MIAMI – LeBron James has completed the rarely seen transition from national villain to national darling. For the first time in two years, there’s no over-the-top hatred for James to start the season. There’s no venom or vitriol. It’s been an amazing transition to watch.
Kobe Bryant made a similar change/comeback a few years ago. LeBron’s might have been bigger.
“Quicker,” Dwyane Wade said with a smile. “But I don’t know about bigger. You can go with quicker comeback.”
OK, he’s got a point. Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar who was once among the nation’s favorite athletes, was Public Enemy No. 1 after his incident in Colorado and his very public feud with teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
Then he won a title. And another one. He kept his marriage intact and carried himself as a gentleman. All of a sudden he had made the greatest American comeback since Bill Clinton.
And so it is with LeBron. He won, and now he’s loved again. Not that he’s keeping track of applause and compliments.
About an hour after he scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Heat to a 120-107 season-opening victory over Boston on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena, James opined on his Great American Comeback. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, he said he’s not sure whether he’s loved again.
“I have no idea,” he said. “And I don’t even really worry about that or even listen to what’s going on. Honestly, I just be me, do me, and let everything else take care of itself.”
James is a hero of sorts once again, largely because he won the MVP, Finals MVP and Olympic gold medal, and the Heat – as the defending NBA champions – are likeable. No one is complaining about LeBron being a choker, not having a low-post game or passing on the final shot. He’s no longer the butt of jokes.
Love is in the air. It’s another example of how James is a truly unique player, talent and person. It’s also another example of how winning cures all.
James phrases the reason for the turnaround differently.