I thought I’d hate LeBron. Turns out I’m feeling sorry for him

Okay, I surrender. LeBron James and Co. have won me over. (AP photo)

Okay, I surrender. I have no idea what it is LeBron James is trying to do. (AP photo)

I thought this would be easy, pulling against LeBron James. Eleven months ago I’d worked up a disdain I figured would carry me through 2011 and probably 2021. But here Miami is, playing for the NBA title, and I have a confession:

I’m actually starting to feel sorry for LeBron.

He’s the best player in the world. He’s on the sport’s biggest stage. He’s hiding in the corner.

He scored 17 points in Game 3 of the NBA finals, which prompted Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports to dub him an “incredibly shrinking superstar.” Bristling at a Doyel question, James took pains to extol the virtues of all-around excellence,  and in his defense he did feed Chris Bosh for the jumper that won Game 3, and when your team wins you can say whatever you want.

There can, however, be no defending Game 4. James scored eight points, a personal playoff low. He took one fourth-quarter shot. The Heat blew a sizable lead for the second time in three games, and suddenly the Legion of Superheroes doesn’t look super or heroic — it looks like a hugely gifted team that doesn’t know what to do.

Check that. Dwyane Wade knows. He was supposed to be the Boy Wonder to LeBron’s Caped Crusader, but in the finals Wade has averaged 29.8 points to James’ 17.3. Even Bosh, always regarded as the least of the Big Three, has outscored James in this series.

That’s correct. The best player in the world has become the third-leading scorer on his team.

Eleven months ago, I’d have sworn typing such a sentence would fill me with glee. That’s how frosted I was over “The Decision” — that programming monstrosity foisted on us by LeBron and ESPN. It was the utter height of hubris, and in one stage-managed hour I went from liking James to hoping he never wins anything ever.

But time has, as time will, softened my outrage. “The Decision” was a grievous mistake. NBA commissioner David Stern said so. Even ESPN’s ombudsman said so. But I’d been a LeBron fan since I saw him play for St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Greensboro on Martin Luther King Day 2003, and as these playoffs have unfolded I’ve started to think it might not be the worst thing in the world if he gets his title.

Through 3 1/2 quarters of Game 4, that long-sought championship — the very reason for “The Decision” to leave Cleveland in the lurch — seemed very near. (Earlier that day, James had told reporters he was “starting to taste” a title.) Only thing was, the Decider was having little to do with it. The ball was going to Wade on every trip, and he was operating as if he’d become LeBron James surrounded by lesser Cavaliers.

That part about standing in the corner? I mean it literally. James stationed himself — I say that because I can’t imagine this was an Erik  Spoelstra ploy — 25 feet from the goal. And stood there. In the infamous Game 5 against Boston last season, James was criticized by Cavs fans for not shooting. This time he barely moved.

Why would the world’s best player decide not to try very hard? Was he afraid of rankling Wade? If so, what was that  blather about uniting with players of similar ability for the greater good? Was LeBron scared of the moment? If so, why would the greatest amalgam of speed, strength and skill in the history of the sport be scared of any moment?

A conspicuously ailing Dirk Nowitzki scored 10 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4. An apparently healthy LeBron James has scored nine fourth-quarter points this series. The guy who wanted out of Cleveland because his supporting cast wasn’t good enough is standing around admiring D-Wade’s work. I’m confused by this startling development — heck, everybody is — and I’m also confused by my response to it.

I thought it’d be amusing to see LeBron lose, but I don’t want him to lose like this. If Nowitzki and the Mavericks outplay him and the Heat straight-up, so be it. But this way feels wrong. It’s as if King James has, on the morning of his coronation, chosen to abdicate the throne.

By Mark Bradley

145 comments Add your comment

me

June 8th, 2011
2:47 pm

Could be worse, he could be Uggla

Just Me

June 8th, 2011
2:48 pm

WHAT? are you kidding? Mark are you getting soft on us of what?

GTHorsie

June 8th, 2011
2:50 pm

“If so, why would the greatest amalgam of speed, strength and skill in the history of the sport be scared of any moment?”

I’m guessing MJ has a few issues with that statement.

Benjamin

June 8th, 2011
2:51 pm

First.

And I don’t feel too sorry for the man who took his talents to South Beach. He made more this year than myself and the next ten responders will make in a lifetime.

Hope that small editorial didn’t make me second…

Benjamin

June 8th, 2011
2:54 pm

Kudos received and accepted, good sir.

Wonder if Miami would deal him for Joe Johnson?

5150 UOAD

June 8th, 2011
2:55 pm

Mark can I use this name again when football starts?

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2011
2:56 pm

Actually, Benjamin, you might NOT have been first. These comments are showing up rather oddly today.

We might have to play a let on this one.

jeffrey d

June 8th, 2011
2:57 pm

Looks like Mark gets his own kudos today.

Good article, Mark. I won’t feel sorry for LeBron until the Heat lose, though.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 8th, 2011
2:57 pm

How does the best player in the game get off ONE shot in the 4th quarter? That never happened to a a Kobe, MJ, Bird or Magic. Great players assert themselves and will the team to victory.

Unfortuantely the shrinking Lebron is stealing the thunder of Dirk. He is playing so clutch right now that it is ALMOST like watching how MJ took over.

In these NBA finals it is incredible how Dallas is taking every Miami punch and able to fight it off and come back. The only question is can they continue to do it? With the incredible shrinking Lebron on full display they have a punchers chance.

5150 UOAD

June 8th, 2011
2:59 pm

Mark what do you think the odds are that the Finals will not go 7 games? There is nothing else in sports to watch or talk about much, but college football and all the Cheaters. The Association needs all the Advertising money and interest in their 4th/5th place sport they can get. NBA and NHL can’t compete with the NFL and College Football. They are fighting to stay ahead of the NHL. MLB will Always be in the top 3 because it is America’s Original Pastime.

Just Me

June 8th, 2011
3:00 pm

Mark what do you think the odds are that the Finals will not go 7 games? There is nothing else in sports to watch or talk about much, but college football and all the Cheaters. The Association needs all the Advertising money and interest in their 4th/5th place sport they can get. NBA and NHL can’t compete with the NFL and College Football. They are fighting to stay ahead of the NHL. MLB will Always be in the top 3 because it is America’s Original Pastime.

Benjamin

June 8th, 2011
3:05 pm

I’ll settle for a top four finish, MB. So long as I’m near the pole position…

Buckeye

June 8th, 2011
3:05 pm

Hey Brads,

Slow down, Dude. Seems you’re making up for being AWOL.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2011
3:07 pm

Michael Jordan is the greatest player in the history of North American team sports. But he wasn’t as fast or as strong as LeBron James.

j

June 8th, 2011
3:09 pm

The cHeat have won 2 games because of bad calls. If not for that, series over. Lebron is pathetic!

juice newton

June 8th, 2011
3:10 pm

the lebron pre-game speech to his team made me want to barf. he’s all hype.

[...] SportsNBA At 2: Calling Out LeBronHoopsWorldDissecting LeBron's Game 4 strugglesESPNCNN -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -KERO-TV 23all 643 news [...]

Blaze

June 8th, 2011
3:11 pm

I will not feel sorry for LeBron. I will not feel sorry for LeBron. I will not feel sorry for LeBron. I will not feel sorry for LeBron. and guess what …..I don’t feel sorry for LeBron James!

JC

June 8th, 2011
3:12 pm

Was also there in 2003 in the Greensboro Coliseum. Still can not root for him. I do remember how his mom was so obnoxious to the fans around her.

JeJe

June 8th, 2011
3:13 pm

The Heat struggled earlier this year because they had 2 guys very similar to each other (Wade and LeFraud).

The Heat are still controlling this series (trust me, I HATEEEEEEE the Heat) despite the 2-2 record. If Caron was healthy, this series would be over for Miami, but they have a better roster. Bosh played beautifully in the first half.

I hope LeFraud LeChokes

Don’t feel sorry for that arrogant guy. How he appears in interviews is not who he really is. He is barely a level above Terrell Pryor

Blaze

June 8th, 2011
3:15 pm

Tell us more JC about his obnoxious mom. The readers really need to know. He comes across so “cool and collect” in his interviews. I, for one, cannot pull for him. Go MAVS!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 8th, 2011
3:16 pm

Lebron when he is on a breakaway looks like a Clydesdale, so fast and powerful. That also seems to be typical of his game, better as a front runner.

NoGaGator

June 8th, 2011
3:16 pm

No way could I ever feel sorry for this diva who took “(his) talents to OSuth Beach.

He and Wade are probably having a hissy fit and James is sulking in the corner, trying to prove to people the Heat can’t win without him – which, unfortunately is true.

Then again, he may have been in a funk over his buddy Pryor’s fall from grace.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2011
3:17 pm

It’s hard to appreciate how big and fast James is without seeing him in person.

[...] SportsDissecting LeBron's Game 4 strugglesESPNWhat went wrong? How LeBron, Miami failedCNNAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -WESH Orlando -Huffington Postall 250 news [...]

Hayseed Dixie

June 8th, 2011
3:22 pm

I dunno, I want LeBron to win a title just so the Clevland Cavs owner, with his tirade (written in Comic Sans, no less), will be eating crow.

I normally don’t agree with anything that comes out of Jessie Jackson’s mouth, but he was right about the whole “runaway slave” vibe being too strong to ignore.

LeBron wants to play on a team, be friends on a team, and serve teammates- ain’t a single damn thing wrong with that.

GT Joe

June 8th, 2011
3:22 pm

Funny how the bron haters are coming out of the woodwork after his domination of the sixers, bulls and celtics.

They’ll be back on the bandwagon after game 5 and 6.

Kinda reminds me of the hate MJ had before he started winning titles. Hate to throw out the race card, but ….

GT Joe

June 8th, 2011
3:25 pm

Hey Bradley, you liked him, then you hated him, now you feel sorry for him, but you will soon love and adore him. And he will make MJ a distant memory, just like MJ made us forget Bill Russell and Wilt and Oscar.

It’s the cycle of sports…

Ted M

June 8th, 2011
3:31 pm

If the Heat win w/James loafing THAT will be the worst.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 8th, 2011
3:32 pm

As a Hawk fan in the 80’s I couldnt like MJ because of Nique, did I latter appreciate MJ, sure. Lebron started out as a likable fellow but with his … to come to South Beach he essentially made himself the Yankees,Cowboys and Notre Dame of the NBA. You love him or you hate him, no middle ground. Race has ZERO to do with it.

GT Joe

June 8th, 2011
3:33 pm

he’s not loafing or being lazy. He is deferring to the hot hand, which is wade. Wade is getting single coverage (bron gets doubled), wade is being guarded by Kidd (big time mismatch), so bron has to look to wade.

Just remember, bron was wide open in the corner for the game tying shot last night while wade dribbled it off his foot…

Just Me

June 8th, 2011
3:34 pm

I rarely say this, but I think the best thing this young man did was to not go the College route. His recruitment would have been under scrutiny from day one and would have been a distraction to any college team he played for. LeBron going PRO was a move that allowed his Body and Mind to finish growing in the GAME he plays.
I don’t ever feel sorry for a Pro Athlete making millions no matter the issues on of off the Court/Field unless it is a Health issue.

juvenal

June 8th, 2011
3:37 pm

feel sorry Bosch had his last shot blocked, playing in front of the home town folks…..

GT Joe

June 8th, 2011
3:39 pm

Race has zero to do with it? Okay. Maybe the “decision” was silly (I watched it and was glued to the TV, personally), but it was totally blown out of pr,oportion; it was at a boy/girls club for charity for christ’s sake! And have you heard him speak? Extremely intelligent, doesn’t say stupid stuff, can actually speak English correctly, says all the right things. Since high school. Remember MJ in the 80s? Let’s just say he’s gotten a lot smarter with age. Bron was always smart. I still remember him in 2003 after a HS game on ESPN, he interviewed better than the veteran pro players.

And he plays the game right; gets everyone involved, would rather lead in assists than points.

If folks cant like LeBron, there’s something else goin on. Just sayin.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 8th, 2011
3:40 pm

GT Joe,

It was he fact he left his hometown and home state. Fans can relate to that, the fact that sports isnt what it once was and the fact that Lebron made it clear on ESPN (Applaud him for the cause) nailed it home. This is why he is now the anti-hero. I respect him and enjoy watching him play at the highest level, you just have to also understand the other side of the argument also.

DC

June 8th, 2011
3:40 pm

Race has nothing to do with Bron…hes an arrogant cocky ringless fool…

y3ll0wjacket

June 8th, 2011
3:41 pm

Lebron goes through long stretches of horrible decision making – standing around, taking bad shots, looking around like he’s wondering what’s going on – do you think he needs a coach or a teammate to kick him in the @$p to wake him up? He just seems to go into a funk. He should start fighting for layups at those times.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2011
3:47 pm

I’ve not forgotten Bill Russell. Or the Big O. Or Wilt.

Rob

June 8th, 2011
3:47 pm

I agree he is probably in another postion with a team mate like he was in cleveland. The problem with Bron is that he has never been able to grow up emotionally and he still acts like a kid and pouts and mopes around when he is not happy. If it wasnt for Wade the series would be over and the heat would look very stupid. Oh and Bosh is a girl…..

John Galt

June 8th, 2011
3:52 pm

GT Joe

If you were a racist you wouldn’t even turn the NBA on…………

dawg4u

June 8th, 2011
3:54 pm

It feels like Lebron is pacing himself (in a really slow way) for a sprint to the final games. I definitely think we’ll see a completely different performance in the remaining games. Would love to see it go to a seventh game.

Rob

June 8th, 2011
3:55 pm

Well its all on Bron at this point, he either takes over or craps the bed…I seriously dont think the Heat can win with out Bron’s A game and no one in the world has yet to see Bron’s A game in the “heat” of the moment or should I say when it really counts. He blamed it on his supporting cast in cleveland when he had plenty of support. In the long run though he shouldn’t need that much support if he is “better” than Jordan

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2011
3:57 pm

I don’t think we’ll see LeBron James defer to anybody from here on.

Kevkel

June 8th, 2011
3:59 pm

Used to like LeBron but he’s a phony. Nike taught him well how to play to the camera until he and his sycophants laid the big egg with “The Decision”

Another thing that really irks me is his baby momma (who lived with LeBron at his manse in Akron)taking his kids to the ER at the local hospital for colds…and claiming Medicaid. Nice – our tax money going to the kids of one of the richest in sports.

Born2Buzz

June 8th, 2011
4:10 pm

Wrong.

Wouldn’t you still rather see Dallas win, just so the Heat have something to drive them for next year?

I watched last nights game and was amazed by the intensity and pace of play. LeBron not being aggressive didn’t register to me until it was all over and I realized he only had 9 pts.

Midway through the 2nd Qt my teenage daughter who sat and watched the first half with me stated “these guys play too fast, it’s hard to keep track of where the ball is”. My thought was “could Joe Johnson play at that pace?”

These 2 teams are playing at a different level right now. And it’s really fun to watch, no matter what LeBron does.

P. Bull Terrier

June 8th, 2011
4:17 pm

Lebron is just a cheaper version of Joe Johnson.

Delta Stewardess

June 8th, 2011
4:19 pm

Michael
Why did you ban DogLoverUGA…….?
The New Orleans thing was a little Harsh but not far form off base.

I can’t wait until we get to the DOME. Papa and I are really excited to be going to that game. Is it true that the Crowell kid will get to play the first series as promised to him by Richt in his recruiting?

Just Me

June 8th, 2011
4:25 pm

Joe Johnson? are you being serious?

Andy

June 8th, 2011
4:29 pm

Now we see why James needed to join up with other all-stars to win a title. When he said he was taking his talents to south beach, he forgot to mention that he was also taking his failure to perform in big games as well.

NoGaGator

June 8th, 2011
4:34 pm

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