Opinion Brief

The NBA championship: Would a Miami Heat victory redeem LeBron James?

Basketball fans love to hate the three-time MVP, but an NBA finals victory could erase much of that ill will

When LeBron James entered the NBA in 2003, he was instantly hailed as the next Michael Jordan. He was also a fan favorite, spending years trying to lift his plucky hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship. But that all changed in 2010, when James announced that he was taking his "talents to South Beach" to play with the Miami Heat, which boasted fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James instantly became the NBA's equivalent of Darth Vader, a calculating, morally challenged figure who would take the easiest and most dishonorable route to victory. Fans reveled in the Heat's defeat to an aging Dallas Mavericks team in the 2011 NBA finals, and James was maligned for his arrogance and inability to come through in the clutch. Now, however, the Heat are one win away from defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder for this year's championship, largely on the strength of James' spectacular play. Would a victory redeem LeBron?

Yes. James has played like a champion: The clock is winding down on America's hatred of LeBron James, says Dan Woken at Fox Sports. James' unstoppable performance in the playoffs "should be the ultimate redemption for him." He has "played with simplicity, force, efficiency, and desire," and carried an uneven team on his shoulders. He's come through in so many clutch situations that no one can accuse him of choking. After the "way he's handled this series, it's time to let go of all the anger and appreciate the player he's become, the champion he's about to be."
"Hate LeBron while you can"

And he's changed his attitude: James has no one to blame but himself for being cast in "the villain role," says Gary Washburn at The Boston Globe. He turned his transfer to the Heat into a media circus, and arrogantly claimed that the star-studded team would win multiple titles. But in the past year, he has "sought to regain some of the public's trust by leading quietly and humbly," and "one thing we appreciate from our sports icons is humility."
"LeBron James a win away from redemption"

But many fans will continue to hate him: From the moment he moved to the Heat, "hoards of basketball fans in every corner of existence — outside of the metropolitan Miami area of course — were incensed and wished no further success for" James, says Dan Hoehne at The News-Sun. They will never forget the way the Heat tried to buy a championship, nor the way James dissed his hometown. Pundits say the hate will subside once he finally wins a championship, but that makes no sense. "If fans detested him for taking an easier route to the championship, how would winning one on those terms make those people more at ease with him?" Even if the Heat emerge victorious, James himself can never win.
"LeBron can't win"

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