We live in an age where professional athletes are revered by people all around the world. As a result, everything they do is amplified by the media. With this exposure comes responsibility, and in turn, possibly scrutiny. You could make an argument that LeBron James is the most scrutinized professional athlete of all time, and why is that? Why do most people seem to root for him to fail? This is a question that, after thinking hard about, is extremely difficult to answer. Compared to other individuals that have had extreme success in their sport, LeBron has done very little to attract negative attention. Between reaching high expectations and having no off court issues, it is puzzling to conceive why LeBron James seems to be hated so furiously.
Immediately upon beginning High School at St. Vincent-St. Mary, LeBron was touted as the best prospect in his recruiting class. At age 17 he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as ‘The Chosen One.’ Even with all these lofty expectations he has done nothing but deliver, and some may even say he has eclipsed them. But instead of commending LeBron for living up to these highest of expectations, where most people would have crashed and burned, people decide to degrade him for his arrogance. Yes, LeBron James displays some arrogance. But let’s not kid ourselves, when you are the best athlete on the planet you cannot meet expectations without the mentality that you are the best. There is no shame in being outwardly confident in your ability as long as you deserve it and back it up. In this year’s Finals, LeBron averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists while virtually playing the whole game. He is the first player in the history of the NBA to lead both teams in a Finals series in points, rebounds, and assists. People will say none of this matters because he lost, and in turn he will probably get even more scrutiny because he is only 2-4 in NBA finals appearances in his career. But with these stats, yes, I would say he’s backed up his arrogance. And with a healthy Cavs squad, there’s no reason to believe they would not have won.
Even with the realization that LeBron is doing things that nobody has done before, there is one thing people have a legitimate right to criticize him of, and that was “The Decision.” I am sure to this day LeBron regrets making his decision of forgoing his ties with Cleveland and moving on to South Beach a nationally televised event. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with his decision to leave the Cavs (although Cleveland fans may disagree) but the way he managed the situation was poor. He should have simply talked to Cleveland’s front office behind closed doors and settled the manner quietly, just like he did with Pat Riley when he decided to leave Miami and return to Cleveland. But it’s not like LeBron made the decision by himself— his agent was breathing down his neck to persuade him to televise this in order to retain a large sum of money. ESPN was doing the exact same thing in order to receive a ratings boost because they knew the whole sports world would be watching. In other words, he was getting bad advice where he should have been getting good advice. He still made a mistake, but does one mistake when he was still a relatively young player in the league merit as much scrutiny as he gets? Not at all, especially when those same Cleveland fans that were burning his jersey when he left were welcoming him back with open arms last summer.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why LeBron James’ scrutiny is puzzling is the fact that he has not had any off court issues. None. In an era where many outstanding athletes are womanizers, LeBron, as we know, has a wife and kids and is an extremely big family man. No facts have been found to make us believe otherwise, even with this being an age where everything is leaked on social media. Why isn’t any of that mentioned? After Tiger Woods’ scandal back in 2009 people scrutinized him furiously. But, people ended up forgetting and now he does not get half of the public hatred LeBron gets. Another aspect that pro athletes struggle with is gambling. There is a credible theory that Michael Jordan’s first ‘retirement’ from basketball in order to play baseball was actually a covered up gambling suspension from the NBA, although this was never confirmed to be true. But there is evidence that Michael Jordan was a gambling addict, whether it was bad enough that he was suspended by the NBA will probably never be known. It really doesn’t make any sense why LeBron is scrutinized so heavily. Compared to most great athletes LeBron James reigns superior in terms of his image and he should be admired for this. But maybe nobody cares about that.
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