It happened again a couple of weeks ago, and as always it made me shake my head. A TV was on mute in the background, showing Cleveland Cavaliers' highlights. Up there on the screen, LeBron James was taking some poor pilgrim to the tin or dropping a jumper or making a camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle dish for the deuce.
"Oh, I hope they don't win," someone said. "I really don't like LeBron."
It's amazing how often you hear that.
It's amazing how people cling and cling and cling to ancient history, and won't let it go. Yes, The Decision was stupendously dumb idea, and yada-yada-yada. But it's over. It's been over for years. And what has LeBron James done, before or since, to earn your disfavor?
I'll tell you what: Nothing. Zip. Nada.
Last night he hauled the Cavs back into the NBA Finals again, coming one step closer to the pledge he made when he came back to Cleveland last year. The Cavaliers were 33-49 without him last year. With him -- and with the players his presence attracted -- they're going back to the Finals.
Yes, he left Cleveland to go to Miami. But he came back to his hometown. Nobody does that. Nobody leaves Cleveland to go somewhere else and then comes back. And when he did, and fans and media swarmed his neighorhood in Cleveland, he did something else hardly anyone else does.
He bought cupcakes for all his neighbors to apologize for the inconvenience his presence had caused.
Who does that?
And yet: Oh, I hope they don't win. I really don't like LeBron.
The funny thing is, nine times out of 10, the people who say that can't even tell you why. Yes, he left Cleveland to play with his buddies Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami, as was his right as a free agent. He had leverage and he used it. Odd how that never seems to bother people when it's management and not a player who does that.
Over and above that, though, what's not to like?
As a man, he's by all accounts an attentive father and husband who never shows up on police blotters or on TMZ. And as a player, he's the best of his generation, and one of the best of all time.
All that noise about him not wanting the ball at the end of games is mere twaddle, considering no one other than Michael Jordan has hit more game-winners in playoff games. And it obscures the fact that perhaps his greatest particular skill is as a distributor. He makes his teammates better. Isn't that what the great ones are supposed to do?
This is the fifth straight Finals in which LeBron will play, with two different teams. He took Cleveland there and he took the Heat there four times and now he's taken the Cavs there again.
Root against him if you like. But me?
I'll just go on shaking my head at you.