Justifying the Criticism

By Chris Lehman

In Response to Rick Reilly’s article, LeBron being LeBron :

– Bold quotations in my article are direct quotes from Reilly’s article

I will start by giving credit to Reilly for a very well written article on ESPN. While he raises some valid points, he missed on his main argument. 

He recalls a story about a man who runs into a burning building to save a woman’s baby. After a few minutes he comes running out of the building with the baby and gives it back to the mother. She then looks at him and says, “He had a hat.”

The whole point of this story was to explain to us, the LeBron critics, that we are too hard on him and that when he does one thing well, we ask why he didn’t do more.

“Anything short of an NBA title makes James a useless wad of pre-chewed pork gristle in your eyes. Whatever he does — three MVPs in nine seasons — it’s never enough.”

No. Nobody is trying to take anything away from LeBron James. We see the three MVPs and recognize James for what he is – one of, if not THE best player in the NBA. We see him for more than pork gristle, but more along the lines of a nice cut of filet mignon. Although, if you want something truly special, try wrapping bacon around it – which is what I’m not ready to do for James yet. Perhaps an NBA title would make me reconsider. But as for now, I’m sticking to what I’ve said – LeBron will be the best player to never win a ring.

“You hate him — still! — for the way he botched the announcement of his free-agent move from Cleveland to Miami.

Forget that hundreds of people move from Cleveland to Miami every year.”
Hatred is a poor word choice. Disrespect is much more fitting. As annoying as it was, I’ve gotten over the fact that it took a two hour special for him to tell the world where he was going to play basketball in the 2010-2011 season. It doesn’t bother me that he left Cleveland. His contract was up and he had every right to play for another team. His mistake was breaking a promise and turning his back on the city of Cleveland.

“I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland…And I won’t stop until I get it.”

Well he didn’t get it, and now he’s stopped. Just like that he walked away from everything he helped build and didn’t even look back to watch the city crumble behind him.

Deeper in the article are all the reasons why we should like James as a person. He’s nice, he talks to the media and he’s never been in trouble with the police.

Once again, never has anyone looked at these things and said, man I hate this guy because he’s nice. Or, I hate this guy because he jokes around with Craig Sager at halftime. Nobody is telling him that he needs to be a jerk, as you say. If these little things, along with James’ play were all we had to go off of, he would be the most loved and idolized athlete in sports. He would still receive some criticism for his lack of a ring, but it certainly wouldn’t be as harsh. Skip Bayless would absolutely talk about Tim Tebow more and bash James less.

“You despise him because he passes too much. Imagine that. You hate a modern NBA player for not being selfish…

You people seem to want him to take it every single time, even with Dwyane Wade as a teammate. And Chris Bosh. But it’s The Big Three, isn’t it? Not The Big One.”

He has never been criticized for his passing. As great of a scorer as he is, when he wants to be, he is a phenomenal playmaker and distributor. Reilly says James’ passes are “as soft and buttery as croissants.” I was leaning towards crisp and clean like a freshly mowed lawn, but either description works.

I will say that the media wrongfully blames him for a lot of things. The main one being when he makes the correct play and passes the ball to an open teammate. In the game 3 loss against the Celtics he was triple teamed so he threw a pass to Haslem for the last shot. Unfortunately for James, the pass got tipped and Haslem was forced into a bad shot. Had the pass gotten there cleanly, Haslem probably would have made it and James would have been praised for the pass.

There are still times, however, when James will take ill-advised shots in the fourth quarter and then pass up a good one that could potentially win the game. It has never been said that it’s bad to look for others to make plays. But what made Jordan and Bryant great is that they ALWAYS wanted to make the difference. They ALWAYS wanted the ball for the last shot. They never backed down and were never scared of the moment.

“Wade missed an open jumper to lose Game 4 in overtime — how come he’s not ‘scared’?”

Because he’s made that shot. Wade is known for his ability to close out a game. Remember the steal against the Bulls where he came up behind Derrick Rose and ran down and banked the three for the win. Or what about the four-game winning streak against the Mavericks in the NBA Finals where he stepped up when his team needed it the most.

Dwyane Wade wanted the ball for that shot and it was very close. He lives for that moment. Scared is not in Wade’s vocabulary.

I’ll speak for myself when I say that I have mad respect for LeBron James’ game. When he gets going, he’s just about unstoppable. On the court, he is truly something special and no one is doubting his ability or his achievements.

His arrogance, however, is where he doesn’t make any friends. His other decision to get “Chosen 1” tatted on his back. He crowned himself King James before he had done anything worthy of being called a king. This is why there is a significant level of disrespect.

We’re not criticizing him for what he’s done. Instead we are disappointed by what he said he would be and that he hasn’t become that.

In this case, the mother wasn’t upset that the man brought back the baby without the hat. She was mad because he promised he’d save the baby, but only came back with the hat.



  1. I would never use the word “Hate” for actions like James has done in sports. However, two actions did make me loose some respect for him as a person. The first was making the owner of the Cleveland team wait for the results of his decision just like the rest of us. The owner who paid him millions for years and did make efforts to put together a winning team at least deserved a call prior to the circus on ESPN. All he had to say to the owner is I appreciate your efforts, but at this time I feel Miami is best for me, before going on TV with it. The second was when the three players got together and James came up with the “not one, not two, not three……. etc.” comment. That comment showed a complete disrespect for how difficult it is to win an NBA championship and also to all the other outstanding teams and players in the league. Other than that he has handled himself well on court and I think people try their hardest to bring down his amazing skills to try and get even for his immaturity as a man. The next couple of weeks will show a lot in the story of James’ basketball life. Maybe he will carry the team to the top or maybe he will be humbled.

    • I agree. But my main problem w/ him is that he shouldn’t have to wait until a loss this year to be humbled. He should already be humbled since he’s gotten so close so many times and seen it slip away but he still decided to go on with his “not one, not two…” He shouldn’t need any more humbling experiences

  2. You dont like him bc of how he left cleveland, after saying he would stay to get a ring. haha. okay. the nickname king james, is a nickname. good reason to dislike someone. then you say the chosen1 is a bad tattoo. haha. another great reason to not like someone. smh. quit hating. and you act like the decision was all lebrons idea. im sure espn, the nba, his management, im sure they had nothing to do with it. and if he had stayed in cleveland, well “the decision” wouldnt of been so bad. he is the best player in the nba. the fact you wrote….

    Nobody is trying to take anything away from LeBron James. We see the three MVPs and recognize James for what he is – one of, if not THE best player in the NBA.

    He is the best player in the nba. who is better? durante? haha. what has he done exactly that lebron hasnt to make him better?

    you reply to the last article as though he was directing it at you. he is directing it at the ignorant mma fans who really dislike lebron and think he is over rated. he isnt over rated. he is easily the best player in the nba since kobe and jordan. most experts agree on this, which in a debate, would hold true.

    • I’m just saying, if he was planning on leaving (which he was because apparently LeBron, wade and bosh had been planning this for a while), then he shouldn’t have made a promise that he was gonna stay until he won a ring. Yes it’s just a nickname, but it’s incredibly conceited and he’s not remotely worthy of being called a king. i’m not saying it’s a bad tattoo..I’m saying it’s extremely arrogant. He literally thinks he’s the greatest thing to happen to the world…The Chosen 1…really?

      And I’m not hating…I give him the respect he deserves. You used my quote saying that he is maybe the best player! What more do you want? I’m not sure what Durante has done, but Kevin Durant (w/out the e) will soon have more championship rings than LeBron. He is now the 3-time scoring champ and is only 23. But like I said, LeBron is possibly the best so I’m not sure why you’re freaking out about that…

  3. Great post – I have trouble defending LeBron for the way he left Cleveland…I have trouble watching NBA games for a variety of reasons so I probably shouldn’t respond any further…however, Rick Reilly was really good at SI, he’s an ESPN shill now… I looked at the players on the court at the end of game 3 and thought “you left Cleveland for this?”…Wade may have taken that shot at the end of game 4 instead of LeBron because LeBron had fouled out..NBA players are often called the most athletic of the major sports, yet no one can drive the lane and land on their feet (See Dwayne Wade)…too much flopping…too much selling…I’m no longer buying.

    • Thanks. and yeah, I think part of Wade’s collapse is due to the fact that he’s the secondary option. He was money as the go-to guy and showed that he could be a leader by winning the ship in 2006 (I think it was). But he just hasn’t been the same w/ LeBron there

  4. Chris, you already know my opinion. He’s a good guy, who has made some bad off-court decisions. I cannot believe you have never heard of Rick Reilly though! I have 2 books that are collections of his best articles. I’ll have to let you borrow them. They are really good.

    • I had honestly never heard of him. Someone mentioned this article to me and I just felt compelled to respond because people who are huge LeBron fans misunderstand the criticism others give him and think it’s hate

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