In his recent Nike ad, ‘Rise‘, LeBron James repeatedly asks us, “What should I do?”
Should he stop listening to his friends? Should he just sell shoes? Should he just disappear?
Some people might answer yes to all three of those options, but it’s looking more and more like LeBron has happily decided to accept his role as a villain.
Sunday night in Portland, after scoring his 44th point of the game and distancing his Heat from the Blazers in overtime, LeBron walked over to the fans at the Rose Garden and asked for more of the jeering and heckling they were throwing his way throughout the game. The fans gave him what he asked for and LeBron stared through them and walked back to his bench, high-fiving teammates and assistant coaches along the way. As the game went to commercial, a Portland TV announcer sarcastically said, “No wonder so many people like him.”
This has become the norm for LeBron on the road this season, at least since the Heat traveled to Cleveland back in November. Under the harshest environment he’s played in in his career, LeBron added something to his on-court persona that night. He learned to enjoy silencing his critics and he took that feeling with him as the Heat started to excel. He did the same thing in New York in December, putting a triple-double on the Knicks while the fans at MSG (the same ones who swooned over him on each visit he made there over the last three years) heckled and booed him all night. On Sunday night in Portland, his gesture to the crowd was telling. He wants you to boo him, he wants your hate. He’s basically a beard dye-job away from being the basketball equivalent to Hollywood Hogan.
If you’re a Heat fan or a LeBron fan, it’s kind of an amazing thing to watch. If you cursed The Decision and supported the jersey burning in Cleveland back in July, this is everything you didn’t want to see happen with LeBron and this team this season.