There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.
Sports fans loyalties seem to fluctuate as the situation and media portray a team or player. Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James have each had perception change on them as their careers have played out.
In the summer of 2003, Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault and his trial dragged through the 2004 season. After the season, it was portrayed that Kobe was forcing Shaq out of LA. By the end of the trial, Kobe was not what you would call tops on people’s list of favorite people. However when you look at him now, he is very popular. He has his critics but the sexual assault charge seems to have come and gone. Now he can leap a car in a single bound. Bryant is looked to as a model player and with him accumulating rings (5 at this point), Jordan is within his sights for rings as he climbs the all-time scoring list as well.
As for Magic, he got his coach Paul Westhead fired and a young 1st time coach, Pat Riley, took over for the team and implemented the Showtime Lakers. In the 1984 Finals, Magic no showed for three games as the Celtics won 4 games to 3 games. However, with the defeat Magic got better and won three more titles in 85, 87, and 88. Now Magic is remembered with Bird as helping to save the NBA and universally regarded as a top 5 player of all –time.
With all that being said, it is interesting the amount of sports hate that LeBron James has endured since announcing July 8, 2010 that he was “taking his talents to South Beach.” It seems to have piled on from there with the Heat Welcome Party all the way to the mock coughing prior to Game 5 of the NBA Finals. I have been one of the participants in it but I can’t help but also feel sorry and wanting LeBron to conquer the critics. Prior to The Decision, James was beloved and criticism on playoff failure seemed to roll off. His idea to join with his friends was well within his right as a free agent but the execution was poor and it seems to have piled up this year with plenty of other decisions to rub people the wrong way.
This year has been a magnifying glass and nothing the Heat or James seemed to do was ever enough. He eviscerated the Celtics, his longtime nemesis, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Then the Heat eliminated league MVP Derrick Rose and the Bulls as James locked down the MVP. When the NBA Finals came, it seemed obvious the Heat’s talent would overwhelm the Mavericks but they punched back and won the title. The Mavericks won the title, but James showed up small in the 4th quarter of games averaging only a hair above 3 points for the quarter. It is frustrating because he truly is blessed with crazy talents and abilities and seems to waste them. Although I may have not agreed with all his decisions off the court, on the court, he is incredible.
This summer I hope he hones his game and becomes a more consistent 3 point shooter or spends some time learning some post moves. I hope the loss in the Final fuels him and he comes back next year like gangbusters. I don’t know if he will but I hope he does. Perception can change over time but it takes work and time.