Lovers and Haters



But if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.                           Exodus 23:22, RSV

Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:19-21, RSV

LeBron James left Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter and with his team holding a seven point lead. After his departure, the Spurs went on a 21-7 run and won the game 110-95. With James, the Heat were on; but as the heat wore on, James, wore out.

Lest you think this is a LeBron fest, I’ll spare you after the NBA Finals. But for now, we focus on the focus of the basketball world; the condition of LeBron James and his Miami Heat. Will they or will they not win another title? The lovers vote yes, and the haters hope no. Some love him and some hate him; but like him or lump him, for now, he’s the center of our attention and the core of our consideration, as it pertains to the NBA Finals.

Only a select few celebrities and superstars have the leading and the following of LeBron James. The NBA list is short: Magic and Michael, Wilt and West, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird are the ones from my and my father’s generation that come to mind. And of course there’s Dr. J, Allen Iverson and Moses Malone from Philly, but there on the list because they’re from or played for Philly.

LeBron James has left an indelible mark on the NBA. And so has Tim Duncan. But few players, just a select few, generate and germinate such love and hatred, such loathe and liking, such adoration and vilification as LeBron James. And that’s how we should be. We, as believers, are by definition, polarizing. People like us or hate us; they’re our friends or our enemies. They entreat us or envy us; it’s rarely if ever middle of the road.

Lovers should love their enemies because haters will hate even their friends. It’s that simple. Some people have it like that. My friend, who is pretty and smart and anointed, said she has haters. Hard to believe, but it’s true. So she is handling her haters just as LeBron and the rest of us should, with grace.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of said it well:

“If Tim Duncan suffers those cramps, it’s probably a footnote. When James suffers them, it’s a trial. Obviously, this is because few people have anything against the former, and many people have something against the latter. This moment is indicative of how, no matter how much he wins, James continues to play before a constituency that still harbors resentment toward him. The ranks can lessen a bit as the victories pile up.

The ranks can go dormant during championship parades. But the group is always there — waiting for situations such as this. Perhaps it’s the Jordan comparisons that have rankled a certain bloc of those who traffic in 90s nostalgia. Perhaps it’s also the legion of Kobe fans who would rather not see another perimeter player eclipse their favorite. That anxiety of comparison plays a role, but the dominant factor is probably a decision that’s in the past but continues to permeate the present. On the face of things, James’ relocation to Miami and the reaction that ensued could not be less like the man cramping up in the heat of battle. There are similar dynamics in play, though.

When James had millions waiting on his every televised word, it was illustrative of just how powerful a basketball force he was. When the Heat fell apart after James left the game, it was illustrative of just how powerful a basketball force he is.” Ethan Sherwood Strauss,


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