Right Field

LeBron: Petty, Ignoble, Arrogant — and Good at Basketball

While what’s most necessary today is a congratulations for the Dallas Mavericks, what the media wants to focus on is the failure of LeBron James to win a ring in yet another trip through the playoffs.

Indeed, as the seconds ticked down last night, all sorts of messages rang in from all sorts of fans. Cleveland fans, Boston fans, and Chicago fans all celebrated the defeat of King James with an ecstatic glee you’d think should be reserved for their own teams’ championship parades. I’m not sure if it’s more indicative of the vindictive nature of the modern fan or simply the extreme feelings that James uniquely inspires.

LeBron’s off-court behavior is contemptible, as Brian Anderson mentioned in passing. He relentlessly presents himself as shallow, image-obsessed, thin-skinned, arrogant, and petty. (Though he’s not deserving of a lot of the amateur psychology thrown his way.) Witness his postgame press conference, in which he consoled himself with the fact that, despite all his detractors, he’ll always be more successful than they are.

“At the end of the day, all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.”

Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, ordinarily an extremely good analyst, floated the idea that the Heat needed to break up the Wade-James tandem in light of their failure.

Look: the Dallas Mavericks played their hearts out, came into this series as an underdog and triumphed against a Miami Heat team that many people thought would win in a rout. Amid all the talk of James choking in the fourth quarter (and this is true: he did not play well), what’s lost is that Dallas shot over 50 percent from the three-point arc over the last two games of the series. It’s tough to beat a team that gets that hot. It was a close series the whole way — and the team that played better won. LeBron James is still an incredible basketball player — most likely the best in the NBA, and the number one player — by a wide margin — that any other NBA player would pick to be their teammate.

LeBron didn’t have an NBA Finals that lived up to the calibre of The Best Player Alive. But during the rest of the playoffs, he was phenomenal. Calling for the breakup of the Heat is, well, insane. In their first year playing together, with a ragtag crew of terrible players* patched together around them, Wade, James, and Bosh came within two games of a championship. It may not be the success predicted by their welcoming party, but if this is the Wade-James era just getting started, the LeBron detractors are in for a rude six years.

James needs to work on two things this offseason: a post game and thicker skin. I know it’s what everyone says, but it’s just sad to watch the likes of Jason Kidd and J. J. Barea even stand a chance up against a force of nature like James.

And as far as thicker skin goes: LeBron should embrace his inner villain. He’d be wise to take the words of the Green Goblin to heart.

They found you amusing for a while… the people of this city. But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see the hero fail, fall, die trying. The truth is people don’t like heroes. Who wants an example you can never live up to? Take my word for it… in spite of all you’ve done for them, eventually they will hate you. Read the headlines.

*Some statistical analysis shows that Mike Bibby and Joel Anthony, starters on the Heat, were two of the worst ten players in the playoffs (and Mike Bibby was the worst).

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