The Ambiguity of Heroism and Villany

Two years ago LeBron James was a hero to everyone1. He seemed like the ultimate good guy and everyone wanted him on their team. The problem, of course was that 29 teams couldn’t have him. Only one could, and as all know, he took his talents to South Beach.  And just like that, he became the villain2.

The next two seasons have seen millions root against the Heat. Why root for the team of superstars that realized they couldn’t handle leading a team on their own, and had to all come together with the expectation of dominating the league for years.  But that didn’t happen the first year, and while they finished with the championship in year two, it was anything but dominant.  They didn’t even finish with the top seed in their conference, instead losing out to the injury plagued Bulls3.

But now LeBron has a ring, and suddenly the media wants to throw the “Now is he the next Michael Jordan?” question at us again. Anyone who understands sports knows that there can’t be a comparison between the two. Comparing players from different eras is next to impossible.

But is it really a question of the best player, or is it a question of the biggest hero? We live in a world where if you’re good, people inevitably root against you.  It’s why the Yankees and Duke basketball are the most hated teams in sports. If you’re good for that long, everyone will hate you4.  But no one hated Michael Jordan. Even his biggest rivals could only marvel at what he did. He was a hero.
But Jordan was far from perfect5. There were stories of gambling problems, affairs, treating those around him pretty terribly, and some of the things villains are made of.  And Lebron’s biggest crime? Taking a job in another town6. The line between hero and villain is certainly a thin one.  And which is which?
But that’s where we just can’t make a call anymore. The game has changed to the point where it’s nearly impossible to compare Jordan and James. They do different things under a different set of rules. Lebron just isn’t the hero that Jordan was. But is it because of who Lebron is, or is it because the world doesn’t look at heroes the same way anymore.  We can n0 longer define good and evil. You don’t have to look past the movie we’re all waiting for this summer. There was a time when Batman was pure good, and now we want our heroes to have a balance between good and evil.  We have no time for the purely good.
So will Lebron be the next Michael Jordan?  No, we’ll never let him be. But is he really a hero or a villain?
  1. We almost forget how much everyone totally loved for him and rooted for the Cavs []
  2. I don’t know if he would have been that much of a villain had he gone to Chicago or somewhere else, but running off to be with Wade and Bosh to create their own super power certainly did it []
  3. Had Rose & Noah not been hurt in the playoffs, I feel pretty confident we’d still be talking about how they couldn’t get it done []
  4. I fully endorse hating the Yankees. They are pure evil. But I gave up on hating Duke a long time ago. They run a class program and Coach K is pretty freaking awesome []
  5. Please note, this is coming from a life long Bulls fan who can’t stand the Heat. So don’t accuse me of trying to paint a pretty picture of LeBron. I say keep hating him []
  6. Albeit in a completely arrogant and ridiculous manner []