan, I can’t even spell Nowitski without Google. Normally, I would feel satisfied that one like Lebron learned his lesson and  I would simply become ambivalent towards the guy but his new-found growing maturity actually started making him likable. Lebron James likable? I didn’t really tune in to the regular season but I caught glimpses throughout the season but what was different was how I was perceiving him and others (and maybe my self).

I think this season I was able to see him a bit more as a real person and less as a member of the Jersey Shore. Hopefully I am growing in my understanding of humanity as well.  And maybe this summer, I’ll work on how I perceive Snooki and the Situation.  But I think that’s part of why I’ve blogged a series on celebrities and the series on Gaga and the image of God. And I think that’s why I’m happy for the guy.

Frankly (and thankfully) this post goes far beyond Lebron James. The trouble is if I can’t appreciate his success, then these words are not true or Christ-like. My hope is that I, we as a church (and as a society), can be happy for people when they “win”, sad for when they hurt, comforting in the midst of pain and forgiving, gracious and loving in a way that God intended.

Feel free to comment, push back, and would especially be grateful if you shared this.  Thanks for reading.


  1. Does calling it ‘schadenfreude’ instead of ‘spite’ make things any better? Just kidding. Probably just my German-speaking heritage coming out.

    I like these thoughts. Still don’t really like Lebron (I’m in the ambivalent category that you passed), but I’m ok with him winning. Even happy for him, almost. I just like the idea of a bunch of 22- and 23-year-olds winning even more.

    Similarly insightful to yours but with different points, I thought this was also a valuable take on it.

    p.s. I think I owe you a phone call, yes? I’ll call soon.

  2. Hear what you’re saying, and I’m not saying that anyone needs to like him, but after a while it goes from being sports culture to just being mean and spiteful. I think it would be good to see less hate on Twitter/Facebook.
    I like Homebrewed, I’ll click on that soon.
    Thanks for reading Chris, hope all is good – call any time.

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