LeBron James: Maybe the Miami Heat Star Isn't the Villain We Think He Is

Keith JusticeContributor IIIDecember 28, 2012

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 25: Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat shouts at the referee during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at AmericanAirlines Arena on December 25, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

When LeBron took to the ESPN stage to announce he was moving his talents to South Beach, I was just as disheartened with his decision as many other NBA fans. I was all-in as a LeBron-hater. 

As I reflect back, I'm not sure why.  I have no particular allegiance to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  I also don't care one way or another about the city of Miami.  I've been there.  It has nice beaches and nice restaurants.  Pretty women, too.  Shoot, I'd probably move to Miami if someone offered me a job there.

I'm a Midwest guy, though.  We're the region of the country that everyone dumps on.  We don't have the beautiful weather of the West Coast, the elitism of the East Coast, the hospitality of the South. We're the place that everyone wants to move away from.

So when LeBron, a Midwest guy by birth, chose to eschew his home state for the brighter lights of a fancy city, it bothered me.  I guess that's why I became a hater.  

Like many, I took great pleasure when LeBron and his Heat failed in the NBA championship against the Dallas Mavericks.  I suffered through the next season as the Heat managed to knock off all competitors and take the NBA crown.  I steeled myself to get ready for another season, hoping to find a team that would unseat the Heat as NBA champs.  

What would it take to knock LeBron off his mantel—my least favorite NBA player starting his run to match Kobe and Michael as an NBA legend?  It's unthinkable.

Then something happened.  I was watching some innocuous Olympic coverage.  It was a swimming event.  And there, in the stands, was LeBron with a couple of buddies.  He wasn't aware there was a camera on him, and he was rooting on his Olympic teammates—his fellow Americans.  There was no entourage, no agenda, no mugging for the camera.  He was simply a fan.

I liked that.

It made me think a little bit more why I dislike LeBron so much.  This is a man who has never run afoul of the law, has never had substance abuse problems, is mostly considered a good guy and a good teammate.

He's a guy who is noted for his work ethic and dedication to his craft.  There have been quite a few NBA players who have failed in many of the character tests I just mentioned, yet I still rooted for them.  So why don't I like LeBron?

Now I find out that LeBron checks in at No. 8 in the 2012 list of most charitable celebrities.  He is the only athlete in the Top 10.  That's pretty impressive.  And it's finally pushed me over the edge.  

I am now a LeBron James fan.  

But I'm still rooting for the Heat to lose.