I’ll admit it. I was a LeBron hater. I got sick and tired of hearing about him from the time he was a teenager. I hated how he was rammed down our throats by ESPN which broadcasted his high school games (how quickly we forget). As a reporter who covered a horrible Nuggets team in 2003 during the NBA draft lottery I hoped that the ping pong balls would not bounce in favor of Denver. The idea of covering the James circus didn’t interest me in the slightest. Little did I know having to cover Carmelo Anthony for 3 years would be loaded with so much nonsense. Too much so to address here.
As a Celtics fan of more than 40 years, LeBron really didn’t come back on my radar screen until 2008. I don’t remember hating him when the Celtics and Cavaliers played that epic 7-game Eastern Conference semifinals. I just marveled at he and Paul Pierce going mano a mano in game 7. James going for 45 points, and The Truth 41. For me, it was reminiscent of the amazing Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins duel in the 88 semifinals. Wilkins ended up with 47, but Bird scored 20 points in the decisive 4th quarter as the Celtics held off the Hawks 118-116. I don’t even remember hating LeBron after that 2008 series, I just remember thinking the Celtics window of opportunity was closing rapidly. The 2009 injury to Kevin Garnett all but ended the Celtics chances again at taking on LeBron for the second-year in a row. Then came 2010. The Celtics season was a long hard slog. Boston played .500 ball the final 56 games of the season and limped to the finish line at 50-32. When the playoffs rolled around no one gave the Celtics much of a chance to advance. Many picked Miami in the first round. Not only did Boston advance, but James and the Cavs came next in the semifinals. All looked lost when James and the Cavs crushed Boston by 29 at the Garden in game 3 to go up 2 games to 1. The Celtics won the next 3 culminating with James famously taking his Cavs jersey off as he walked off the TD Garden court. I remember despising James then. I thought he quit on his team. Don’t true champions go down fighting? This emperor of the NBA had no clothes.
My hatred grew even stronger that summer when James made “The Decision” to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat! The King couldn’t beat the Celtics, so he needed to create a super team do it! I like many NBA fans was outraged. He was rigging the system. It worked, the aging Celtics were no match in the 2011 playoffs, and in the 2012 eastern conference finals James ripped Boston’s heart out with an epic game 6 performance as the Heat won in 7. The KG era was dead and buried, at the hands of James no less.
Since then, Lebron has went on to win 3 titles. Two in Miami and one in his return to Cleveland. James has eliminated the Celtics in 5 straight playoff series. Is he really a rival? Seriously? He has dominated the Celtics. James has beaten the Celtics in 4 straight games when his teams have faced elimination. As the years have gone by I’ve re-evaluated my feelings about James. Do I think he’s self-entitled? Hell yes. Arrogant? Hell yes. Do I think he’s selfish? Hell yes. But I do think there is no one in the game who wants to win as bad as James. I love players with that kind of passion. Isn’t winning what Boston basketball is all about? Hell yes!
Not too long ago many said Boston wasn’t a place where “big name” players wanted to come. Now it’s a coveted landing spot. Remember everyone on edge when Kevin Durant came to town 2 years ago? The best general manager in the NBA, Danny Ainge made that happen. Why would you not take advantage of the winning climate that he and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens have created by landing James? I know, I know, LeBron brings drama. I’ve heard it all for years. There was even more following the conclusion of the NBA Finals when James told the media that he broke his hand punching a white board following a heartbreaking game 1 loss at Golden State. Was LeBron’s hand really broken? Was it an excuse? Honestly, I don’t care. To pretend there wasn’t drama during the KG era and post KG era is ridiculous. It was never ending. Everything from nut taps, wheelchairs, Big Baby tears, and the Rondo-Ray Allen feud that still exists. Their childish disagreement has forever sullied Celtics banner 17 for me. We have short memories, don’t we? Drama? Oh yeah, the Celtics have done drama with the best of them.
Boston also does hypocrisy! Nothing made me more sick to my stomach than December 2015. It was Kobe Bryant’s last game in Boston. Shouts of “Ko-be, Ko-be” filled the arena. I’m old enough to remember when the crowd shouted “Beat LA.” The Lakers will forever be the Celtics greatest rival not LeBron. I have a personal beef with this one as well. As I mentioned earlier I covered the Nuggets from 2000-2005. I had enough of Kobe back then. All you have to do is google Kobe Bryant and Denver and you’ll know why. Kobe Bryant is worthy of your cheers, but James isn’t? Really?
Celtics legend Bill Russell thinks James is worthy of wearing the green. Russell said in 2013: “Would I have loved playing with LeBron? Of course.” As recently as the NBA Finals, Paul Pierce told a national television that Boston was the best place for James to go if he wants to win a championship. If James is good enough for Russell and Pierce, then why not the rest of us?