There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just be straightforward -- I'm sorry, LeBron King James. Though it was so easy for me to hate you for the past 9 years, in the back of my mind, I knew this day would come. And now that's it's finally here, I need to own up to it.
We all know the storyline about LeBron, and I'm sure many of you out there share the same sentiments that I used to have about the "King." With the "King" and "Chosen One" titles and nothing to show for it in his career, he became the laughingstock of the NBA. He made it so easy to hate him. We all expected him to be like the last King -- His Airness, Michael Jordan. But time and time again, LeBron would let us down. With the loss to the Mavs last year, undoubtedly, we all saw it as karma, destiny, and what goes around comes around. But now, with LeBron finally capturing his first championship, I'm here to explain why it's so easy to love him.
Just a couple of weeks ago, as I sat in my chair, sulking in the loss of my beloved Celtics in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I had a sudden relevation: LeBron James is damn good. But I knew this 9 years ago when I watched him destroy the competition in high school, and I knew this after each of three MVP trophies he's hoisted up in the last four years. Even still, it was only through that 7-game series with the Celtics that I knew LeBron had finally arrived. My cousin, Omar, asked me immediately after the game who I wanted to win in the Finals. I annoyingly said, "OKC." LeBron had just beaten PP, KG, Rayray, and Rondo (4 of my top 4 favorite players in the NBA today), and I was in no mood to root for the villain.
For the next 3 days, I rewatched LeBron's game 6 performance at least 5 times. Every replay, I observed something new about LeBron. Determined. Cold. Fearless. Possessed. After every defensive rebound, he would put his head down and roll full speed down the court. This was the LeBron that I saw when I watched him in high school. This was the LeBron that led his school to a state championship. There was no denying it, LeBron was on the rise again, and though I was always a big critic of him, it was a thing to behold. Before the Finals started, I went back to Omar and told him, "I'm rooting for LeBron."
Some will say it's bandwagoning, getting lost in the moment, or flip-flopping -- say what you will about me, but the fact is LeBron is now a champion. He single-handedly turned the sports world and its fans upside-down. What can we say about him now that he has more rings than any of us combined? I'm a man who likes to give credit where credit is due. And to LeBron, this credit is long overdue. LeBron has dominated the league in his own way, not Michael Jordan's way. LeBron has changed the game, his position, and the standard we hold young players to in his own way, not Michael Jordan's way. LeBron has become a champion in his own way -- going through ups and downs on and off the court, battling inner demons, confronting public opinions. He didn't follow Jordan's career arc. And to himself, he never had to. The mistake that we made was that we wrote LeBron's story and expected him to follow it. And because he didn't, we hated him for that. However, with this first championship, LeBron has taken the pen out of our hands and the page off our desks. He's asked us to watch, to witness, and to read his story, written in his own way.
The first chapter is written. It's been one heck of a ride. And as a sports fan, I absolutely cannot wait for chapters two, three, four, five, six, seven...
Finally. Finally, the chosen won.
Photo courtesy of Steve Mitchell/US Presswire