A Lakers fan’s guide to appreciating LeBron James

I have never been a LeBron James fan. I have never cheered for him to win, unless he’s representing Team USA in the Olympics. Every time he makes it to the Finals, I cheer for the other team.

So, why the hate? There are a few reasons why LeBron James doesn’t appeal to me, but I have to start with the elephant in the room: I am a “Kobe Stan.”

Why does this matter? Because, frankly, Kobe’s biggest fans often feel threatened that LeBron is overshadowing Kobe’s place in NBA history. Sound paranoid? It is, but there is also some truth to the idea that Kobe’s abrasive personality and his maniacal, “Everything Kobe does is perfect” fan base rubs people who follow the NBA the wrong way, consequently leading them to loathe the Lakers and Kobe. Trust me, I get it.

What the hell does all this have to do with LeBron? I’m getting there. For the last decade, Kobe fans have been screaming from the rooftops that he does not get a fair shake in the media. Since he was being criticized for every little detail, he was now becoming historically underrated. Meanwhile, NBA blogs everywhere can’t wait to explain exactly why Kobe isn’t as great as you think he is.

Around this same time, LeBron James exploded as an NBA superstar juggernaut, and the media loved this guy. He immediately was being hailed as the heir of succession after Michael Jordan. Yeah, Kobe was really good, they would say, but he was just Michael Jordan-lite, whereas LeBron was hailed as the next evolutionary step in basketball. He had Jordan and Wilt’s athleticism with Magic’s skill set.

A lot of Kobe fans heard this and admittedly, they overreacted. A large faction of Laker fans declared a holy war on The Chosen One and insisted that LeBron would never be as good as Kobe because he didn’t have the same killer instinct. Over the years, LeBron was public enemy No. 1 for a lot of Lakers fans. While our team was becoming an irrelevant laughing stock, the only thing we had to cheer for was our self-appointed rival to lose. We had become the same type of irrational haters that we would constantly defend Kobe against.

Now, like I said, I am still no LeBron fan. I think he gets a free pass from the media on just about everything, especially for the diva-ish way he acts. He seems to never really say anything genuine to the press. It all sounds rehearsed. He has a passive-aggressive streak that constantly undermines his coaches and teammates. Also, those Instagram posts where everyone is leaning against a wall with one leg bent up with the bowed-arm, wrist-grabbing poses are cheesy as hell.

On the court, he violates a cardinal sin for me: Superstars that flop. I hate flopping, but I get that it is the only way for some of the less talented players to try to stop the best in the game. When it is the best players blatantly flopping, especially someone as physically gifted as LeBron, it just seems like cheating.

Along those same lines, I think that LeBron gets away with more travels than any player I have ever seen. It’s almost never called and it drives me crazy. Also, the East sucks and I get frustrated that LeBron gets a free pass to the Finals every year while teams out West are hacking each other to death with machetes.

There we have it, you now know all the reasons why I’m not a LeBron James fan. It doesn’t have anything to do with Kobe and I hope the Cavs lose to the Warriors again in the Finals.

All that being said, let’s get one thing straight: even though I am not a fan, I think LeBron James is basically a perfect basketball player. He has no real weaknesses to speak of. He has dragged talent-starved teams to championship contention by himself. Any notion that he is not a top 5 or top 10 player of all-time is insanity. Yes, LeBron has the killer instinct. Did you happen to see any playoff game from 2012-2014? He was godlike.
Not being a LeBron fan does not mean that I underrate him or don’t appreciate his greatness. I do, I just don’t want him to win a ton of championships. I didn’t want Jordan to win all of his championships. I didn’t want Duncan to win his. If you aren’t on the Lakers, I don’t want you to win. It’s not personal.

 

My point in all this is to tell people that it is okay to be a fan and to cheer against a player or a team. Just because a player is great, doesn’t mean you MUST be a fan and want them to win, or else you are a hater. At the same time, anybody who criticizes LeBron’s talent or ability is absolutely in the wrong.

Trust me, fellow Laker fans, admitting to and appreciating LeBron’s excellence is not an indictment of Kobe Bryant’s career. I know it feels wrong at first, but it is possible for two people to be great and exist in the same era without having to devalue one or the other. So enjoy the unreal performances that LeBron will put up during the Finals, and when the Cavs lose, don’t blame LeBron simply to try and defile his legacy. Have some respect for his transcendent talent.

Besides, blindly hating someone on the Cavs and celebrating in their failure is what we have Dan Gilbert for.

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