“Time heals all,” he said. “We all know that.”
As for louder cheers and more love from fans, James didn’t want to delve into that topic. And he truly doesn’t seem to care.
Say this much for James’ transition from villain to hero: it’s amazing, because nowadays the storyline regarding LeBron is his once-in-a-lifetime talent and his pursuit of all-time greatness. From here on out, we will all watch his career and treasure every moment. We will tell our grandkids, “I actually saw LeBron James play. These kids now, they can’t do what LeBron did.”
Give James lots of credit here because his transition goes beyond winning the title. He consulted with Hakeem Olajuwon, for example, to sharpen his low-post skills. He also hasn’t sent out any knucklehead tweets recently, such as the one two years ago in which he said the Heat would remember all the haters. He hasn’t made any knucklehead moves, such as when he had security people hold back the crowd while he played Pop-A-Shot alone at an Ohio amusement park. He looked at the man in the mirror and made changes.
The Great American Comeback isn’t an easy move to pull. And keeping things real, LeBron shouldn’t have had to dig his way out of such a deep hole. Think of all the guys who committed worse offenses.
Roberto Alomar spit at an umpire. John Rocker had offensive thoughts. Charles Barkley proudly declared he wasn’t a role model. Ndamakong Suh stomped on an opponent. Ben Johnson set a world record in the 100-meter dash while on steroids. Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France races, every one of them using banned substances. And we won’t even delve into the baseball/steroid thing that swallowed up players such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Yet none of these guys was as hated nationally or as intensely as James. And they weren’t hated for the length of time that the public hated James. Not even close.
“I don’t think people really hated him,” teammate James Jones said. “A lot of people just jumped on the bandwagon of disdain.”
Maybe so. But James was mocked and panned everywhere he went, firstly for The Decision, which – let’s face it – was ill-advised, and secondly for not coming through in the clutch. Beyond those things, in general, people thought LeBron was an all-around, arrogant jerk.
That could have changed in his first year with the Heat, but LeBron was a failure in The Finals against Dallas. And that incident in which LeBron and Wade made fun of Dirk Nowitzki by pretending to cough, belittling the Dallas star’s illness, well, that didn’t help LeBron’s image.
Neither did that quote after the Heat was eliminated in which he basically told people he would wake up tomorrow as LeBron James, rich and famous, and they would have to return to their nothing, miserable lives.
“It’s good for me to see his growth, how he’s dealt with things,” Wade said.
Yes, LeBron is loved once again, and even more than he was, say, six or seven years ago. This a guy whose career could include MVP awards as well as Defensive Player of the Year awards. He’s special. And now he’s back to being loved. And it’s mostly because he won.
“It goes beyond winning,” Wade said. “It’s got to be the person. But winning is a big part of it. I think the biggest thing with him is people saw he just loves playing the game of basketball.
“He works hard at his craft. You’re a fan of LeBron James because he’s great at basketball. Then as you get to know him, you become a fan of him as a person.”
Chris Perkins is a veteran Miami-based sports journalist who covers the Miami Heat for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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