The lockout continues, but so does the ear candy production. In our newest show, we get a visit from Kevin Arnovitz, editor of ESPN.com's Heat Index. Among the talking points:
- One year after "The Decision," how do we feel about the television special and LeBron James? What is the primary reason for the widespread, lingering backlash against LBJ? Is it people upset by a player of his caliber forming a super team? Outrage over players controlling their own destiny? The power of Ohio-based anger? Sour grapes from various fan bases after LeBron shined their city for Miami?
Or is it, as I contend, the most basic and obvious reason: LeBron left Cleveland in a narcissistic, self-absorbed and cruel manner, and has yet to truly acknowledge and accept responsibility for that mistake. Until James mans up, it will remain difficult to recapture his previous likability.
- How long will it take for LeBron to reenter the public's good graces? Many people, including Kevin, subscribe to the popular notion that "winning is the ultimate cure-all." A title equals a problem solved. Personally, I think winning is the second step, and first remains manning up for The Decision.
I don't disagree winning would bolster James' reputation on the court, especially in light of a disappointing Finals against the Mavericks. However, I actually think LeBron would be even more hated if Miami had won the championship, because that's a storyline where "the villain" wins without experiencing any form of comeuppance or lesson learned. It makes no sense that people would instantly cheer a guy they previously hated just because he has a ring.
Along these lines, for all the talk about how the 2009 and 2010 titles resuscitated Kobe's Bryant image after Colorado, the three-peat breakup and the Radio Tour, I firmly believe the most critical step was the 2008 season. The Lakers lost the Finals, but that campaign saw Kobe steadily perceived as a less selfish, more approachable teammate. An actual human being. Somebody you'd even want to succeed in the first place. Only then will people other than Laker fans not just admire the idea of Kobe winning championships, but actually appreciate it.
(Brian and I also discussed this topic with ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, who's covered LeBron since his high school days, on ESPNLA On Air.)
- It's ironic that one year anniversary of The Decision would fall on a day with reports of Yao Ming retiring due to persistent injuries. Skilled a player as Yao was, he may be remembered most for his dignity, humility and genuinely kind soul. We spend a few minutes sharing our respect for the iconic center.