I was impressed by Cleveland’s hatred. That city loathes Lebron James. In the words of Susan from Survivor: if Lebron was sitting there dying of thirst, Cleveland would let the vultures take him. The city showered him with boos, chants, and homemade posters, all designed to make Lebron feel some sort of pain.
The Cavs, on the other hand? I wasn’t so impressed with them. Not in the least. They joked with Lebron, smiled as he stood in front of their bench jawing. They showed no competitive fire, no spine. If I had to choose one word to describe the Cavs last night, it would rhyme with wussies. Lebron jetted in for fast break layups, and nobody put him on his ass. He mocked the bench and nobody, save for an assistant coach, told him to shove it.
Why should the players want to beat Lebron as badly as the fans did, you ask? Because when he left, he effectively told his former supporting cast they weren’t good enough. He couldn’t win with those chumps, is what Lebron’s departure meant. He wanted to go elsewhere, where he could surround himself with talented teammates, where he could finally win his first title. Lebron leaving Cleveland was a direct slap in his former teammates’ faces. He thought it was their fault he went ringless during his first seven seasons.
THAT’S why the players should resent Lebron, or at least want to beat his ass on the court. Not because he made The Decision such a public debacle. Not because he showed no remorse to the city that had loved him for so long. Not just because he left. But because when he left, he showed no respect to the Cavaliers. “I feel like it’s going to give me the best opportunity to win,” LeBron said after The Decision. He added, “I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there.”
In other words, “Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao suck.”
Still, the Cavs showed no spine. Chris Webber called them “as soft as wet toilet paper.” Then he added, “in a puddle.”
Meanwhile, Lebron used the crowd’s hatred as fuel. Finally, in this season where Lebron is the most despised man in basketball, he embraced the role of villain.
I wrote my latest piece for SLAM Online on Lebron’s vindictive spirit in last night’s game.
The only problem was, LeBron James didn’t stop tormenting Clevelanders in July. He came back at their throats last night, like he, not they, had been wronged. There was a different bounce in his step, a bounce Cleveland had seen on occasion. No taunts were going to distract LeBron James in this game. He was a man with a singular mission, to take the crowd’s hatred and silence it. All season long, we have wondered how the public’s disdain would change LeBron James. Would he use it as fuel, or would it affect him more negatively? On this night, clearly galvanized by his role as enemy, LeBron played the villain perfectly. By the end of the third quarter, when LeBron had already set a season high with 38 points, the crowd’s jeers — so damning and violent at the game’s start — had become nothing more than a form of entertainment to make a blowout more exciting. [...]
These Miami Heat have all too often played uneven, uninspired basketball. But if LeBron James can be such a vindictive S.O.B. each night, the toughest, most determined man in the gym will also be its most devastating talent. He will continue to quiet crowds and leave haters defeated, and he will accomplish all that with a knowing smile on his face.
Click here to read the rest of my piece.