Baffoe: Keep Hating Lebron James
By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Haters gonna hate.
The urban expression became a parody of itself long ago and is now used almost exclusively for humorous purposes. One of these pics or gifs has passed your way at some point in your internet experience, and the first time it did maybe you laughed, even if it was just a little quiet chuckle.
Laughed just as the phrase originally suggested we all do whenever confronted with people who serve only to bring us down or hold us back rather than take them seriously.
Hate is a strong word in sports. To literally hate is to wish the illest of the ill on someone. It goes far beyond hoping your favorite laundry beats the other laundry and crosses into the personal. You must see the failure of another for your own gratification. Powerful stuff that hate.
In Chicago, many people claim to hate the Green Bay Packers. I’m not sure why (they are the model NFL franchise) other than the excuses of “That’s just the way it is” or “I was taught to” which eerily tend to show up in hatred of groups outside of sports, too. But, hey, football, carnage, tribal feelings, et al, right? I’ll admit a strong dislike of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Detroit Lions get circled on the Bears schedule because I genuinely want to see the Bears crush them and their doofus coach. I hesitate to call it “hate,” but I get where others are coming from when they do.
Also in Chicago many people claim to hate Lebron Pitbull James IV (which may not be his actual full name, but it sure is an easy one to hate, ain’t it?). That same James who won his second straight championship with the Miami Heat Thursday night, much to the chagrin of so many suddenly San Antonio Spurs fans. And it was suddenly, since they had just as suddenly had to resign their temporary Indiana Pacers fanship after temporarily putting aside their Chicago Bulls fanhood.
“Listen, for me, I can’t worry about what everybody say about me,” James said before the sweat had even dried after Game 7. “What everybody’s saying about me off the court don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries.” Alarms sounding from the Convenient Grammar Police.
Futile words, sir. The mantra I heard throughout the playoffs—even when the Bulls were still alive—was “Anybody but the Heat.” The small talk between two people at the grocery store deli counter. The customers who like to talk sports with the pizza delivery guy for some reason. The tavern pundits. “Anybody but the Heat” from all of them.
Let’s be honest, though. “Anybody but the Heat” was a less petty way of saying “Anybody but Lebron James.” Sure, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren’t easy to like, but neither was ever really your concern. That’s like rooting against the henchmen in a movie. “I don’t like that Birdman and his damn tattoos, that freak.” Okay, Dennis Rodman fan.
It was all about the King. It was always about the King. And why?
Is it about his commitment to his family? Him still with his high school sweetheart and all and being a good father—does that bother you? It sucks that he doesn’t follow a convenient NBA stereotype.
Ah, it’s because he spurned your favorite team for a different one. Three years ago. That’s a long time to harbor feelings of unrequited love. Pathological, really. You’re the married guy who still obsesses over the one that got away.
But if you can’t have him, hell if he should succeed elsewhere, right? I trust you keep the same scruples with other free agents your favorite teams do acquire that leave salty attitudes back where they came from and college recruits that turn down other offers in favor of your favorite school’s.
Oh, but it was the way he went about it. The awful pageantry of The Decision. I see. Yes, we can all agree that was handled terribly. It certainly wasn’t all orchestrated by James; instead it was the brainchild of ESPN and James’ handlers. Thankfully you’ve never had influential people around you persuading you to do anything.
You’ve always cut your own swath through the world, never trying to satisfy anyone but yourself. That’s what you keep telling yourself over and over despite probably not living the life you dreamed 20 years ago. Screw Lebron James for doing so, and screw him for The Decision, no matter if he was more the attraction than ringmaster. It’s easier to hate without thinking about stuff like that.
And it’s great that you never made a career mistake that you very much regret. You’re doing exactly what you always wanted to do and did only the noblest things to get there. Sorrys are for suckers. Suckers like Lebron James, who wishes he went about The Decision much differently.
“If I could look back on it I would probably change a lot of it. The fact of having a whole TV special, and people getting the opportunity to watch me make a decision on where I wanted to play, I probably would change that. Because I can now look and see if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it.”
Sins are unforgivable in the world of hate, though. And James must pay for The Decision for the rest of his career if you get your way.
Ignore that had he chose your favorite team instead you would reflect on this Jim Gray-led fiasco (there are so many) much differently. No time for that reasoning, though. He chose not to go to prom with you, and for that he must suffer eternally.
Surely, you’ll remember that when Derrick Rose eventually realizes the way he went about 2012-13 probably wasn’t the best, both professionally and PR-wise. At some point Rose will publicly show regret for how he left fans and his team dangling in confusion.
I mean, this was a player under contract—not a free agent considering destinations—medically cleared to play who instead watched in a suit as his team fought tooth and nail against James’ Heat, a team that showed beatability throughout the playoffs and maybe don’t escape the East with a superstar like Rose wearing them down that much more.
This despite reports and video of Rose supposedly being back to his old self, if not better, during the spring. He jerked the Bulls around far more than James ever did. At least you’ll be consistent and brand Rose with a searing mark forever.
Hate means never letting go of it. Not even when Rose steps on the court in October if you’re going to stay consistent.
It feels so good, too. Way better to pulsate with negative emotion than feel nothing at all. Neutral feels so uncomfortable. You must be conclusive, right? I’m Lebron-neutral and was rooting ever so slightly for the Spurs because I like Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich a lot, not against a team, but I’m weird like that. Fantastic basketball was my ideal, but I get that seeing a 4-0 sweep by the Spurs where they burn the city of Miami to ashes and put all the children of the town into forced tour guide labor at The Alamo would have been what I should have wanted.
And while hate is so satisfying a feeling, it’s also usually irrational. But it feeds the need you have for a villain. Sports cannot be about competition to see who is better. It must be good vs. evil in some way. Narratives, oh, how you crave narratives. Perceived movie mythologies must rain down upon your sporting pleasure.
Damn if Lebron James doesn’t fit nicely into a role that makes you comfortable, eh? Conjured or not, who cares? It feels so good to hate him.
And he cannot be considered the best. Never. Not even potentially. That would mean that you’d hate the best, and that would make you look bad. You’d rather not grapple with such a conundrum. No, just repeat other names that “wanted it more.” Throw up the meme on social media of Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s rings along with some fabulously original witticism. Keep the Lebron hater handbook handy. Never give credit. Hate shows no such cracks.
“Please continue to motivate me,” James said to the media after garnering Finals MVP. “I need you guys. Thank you.” He acknowledged that winners are fueled internally by desire and externally by what we now call haters.
I imagine he then walked away from the cameras and, with finally a moment to himself, he laughed a genuine laugh and not the laugh of a seasoned celebrity being recorded.
Maybe just a little quiet chuckle.
At the haters that hated. At the haters that are gonna hate.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.