LeBron James: Embracing the Role of Villain, and Thriving


About damn time.

The now-famous words LeBron James used when asked how it feels to finally be the champion. Words commonly used when someone isn’t so much excited about winning or achieving something extraordinary, but when the pressure is finally off your shoulders and the overwhelming feeling of relief washes over.

The only moment I can compare LeBron’s words to is the moment when the game was no longer in doubt in 1994 when the San Francisco 49ers were well on the way to crushing the San Diego Chargers, and teammates jokingly ripped the proverbial monkey off of Steve Young’s back. But, even then, Young seemed overly jovial and excited. LeBron, in contrast, was relieved.

All of last year, after “The Decision” and the backlash it generated, James seemed confused and baffled that people hated him. He went from generally loved and adored by an entire country to despised in the matter of a half-hour ESPN special. In the 24-hour news cycle and the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately environment we live in, it doesn’t take long to become hated. LeBron found out the hard way, and he didn’t know how to react.

Look, he had to go through the School of Hard Knocks. Even when James wasn’t winning and seizing the big moments on the court, he was still filling up the stat sheet like few before him. However, he needed the adversity in order to truly become great.

Its corny and cliche, but everything happens for a reason, and sports are no different. Does James eventually win a ring if he didn’t go through the 2010-11 hate cycle and fail in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks? Maybe, maybe not.

Has LeBron avenged himself? That’s up for him to decide. Will the country like him any more today than they did yesterday? Not until he brings home another gold medal in London.

Does it all matter to LeBron? Not anymore. And that’s why the world should be fearful of what he can accomplish. He isn’t doing it for us anymore.

He’s doing it in spite of us.

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