When LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland via free agency and announce it on a scripted made-for-televsion special, that was a bad choice. It was deserving of criticism, and while the criticism may have been at times over-the-top, even LeBron eventually admitted he could have handled that decision better.
When LeBron reacted poorly after losing the 2011 NBA Finals , that too was worthy of critique. Sure he wanted to win, but there's something to be said about rising above your critics as opposed to lowering yourself to their level.
Plus, LeBron was far from the first NBA player to feel the sting of the media after a subpar Finals performance.
Way back in 1984 Magic Johnson had to endure being called "Tragic Johnson," and unlike LeBron who in 2011 had yet to win a title, Magic had already won one NCAA title and two NBA Championships.
That didn't earn him enough slack to avoid being castigated for a series of critical mistakes in the 1984 Finals against the Boston Celtics.
Today, things have changed for LeBron James. He's not the same guy he was back in 2011.
The reigning NBA MVP is also a defending champion. He's in the midst of arguably his finest season as a pro, and his team is on a 12 game winning streak. As of right now those who are so bold as to predict that Miami won't repeat, must do so with a series of hypothetical "what ifs."
Things have gotten to the point where some members of the media have had to concoct absurd reasons to levy criticism on LeBron James.
For instance, his pre-game dunk routine.
Yes, his pre-game dunk routine has now become a lightening rod for critique.
This guy can't even warm-up how he wants to?
Apparently his dunking skills are such that they require he participate in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest. NBC Channel 6 in Miami reported that the chorus of those who want LeBron in the contest will only increase now that his pre-game routine has been captured on video.
The Dunk Contest has lost its' luster over the years. The days of Dr. J, Spud Webb, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Vince Carter are long gone. Replaced by players who don't even start on their teams.
The manufactured uproar over James non-participation in the contest has led to LeBron telling ESPN's Michael Wallace that he might just stop his pre-game dunks rather than face the consistent critiques over how he's denying fans their rights to a better dunk contest.
Fans love to talk about how professional athletes are so greedy. How enough is never enough. Well the fans can play that game too.
LeBron James puts on spectacular shows 82 games a year, not including the preseason and postseason games. That should be enough.
Michael Jordan didn't participate in the Slam Dunk contest during the years he was winning titles. That's probably because he was more concerned with winning titles. As anyone who has engaged in the absurd Jordan vs. LeBron debate knows, the rings are the most frequently referenced fall-back for those who are steadfast Jordan fans.
Maybe LeBron doesn't want to risk injury, or have to deal with a circumstance in which he literally can't win? After all, if he did choose to participate in the dunk contest, he's setting himself up for a complete fiasco.
Here are the two most likely scenarios if LeBron took part in the Dunk Contest.
One: LeBron wins the contest and millions of LeBron haters and NBA conspiracy theorists (these people really need to get a grip) would claim the whole thing was fixed. They'd tell you non-stop how a lesser player clearly out-dunked LeBron, and how the NBA's system of favoring stars and David Stern conspired to insure King James' victory.
Two: LeBron losses the dunk contest. It could happen, he could miss a dunk, or a lesser known player could rise to the occasion and recognize the unique opportunity he had before him. Perhaps that player could pull-off something amazing? That would be a great story, but not for LeBron.
In fact that would just amplify the at-times absurd critiques of a man who appears very much on the path to becoming a legendary NBA player.
LeBron James is a number of things. Most of all he's an absolutely amazing basketball player. Maybe he's not the best of all time, but he's about as good as anyone on the court right now.
As with all professional athletes, some people will never like LeBron no matter what he does. Others will loyally follow his every move, and declare him the greatest, regardless of his exploits.
Just because he's not on your team or your favorite player doesn't really make him a bad guy. LeBron isn't perfect and he will probably do or say something to provide his critics with reasons to speak out against him, but his pre-game dunk routine is not a valid reason to critique him.