All posts by ribevan

You can still hate LeBron James

Well folks, it happened: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers crawled back from a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit against the seemingly insurmountable Golden State Warriors to claim a championship for the city of Cleveland. And as is tradition in 2016, Twitter became a luscious garden of Hot Takes, as the tears of a million Jordans provided the necessary nourishment for takes—ranging from scorching hot to borderline absolute zero—to bloom beautifully for all the Internet to enjoy.

But as Twitter harvested this fresh crop of Takes, something bizarre and disarming occurred: the world reached a sudden consensus that the time to hate LeBron James had passed. As an experienced user of the Internet, I’ve come to be wary of any perceived Internet consensus. It’s important that there are people out there who think things like “a hot dog is a sandwich” or “Young Thug is not a religious figure”—these disagreements bring balance to the Internet force and allow us to identify idiots on the web.

So on Sunday night, as the timeline collectively asked no one in particular “How can anyone dislike this guy?”, it became clear that something was afoot. Two primary narratives emerged: the first from people who have always liked LeBron, painting the ever shrinking bandwagon of LeBron haters as “Michael Jordan fanboys…clutching their 1992 Air Jordan tennis shoes while quietly whimpering.” The second was from people who have long disliked LeBron but can no longer hold onto that disdain because of “the way he delivered” throughout this epic series. Both narratives are oddly detached from the way that we consume sports.

Let’s establish a baseline of facts so that I seem reasonably intelligent: LeBron James is one of the top five basketball players ever to play in the NBA and the best all-around player in the NBA right now. He has a remarkable set of physical gifts and can do things that nobody—Jordan, Magic, Bird, you name it—could do. He absolutely dominated the last three games of the Finals, and the notion that anyone else deserved MVP is nothing short of preposterous.

But all of these facts were facts two weeks ago, two months ago, and two years ago. To say that LeBron played amazing basketball in these Finals understates the historic evisceration he handed the defending champs. I hate LeBron James, but I’m not a moron. So why, suddenly, did LeBron become beyond reproach from good old fashioned hate?

As a 10-year-old Pistons fan in the summer of 2003, I hated LeBron from the instant he was drafted by the Cavaliers. I delighted in telling all of my friends that Darko Milicic would win a title before the self-titled King, and I delighted even more so in being proven right less than a year later. I was a little shithead.

During the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals I was forced to confront the fact that LeBron was rather good at basketball, good enough on his own to decimate my beloved Pistons. But that didn’t mean that I stopped hating his guts. As his first tenure in Cleveland twisted and turned, with the Cavs never assembling an adequate supporting cast for LeBron to deliver a title to his hometown, I cheered on his continual failures because they validated my hatred. And when LeBron went on national television and committed the most perplexing public relations faux pas of the 21st century, I roared with excitement as the LeBron hate train left the station.

I own a “LeBron went south but his mom rides West” shirt that I wear at every conceivable opportunity. (I should probably wash it.) I laughed at his 2011 Finals collapse, reveled in hot takes about whether or not he had a clutch gene, and, ultimately, avoided ESPN for days after his first two titles, still clinging to the only argument I needed, Shawn. And as he came back to Cleveland looking to avenge his Decision, nothing made me giddier than seeing Steph Curry become the cool little behemoth standing in the King’s way.

Given this history, why would any of the events of the last two weeks cause me to change my mind about LeBron James? I never hated him because he wasn’t good at basketball, because he wasn’t as good as Jordan, because he wasn’t clutch, because he was an unrepentant crybaby on and off the court, because he subtweeted his teammates and coaches, or because he comically lacked a degree of self-awareness that anyone in the public eye should have. On the contrary: all of those irrational criticisms were true—became true, even—because I hated him.

Sports hate is not rational. We yell and scream at and about people who are literally the best in the world at what they do because it gets our juices flowing. More often than not, we cherry pick moments and narratives on and off the field to create heroes and villains among a crop of people who are pretty similar to each other in a vacuum. (The reminders over the past few days that LeBron is by all accounts a model father and spearheads significant charitable endeavors buttress this notion; it’s not like the guy just now became a decent human being.) That’s how we explain away nitpicking the performance and behavior of multimillionaire superstars in bizarrely different ways—“can you just IMAGINE if LeBron had thrown HIS mouth guard at a fan?!?!”—and it’s what allows us to harvest our bounty of hot takes in the first place.

But there’s something special about that sports hate. No, I’m not just going to suddenly shut up and enjoy the greatness of an athlete that I’ve always despised. And no, I’m not going to just give in, essentially waving the white flag because the guy is just too damn good. I’m a hater through and through, and the number one object of this perverse fandom is punk ass LeBron James.

I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez, or Sidney Crosby, the world loves to hate athletes who have proven themselves great time and time again, and even when we occasionally pause to ask ourselves how and why that hate flows, we remember that Brady is a deflator, A-Rod is a steroid abuser, and Crosby is soft.

So on behalf of LeBron James haters everywhere, I will begrudgingly step forward and take this L. But when the 2016-17 season gets going, I’ll be right here, ready to kick the LeBron hate train into high gear as I always do, hoping for him to once again fail and whine about it so I can laugh in his stupid face. And despite what the tides of Twitter may tell you, dear reader, you’re more than welcome to join me on the hate train—which is suddenly far less crowded than it was two weeks ago—for what is sure to be another exciting season of literally hoping a complete stranger sucks at his job in a way that will disappoint millions of people. All aboard!

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Feds Watchin’: Joe Dumars

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The first in an irregular series of intercepted correspondences. 

Hello friends. My name is Evan and I am a fan of the Detroit Pistons. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes, I am also a fan of playing in traffic and bathing with toasters.

Unless you are a basketball fan (which you likely are, based on the fact that you’re here) or a Pistons fan (which I am, and let me tell you that being a Pistons fan is quite different from being a “basketball” fan, since the Pistons have not played “basketball” since roughly 2007), you may not be aware that Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars has spearheaded a rather eventful summer for the organization. After a disappointing season that saw the team get off to a scorching 0-8 start before cruising to a 29-53 finish to earn the 8th pick in a 7 player draft, Dumars fired coach Lawrence Frank and brought in Mo Cheeks to turn things around. This made sense: Cheeks is a grizzled veteran of the game and Frank had presided over two losing seasons and still cannot grow facial hair.

From there, things got a little hairier. The Pistons proceeded to pass on Michigan man Trey Burke in the draft, noting the presence of point guard Brandon Knight (hold this thought) and opting to draft hy-phenom (get it?) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope instead. Detroit then stayed quiet during free agency until suddenly deciding to hand a four year deal to Josh Smith, who was either severely overpaid or severely underpaid but it doesn’t matter because there’s plenty of money to go around in the city of Detroit these days. Finally, Dumars and Co. remembered that Knight died five months ago and dealt him for Brandon Jennings. So if you’re keeping score at home, the Pistons built their team around a shoot first point guard who can shoot sometimes (Jennings), a shoot first power forward who cannot shoot (Smith), a developing big man who terrifies Pistons fans and opponents alike (Andre Drummond), and the team’s quiet as kept best player (Greg Monroe). Oh, and Rasheed Wallace got lost looking for the Funny Farm and joined the team’s coaching staff as well. Welcome to Detroit!

This Dumars-assembled group will either be painfully bad (read: I will watch the Red Wings instead) or a lesson in dysfunctional entertainment that could back into a 7-seed and ruin their Riggin’ for Wiggins shot in the process (read: I’ll watch the Red Wings in April). Either way, one thing is clear: Joe Dumars is clearly not in his right mind. After a startling summer of transactions, I alerted the federal authorities to the prospect of the Pistons GM using illicit, mind-altering substances in large quantities. The Feds proceeded to Watch Dumars and successfully unearth years of correspondence between him and his meth dealer. Below are some relevant highlights of their findings. Everything makes sense now.

June 2003

Joe Dumars: This draft has me all sorts of stressed! Why pick second in a five player draft when it’s so much less stressful to pick sixth? Can’t I just give Memphis its pick back?

Meth Dealer: Let me pump the brakes right there Joe. You guys are on the cusp of a championship run. A successful pick here and you’ll be golden for the next few years. Melo? D-Wade? Championship potential. Don’t trade the pick, or else people will know that you do meth.

JD: Ahh alright, can’t have people on my tail like that. How about that tall kid from Serbia? Marko? What’s his name? God I am so high right now.

MD: What? No no, don’t take the European project. There are stars in this draft! Sure things!

JD: Why take the sure thing when you can live on the edge? Besides, I can’t take some ball hog who will steal touches from Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. The offense is clicking!

MD: If people find me, it will probably be your fault.

February 2004

JD: I can’t believe Rasheed is out there on the market. He could be our missing piece!

MD: Like there’s a chance in hell I veto the opportunity for two of my highest profile clients to work in the same city. Trade away!

July 2005

JD: I’m having a rough time right now. I really just don’t think Larry [Brown] is cutting it anymore.

MD: What? You guys just went to two straight Finals! You’ve got the best starting five in basketball!

JD: I dunno man. I always feel like he’s hitting on my wife.

MD: Dammit Dumars if you fire a Hall of Fame coach while you’re high I am never selling you any drugs ever again.

JD: Fine fine I’ll wait a day or two! Say, what do you think about Flip Saunders? A real inspiring fellow, yeah?

January 2007

JD: Why didn’t you tell me Chris Webber was an unsigned free agent? How long has he been sitting there? The fans will love a Michigan man!

MD: Your team’s title window is closing. Rip Hamilton hasn’t been healthy in a year. Flip Saunders is still your head coach. That Lebron guy in Cleveland keeps getting better. I have never had less confidence in someone whose team has made five straight Eastern Conference Finals.

JD: C-Webb went number one overall like six years ago right? He’s still fresh! Or have I missed a few seasons?

MD: I hate you so much.

November 2008

JD: Alright alright get this, I hear Allen Iverson is on the market, and all Denver wants from us is our team leader and former Finals MVP. Who says no?

MD: Are you taking some sorts of other medications? Are you over-exerting yourself doing strenuous physical activity?

JD: Ah shit they want Antonio McDyess too, do you think that’s too steep? Really like AD on this team.

MD: How are you still employed?

July 2009

JD: Guess what? I’ve got huge news!

MD: I sincerely hope not, since you’re supposed to be saving all your money for the summer of 2010.

JD: Nah, why wait for talent?

MD: Oh Jesus.

JD: We got Ben Gordon!

MD: What the shit are you going to do with Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Allen Iverson’s promethazine’d corpse?

JD: And Charlie Villenueva!

MD: If you pay him any more than you do me you should probably consider a new profession.

JD: Five years, $35 million, so much less than I pay you!

MD: You should be put down.

July 2012

MD: Hey Joe, long time no talk. Wondering if everything was okay? I noticed that you’ve picked pretty well in the last three drafts and seem to be building around a young nucleus of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, and Andre Drummond. These moves all make quite a bit of sense and frankly I’m a bit concerned?

JD: They just want me to win games. I am so empty without you.

MD: It’s gonna be okay Joe. This is for the best. Remember the 2004 championship run? The six consecutive conference finals appearances?

JD: I was high as a kite all six years. I want you back.

MD: Alright come back to me. I’ll take care of you like the old days.

July 2013

JD: I am so high right now.

MD: Do you have any idea what you’ve done for the last three weeks?

JD: What time is it? I need to take my kids to soccer practice. Did I miss Breaking Bad?

MD: You probably will not be able to afford your drug habit when you get fired.

Heat Hate Bracket, Part 1

It was just a little over one year ago that music, culture, politics, society, etc. was changed when a young gentleman from the south side of Chicago recorded an innocuous yet powerful song. “That’s that shit I don’t like,” crooned Chief Keef after listing an entity that he does not like in the song “I Don’t Like.” Born from Mr. Keef’s masterpiece was a startling tidal wave of dislike that impacted Americans everywhere. Take me for example: I don’t like grapefruit, I don’t like Whole Foods, and I sure as hell don’t like Kay Jewelers and the way they tell me how to live my life.

But more than anything else, I dislike the Miami Heat. I dislike their players, I dislike their coaches, I dislike how Birdman gets to sit courtside while his non-Lil Wayne son texts through the whole damn game. Everything. One could even say that I hate them.

If you’re one of the roughly 12 people reading this, I assume you’ve had similar feelings. Watching the Heat truck through the playoffs and toward a championship last season was painful, and now that they’ve reached that doorstep yet again, I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out what exactly I hate about the Heat. Miami is a great team, and as an objective basketball fan I should enjoy watching them play basketball. Yet each passing game, complete with Lebron’s heroics and Bosh making stupid faces and Juwon Howard pretending like he still plays, fills me with a growing Keef-ian rage matched only by my confusion: what is the worst thing about the Heat?

So, I tried to sort out my hatred of all things Miami Heat the way any rational man would: with a bracket. Without further ado—because I’m not much of a fan of ado either—I present (Part I of) your 2013 Heat Hate Bracket, conveniently divided into pre and post “Decision” regions because fuck The Decision more than anything.

Round 1

Wade County Region

Dwyane Wade (1) vs. Juwan Howard (8)

Juwan Howard is a dangerous 8 seed. He’s 87 years old, high fives everyone on the bench and probably idiotically thinks he’s some sort of mentor to Miami’s big guns. Sorta like a player coach without either playing or coaching. But Howard’s Heat Hateability doesn’t hold a candle to the Wade County Region’s top seed, a flopping prima donna who gets to date Gabrielle Union. Come on. Oh, and at least when Howard wears a suit he doesn’t wear fucking capri pants. Douche Wade advances.

Udonis Haslem (4) vs. Mario Chalmers (5)

A brutal 4/5 matchup between Haslem, a longtime Heat fan favorite and thus one of my not favorites, and Chalmers, one of Miami’s many three point shooters who are just open all the time and make me want to throw furniture across the room. Chalmers’ hate pedigree is strong, as he won that NCAA championship over that Memphis team literally everyone was rooting for and is also from Alaska which is just obnoxious. But Haslem gets the edge here because of his affinity for standing in one spot on offense and making that same stupid baseline jumper over and over again. I hate that so much. Also your facial hair sucks bro, clean that up.

Erik Spoelstra (3) vs. Pat Riley (6)

Once upon a time, Pat Riley was the face of NBA evil, and he’s likely the orchestrator of the infamous summer of 2010 events that united Lebron and his stupid sidekicks. But…damnit, have you looked at Spoelstra? Just look at him. God damn. We know you don’t call any plays dude! And he’s got a hot wife anyway? Fuck that guy.

The Fans (2) vs. The Dos Minutos Dude (7)

For those who watch Heat games on mute to avoid listening to Marv Albert verbally orgasm every time Lebron blinks, the Miami PA announcer yells “Two minutes!” to note the dwindling clock in each quarter. The fans, hopped up on molly and botox, glibly respond “Dos minutos!” because Miami is near Cuba and speaking Spanish is cool I guess. This is horseshit. Yet, as much as I hate Dos Minutos Dude, the Fans get the nod here because essentially the Dos Minutos Dude is only a tiny part of why Heat fans suck.

Lebron’s Mom Region

Lebron James (1) vs. Norris Cole (8)

Lebron is probably the worst human being on the planet ever since Billy Mays died. I actually kinda like Norris Cole. He seems like a cool dude and his flattop is sweet. Lebron in a walk, which Joey Crawford definitely won’t call.

Shane Battier (4) vs. Ray Allen (5)

Perhaps the most difficult first round matchup to call. Ray Allen lowkey pulled a Lebron in the summer of 2012, abandoning the Celtics to play on a loaded Heat team for less money. I also kinda hate his mom now that he’s on the Heat, even though she previously seemed like a nice lady. Battier, on the other hand, is the quintessential dirty role player for the Heat, constantly being lauded by announcers for taking charges and making threes with a shooting stroke that makes Jason MacElwain’s look pretty. This one’s tough. Battier advances by virtue of having gone to Duke. What an asshole.

Birdman, white (3) vs. Birdman, black (6)

Baby is a fixture at Heat games, sitting courtside throughout much of the playoffs and presumably having enthralling discussions with the little white lady to his left. While he raps like a toddler, I suppose when you’ve got Money to Blow you can park yourself courtside as long as you want. Conversely, not even the world’s biggest skinhead would tat himself like Chris Andersen has. Easy win for White Birdman here.

Chris Bosh (2) vs. Mike Miller (7)

Bosh is the third member of the alleged Big Three, and very little is more infuriating than seeing him celebrate the good play he makes once every 12 games by opening his mouth to the heavens and yelling nonsensically over the quiet din of the wine and cheese party at American Airlines Arena. But the Boshtrich is not one to carry a team past the first round of anything by himself, and this bracket will be no exception. The reason? For all of Bosh’s antics, it was Mike Miller who drained 19 threes in the clinching game of last year’s Finals—the last basketball game I could bear to watch before collecting all of my belongings and moving to Canada—and grabbed his back in agony after each one. So Hillbilly Miller pulls the upset here, and to be honest I sort of feel bad for Bosh. After all, Lil Wayne did fuck his wife.

PART II COMING FRIDAY

Heat Hate Bracket, Part 2

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Round 2

Wade County Region

Dwyane Wade (1) vs. Udonis Haslem (4)

Haslem is no easy matchup for Wade, with the whole having been in the league for over a decade despite lacking any discernable talent thing. UD is a straight thug, forming one half of the Heat’s obnoxious goon tandem with white Birdman. (If Haslem and Birdman starred in a buddy cop movie, would you watch it? I would. But I digress.) Still, Wade has to advance here. Long before Lebron’s arrival in South Beach, Flash (nice nickname you dildo) was known for getting every call (see: 2006 NBA Finals) and whining when he didn’t. Most telling about Wade’s hateability? In the 2011 Eastern Semis, a Wade cheap shot injured world-renowned little bitch Rajon Rondo—and everyone sided with Rondo. Boom.

The Fans (2) vs. Erik Spoelstra (3)

A very tight second round matchup, complicated by Spoelstra doing that thing where he thinks he has any impact on his team’s performance. Dude could be the water boy and I would bet Lebron would still be doing his thing. There is something remarkable about the empty suit on the Heat sidelines though: his smoking hot wife, a former Heat dancer 18 years his junior. Walking into work in 2006 and scoping out a then 18 year old team dancer? That’s…hold on, I don’t think I have the word yet…I respect that, as much as it pains me to say. Sigh. This sliver of apparent respect I have for Spoelstra probably means I need a stronger drink, but it also means the Heat fans—not respectable in the slightest—advance to the semis.

Lebron’s Mom Region

Lebron James (1) vs. Shane Battier (4)

You can tell that Battier really wants this one. He wants to be the bad guy. All those thoughtful and insightful interviews, his reputation as the cerebral player and team mentor, the fact that he almost definitely reads books. Fuck you dude, I haven’t read a book in three years! But Lebron’s public image is second to none in hateability; for every douchey Battier quote, we get five Lebron gems of insipid paranoia like this quote that I couldn’t make up if I tried: “You could be watching cartoons with your kids and you don’t like it, you say, ‘Blame it on LeBron.’ If you go to the grocery store and they don’t have the milk that you like, you just say, ‘It’s LeBron’s fault.’” Riddle me this Queen James: you’re the best basketball player in the world (sigh), so under what circumstances would you EVER say things like this unless you want me to hate your guts? Jordan would NEVER say stupid shit like this, and that’s the only argument I need Sean. Lebron moves on.

Birdman (3) vs. Mike Miller (7)

I give Miller plenty of credit for pulling the first round upset on the Boshtrich. His uncanny ability to drain a high volume of his three’s despite playing through rigor mortis is hateful, and I would not be excessively sad if lightning struck his mobile home. Let’s be honest with ourselves though, Birdman is a powerhouse of hatefulness. Beyond his physical appearance—my disdain for his tattoos and Mohawk could fill this space until Tuesday—dude is the quintessential dirty Heat bench player. Nothing was worse than watching him lose the ability to miss shots in the Pacers series, and I couldn’t have been the only one just praying that asshole would miss a layup. Evil White Birdman is onto the semis.

Round 3

Wade County Region

Dwyane Wade (1) vs. The Fans (2)

Friends, follow me into a deep, dark place in my past to a time when I—gasp—didn’t hate Dwyane Wade. Before Lebron rolled into town, Wade was a very good player carrying the Heat. Yeah, he got all the calls and yeah, he could at times be a whiny bitch, but without Lebron, Wade’s identity was primarily that he was simply a good player. The Fans, on the other hand, are monsters. They show up late to playoff basketball games when I don’t even have the nerve to show up late for my summer internship. They text through crunch time from the second row seats. They wear all white like the complete assholes they are. Heat fans are a mercilessly hateable group of people who make any real basketball fans cringe, and for that, it’s The Fans who advance to the finals.

Lebron’s Mom Region

Lebron James (1) vs. Birdman (3)

A grudge match of pure hatred that can only be broken down with statistics. (Yeah, I know statistics, fight me.) Like his shooting percentage and like he was during much of his time in Denver, Birdman’s hate percentage is stupid high. That is, given that I see Birdman in the game, hear about him being discussed on SportsCenter, or run into him during one of my weekly meth runs, I will invariably hate him. But one of the ways that God makes a case for existing is by ensuring that we don’t see too much of the Birdman—he doesn’t play that much, is discussed only in passing by the media, and I don’t do meth. Lebron actually has a lower hate percentage than Birdman, but his existence beats us to death. The last time Lebron went a full 24 hours without being mentioned on ESPN was 2005, and when it comes to hatred, I’m a volume guy. Also, The Decision.

Finals

Lebron James vs. The Fans

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This is it folks. The heavyhate title bout. Basketball’s biggest villain vs. a mass of douchebags who collectively would rather go to Ultra than a playoff game. Asking me to hate one of these entities more than the other is a tall order, but because this is my bracket and I can do whatever I want I’ll make it easy—if a bit painful. See, I hate Lebron James with every fiber of my body and I’m not really sure why. I’m not from Cleveland, Lebron hasn’t really done anything to me, and in a league full of thugs, Lebron doesn’t actually seem like a bad human being. More importantly, if I didn’t hate Lebron, I would objectively view him as a great basketball player, the best since MJ, and a joy to watch because of how damn good he is. And as much as I’d rather drag my unprotected testicles through a mile-long patch of steaming coals that write this, Lebron James is an awesome basketball player and basketball is better because of him.

Heat fans suck. Maybe I’m jealous, and rightfully so. Lebron’s Heat team is the best NBA team in at least a decade, and Heat fans will never truly appreciate what they’re watching. Lebron is a super douche, but facing an army of douches clad in all white just waiting for the game to end so they can hit LIV is too steep a challenge even for LBJ. (Yeah, LIV is a nightclub in Miami. Do you know what kind of an asshole you have to be to go to Miami nightclubs?)

So there you have it guys. Everything that’s wrong with the Miami Heat can be traced back to their abysmal fans. In a perfect world, their white clothing would be shit-stained and Flo Rida would be deported, but for now, we normal Americans have nothing to do but root for the Spurs.

Sigh.

PART 1