It’s all a blur, yet it all seems like it was just yesterday when LeBron sat down in that stool in front of millions on television to announce where he would “take his talents.” That, of course, would be to Miami — South Beach.
We all saw the burning of jerseys in Cleveland streets, heard the harsh words and terrible predictions by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (how did that work out for you? Hey, at least he got the No. 1 pick), and listened to the loud boos during away games when LeBron stepped onto the court.
For the first time in four years, the Miami Heat forward is the most popular player in the NBA, according to the latest ESPN Sports Poll.
Nearly 13 percent (12.9) of NBA fans said James was their favorite player this season, allowing him to best Kobe Bryant (12.5) for the first time since the 2008-09 season. That was the only other season when James passed theLos Angeles Lakers star, the top pick by fans for five of six years from 2006-07 to 2011-12.
He was a villain. There was the roar of applause and scorn from the National Basketball Association’s both casual and die-hard fans when Miami went down in Game 6 to the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki. Was it a mistake to leave Cleveland if he couldn’t even win in Miami with two superstars?
LeBron was possibly scrutinized more than any other in sports… ever. And what happened when the tides turned and a championship banner soared to the ceiling of American Airlines Arena after LeBron convincingly beat the best competition the league had to offer in the Oklahoma City Thunder and their three young superstars? The fans started to come around. Maybe LeBron wasn’t so bad after all.
But we could never admit that he was clutch… right? Well, he took his game to a different level in 2013. Whether it was hitting a shot at the buzzer against Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals, sending a Tim Duncan layup attempt the other direction in Game 6 amidst a furious comeback, or hitting the eventual game-winner in Game 7 a few days later, LeBron proved his doubters wrong, again and again.
So after all that? LeBron is now the league’s most popular player, again.
As he said, “he ain’t got no worries”, except winning a title for the third straight year and impending free agency in 2014… but still, he did just win another championship.