Why LeBron James is the Most Hated Athlete in Sports
In the sports world, arrogance and self-indulgence pollute the attitudes of many star athletes. No athlete opitamizes this more than Miami Heat forward LeBron James. Once proclaimed “the chosen one”, James’ fall from grace has been a turbulent and interesting one. James was once a hero beloved by many but now has evolved into a universal villain in the sports world. Like any athlete, James still has his loyal followers and admirers. Unlike any other figure in sports, James has reached a point to which every aspect of his life is scrutinized, analyzed and criticized. He has become the most hated player in sports. From abandoning the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the infamous Miami Heat “Decision” television program to demeaning the average American person after his team lost the NBA finals, LeBron James has become the most hated figure in sports.
LeBron James grew up in Akron, Ohio where he became a high school basketball phenomenon. He became a superstar for St Vincent – St Mary High School in Akron. In 2003, James was selected first overall in the NBA draft by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. It was the perfect situation. LeBron James was the hometown star that was going to lead an perennial loser to a championship. Immediately James was a superstar and quickly became the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Soon after his arrival in Cleveland, James was dubbed as “the chosen one”. That is when LeBron James began to rot as a human being. Not all entirely his fault, James became the media darling. He was always in the news; people couldn’t stop talking about how good he was. All James heard was praise about how amazing he was from his peers and from the media. Somewhere down the road, James developed a high level of cockiness and arrogance. Cleveland management realized that the appeal of playing for a big market franchise, something Cleveland is not, would eventually take James away from the team. They decided in order to keep James in Cleveland they would have to cater to his every need. LeBron James also realized this and thus began to run the franchise. In addition to having a say and influence over personnel decisions and coaching decisions, James was basically given the key to the franchise. He realized he had a free pass to do whatever he wanted with the Cavaliers franchise. Access to the team’s private jet was given to James’ family and his friends were placed on the Cleveland summer league team. The Cavs gave his arrogance a pass because he was delivering on the court. James developed into arguably the best player in the league but Cleveland never won a title during his reign. During his last two seasons, James really started to kill his reputation. In 2009, LeBron was called out during a game by Bulls center Joakim Noah after he rubbed in a victory by arrogantly dancing like Michael Jackson on the sidelines during the fourth quarter. While fans found it entertaining, the incident foreshadowed a long pattern of classlessness on James’ behalf.
In each of his last two seasons, the Cavs were bounced from the playoffs against Orlando in 2008 and Boston in 2009. In both series, James clearly became lazy on the court and often times looked disinterested. His level of play dropped and the Cavaliers lost both series. In 2008, Cleveland lost to Orlando in 6 games. James was fantastic for the first 5 games but with the Cavaliers facing elimination in game 6 he played his worst game of the playoffs and Cleveland lost. At the end of the game, James walked off the court refusing to shake hands with the Magic players and later refused to talk to the media. It was a completely classless, unsportsmanlike move by James but that would become the norm for him. In 2009 the Cavaliers lost in 5 games to Boston. The entire series James looked disinterested and played poorly because of it. After the series was over, the rumor came out that LeBron’s mother had a sexual affair with one of his teammates prompting James to play poorly. While that understandably would cause a player to play worse, James laid down in that series. There are 15 players on a basketball team and he was the face of the Cavs. For him to not give full effort and let so many people down due to a personal issue was a completely classless for James. That is when the masses of sports fans began to realize the way James went about his life. In addition to losing the series to Boston, Cleveland was about to lose James to free agency.
Despite his classless antics in Cleveland, LeBron James was still universally liked in the sports world but that all started during the infamous summer of 2010. James decided he no longer wanted to be a part of the Cavs organization and decided to join up with fellow NBA stars and friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and play for the Miami Heat. It is understandable why James would leave for a winner although many hold that against him because he abandoned the opportunity to win a championship on his own and took the easy road out pairing up with two stars. The way in which James went about his transition is the main reason why he is now universally hated.
Instead of a simple announcement through a press conference or his agent, LeBron James decided to throw himself an ESPN television special to announce his decision. In a display of complete arrogance, James declared he was “taking his talents to South Beach” and decided he did not need to inform Cavaliers management of his decision. After seven seasons in Cleveland he left the franchise without even thanking the owner or management for everything they had done for him. His free agent gathering in Miami with fellow NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh further revealed the true colors of LeBron James and marked the beginning of his fall from grace in the eyes of most the sports world. Instead of a press conference introducing the stars, LeBron and company decided dancing on a stage and throwing a WWE style indoor firework show was a more fitting introduction. This celebration also included an interview session in which LeBron stated that winning games “would be easy” and that they would win more than 8 championships. The “Miami Heat welcome party” displayed the true ignorance, arrogance and self-indulgence of the self-proclaimed Three Kings of Miami. With their Disney style fireworks celebration, the Miami Heat became the most hated, criticized and analyzed team in sports.
Under the heat of the pressure cooker he and his teammates created for himself, LeBron James continually made himself open for criticism during the 2010 season. After an opening day loss to Boston, James stated after the game “Rome wasn’t built in one day” inferring Miami was on its way to becoming the NBA equivalent to Rome. On the court, James played well but his lack of production in clutch moments became a well-publicized area of criticism. James connected on only one of fifteen game winning shot attempts during the season including against the New York Knicks when he missed two shots in the final seconds to lose the game. James’ biggest episode of criticism was the NBA finals against Dallas. James led the Heat to the finals where he played the most scrutinized finals by any player of this generation. After Miami won game three to go up in the series two games to one, ESPN’s Stephen A Smith reported that James was preparing a list of critics he would call out in a press conference after the Heat won the series. The Heat did not win another game in the series and lost four games to two. James played poorly in the series and especially in the fourth quarter of the games. James was basically a non-factor in the last three games of the series prompting him to become a laughingstock in the sports world. Every media outlet destroyed James for his poor play in the 4th quarter. Jokes such as “Don’t ask LeBron James for a dollar because he will only give you three quarters” became popular on the radio and twitter for James’ critics. He only made it worse when after the NBA finals he addressed his critics by saying “At the end of the day tomorrow all those people who wanted me to fail will have the same personal problems and go back to their same lives that they had today and I am going to live my life with my family the way I want to and continue to do the things that I want to do.” It was textbook classless LeBron James. The arrogance he had to disregard average people provided the media and James critics with even more material to use against James in criticism. That statement is the defining quotation of LeBron James. By uttering these foolish words, James has given the entire world insight into his arrogant, self-indulgent mind. He thinks he is better then everyone, smarter than everyone and cleverer than anyone. This brashness is what makes James more hated then any other athlete.
While in sports there are other hated figures, LeBron James is the most hated of any sports figure. Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez and Tom Brady are LeBron’s main competition when it comes to gaining the hate of the public. None of them compare to LeBron. Three hated players that James can be compared to are Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez and Tom Brady. While Kobe had the rape case, Alex Rodriguez has choked in the clutch and Tom Brady has a flashy lifestyle, none of them can garner up the resume of arrogance and on court drama that LeBron James can. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is arrogant on the court, arrogant off the court and he had the 2003 rape allegation case. Like James, Kobe was brash in his early career and tarnished his image by portraying himself as an un-coachable diva. Unlike James, Kobe has worked to improve his public image throughout the years while LeBron’s image has only gotten worse. Unlike James, Kobe has never called out fans and critics in press conferences. Unlike James, Kobe stayed with the team that drafted him and unlike James Kobe has won championships. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been a highly scrutinized and disliked figure during his time with the New York Yankees. Rodriguez’ main reason for being disliked is his lack of postseason success in relation to the amount of money he makes. In 2007, Rodriguez signed a 10 year 275 million dollar contract yet, like James, has led the team to no championships and has often come up very short in the playoffs. Off the field, Rodriguez has been labeled as a distraction. Rodriguez had a very public affair and divorce in which he was seen in a strip club and has hinted that he did not get along with Yankees captain Derek Jeter. Unlike James, Rodriguez has not shown arrogance towards fans and has not shown up opponents on the field (such as James’ dancing episode). Rodriguez is widely hated but he does not compare to LeBron James. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the most hated player in the NFL. Unlike the other men in this discussion, Brady has been clean off field and has always been respectful in the media. Brady is hated due to his success on the field and the classy, golden boy appearance and persona that he presents himself with. Brady is the typical golden boy. He has the long flowing hair, supermodel wife and numerous model photo-shoots. People dislike Brady out of jealousy, not because of anything he has ever said to offend people. Unlike James, who knows nothing about postseason success, Brady is hated from a purely sports related standpoint as opposed to being hated for on field and off field arrogance. Overall while all of these athletes are hated, none of them have a resume worthy of hatred that compares to the resume LeBron James has built up. On the court, off the court and through the media LeBron has thrived in terms of destroying his reputation. He has let down teammates, failed to win, offended opponents and insulted fans. No other athlete in today’s sports world can boast accomplishing all of those things. While these athletes can be criticized for on field performance in one way or another, none of these athletes can compare to James’ history of off-field antics. These antics, on top of everything else on the field, are what propel James miles ahead of the pack.
At the end of the day, LeBron James has become his own worse enemy and has single handedly destroyed his once glorious reputation. There are other hated athletes in sports but no athlete is as universally hated as LeBron James. Athletes are disliked for either their off-field antics, on-field attitudes or their on field play. James is hated for all three. His statements off the court, attitude while on the court and poor play in the clutch all give James haters a reason to take a shot at him. While many athletes are hated for attitude and play on the court, James’ history of offensive quotations and arrogance is what sets him apart. Between the “At the end of the day…” quotation, the “Decision” television show, and his on court failures, LeBron James has clearly set himself apart from others as the most hated figure in sports.