Over the last several years, I have watched as the St. Louis Cardinals and Green Bay Packers, teams that are direct rivals of teams that I root for, have won championships. But the stinging pain or jealousy that forced me to avoid watching Sports Center for weeks at a time and grit my teeth at the mere mention of their success pales in comparison to how I felt recently.
Last Thursday night, the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals, Lebron James won his first professional title and my summer of sulking over what might have been officially began.
I did not watch the final game. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The news came as I arrived at work for the night, checked my trusty ESPN Score Center app and cursed the heavens, much to the bewilderment of my coworkers. Never had I hoped more for a win out of the Western Conference, but Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden (don’t forget ex-Bull and defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha) had let me down.
As I sat at work and tried to harness my fury into the constructive task of staring blazing laser holes into the tabletop in front of me, I realized that my anger over the Miami Heat’s success was not like the frustration I felt over the Cardinals and Packers. I wasn’t dreading the fact that I was going to hear it from Heat fans. It was not the fuel of rivalry that stoked my frustration of the Heat’s win. No, I was legitimately upset because Lebron James won.
I hold no love for James. I didn’t dislike him when he was with Cleveland, but immediately upon his decision to, “take his talents to South Beach,” I think he began to display act after act of classless, egotistic, unprofessional behavior. His abandonment of Cleveland itself is not something I blame him for. Many would have (and have) done the same. I cannot blame Lebron James for leaving the depressing, dying city he grew up in for the hope of something better elsewhere. I accept that professional sports is a business.
What I hold against James is the hours long prime time special, the prancing around at a celebration before a game had been played, the prophesying that multiple championships would be won, the sour grapes press conference when he reminded everyone that they would still not be him when they woke up tomorrow, his belief that people would remember that the Miami Heat lost the 2011 Finals instead of remembering that the Dallas mavericks won and, last but not least, his donning of entirely cosmetic nerd glasses in public. Just who does he think he is?
Add to my distaste for Lebron James the fact that I have grown to also dislike Dwayne Wade and his flopping antics (a wrist injury does not keep you from walking off the court, Dwayne) and the Heat’s “long awaited” (two whole seasons, you poor babies… someone get Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing and the Cubs on the line) championship stuck itself in my craw and stayed there to cause me such discomfort that I will never again have any doubt over exactly where one’s craw is located.
Coming off a season of coaching eight-year-olds and placing sportsmanship above winning, I felt that cosmic justice had not been achieved. The just desserts that Lebron James deserved to be snacking on at the end of his second season with the Heat were supposed to include humility, disappointment and, I’ll say it, shame. Karma was supposed to make the “Big (headed) Three” wait another season or two at least, seasons during which they would have to take smaller contracts to stay together, bring on and nurture the games of younger role players, during which Wade would be forced to develop a fade away jumper to save his aging knees and Lebron would discover the true meaning of Christmas, before they were to be allowed to claim ultimate victory. But karma dropped the ball. Let’s face it, you Buckner-ed it, karma.
And now I am left only with the hope that James’ own cockiness at setting his bar for success so high might bring me satisfaction. Years down the road, when his career is over and he waits for his induction to the hall of fame (because for as much as I dislike the guy, he is a great player), perhaps the clip that they continually run will not be him holding a trophy but his boasting about how many he will eventually have. And I can only hope that when that day comes, the accurate count will force him to be quoted in reverse.
“…not seven…not six…not five…not four…not three…”