Has Hollywood turned its back on LeBron James?

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Image Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP Images

It’s hard to recall now that at this time last year, LeBron James had the world eating out of his hand. Yes, his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had flamed out of the playoffs in rather embarrassing fashion, but free-agent King James was wanted by everyone. Chicago. New York. Miami. Los Angeles. They all bowed at his feet. What a difference a year makes.

Since losing to Dallas in the NBA Finals on Sunday, James has been scapegoated for choking in the games’ big moments and vilified for his petulant post-game behavior, which included telling reporters that “all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.” Classy.

The criticism and the jokes have been ruthless. (Why can’t LeBron make change for $1? He can never come up with that final quarter.) Even Betty White threw a jab. In what can’t be totally unrelated, Universal announced yesterday that Ballers, the basketball comedy where James gets pulled into the screwball lives of a group of average guys attending his fantasy hoops camp, has been delayed for another year, because, as Variety reports, “the script is still being developed.” It’s unclear if that is simply a kinder way of saying that they’d rather make a buddy-comedy with Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.

Less than a year after the poorly-orchestrated Decision, which blindsided Cleveland fans and left a bad taste in the mouths of objective observers who were irked by James’ tone-deaf publicity machine, James might be the most-hated athlete in the world. Correction, most-hated active athlete. In an informal Twitter poll conducted by CNBC’s sports business reporter Darren Rovell, James came in second to suspected steroid user and home-run champion Barry Bonds as the most disliked jock ever. But James managed to “edge” O.J. Simpson, who placed a distant third! Ouch.

“I’ve been covering the business of sports for 11 years, and I’ve never seen the hatred [like this],” Rovell told KHTK radio in Sacramento yesterday. “It’s basically just the totality of what LeBron is representing and how he doesn’t get it … LeBron hasn’t been able to separate [his arrogance and his confidence], and I think that’s hurt both him and his corporate partners.”

James is in dangerous, uncharted territory: He’s royally unpopular right now. And he’s also currently collared with the reputation of a choke-artist. The former is regrettable but manageable. (See: Kobe Bryant.) But the latter is an anchor that can take him down for good. Think of Tiger Woods and how quickly his air of supremacy crumbled once he became a punchline. Both athletes are young enough, for their respective sports, to return to form, but nothing’s guaranteed.

Perhaps Universal is still developing the script for Ballers, but perhaps the filmmakers really need to find a role that better suits the current LeBron: Does Sam Mendes still need a Bond villain?

Read more:
Sorry LeBron: God likely too busy to determine NBA Finals results.
Is the entertainment world ready for ‘LeBron James NBA Champion’?
Steve Carell and Paul Rudd spoof LeBron’s ‘Decision’

Comments (49 total) Add your comment
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  • Sam J

    Lebron is no king. A king wears a crown(ring)and rules over his kingdom, he doesn’t leave. Wade is king of Miami and he wanted a queen. He found one in Cleveland.

  • UGH

    Is anyone else annoyed by that Fran Drescher ad?

    • Kristen

      YES!!! I understand the need for advertising on the site, but this one SO annoying.

  • Mr. Holloway

    It’s simple.

    LeBron needs to 1.)grow up (stop whining, and quit being so arrogant and stand-offish when you’ve brought most of the criticism on yourself) and 2.) WIN a title.

    If he does these things, I think people (outside of Ohio, at least) will root for him. If you think about it, all the hate hurled his way is “sports hate.” LeBron hasn’t done anything that’s actually deplorable like dogfighting or sexual assault. People “hate” him because he acts lika an a$$ and comes up small in big games.

    Stop being an a$$ and show up in the Finals next time.

    • 3reddogs

      Okay, it’s not deplorable but the fact that he won’t marry the mother of his two kids isn’t exactly exemplary behavior, especially when you know it’s because he’s probably going to stiff them just like he stiffed Cleveland.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Ok, but are you honestly trying to say that “LeBron not being married to the mother of his children” is even 1 percent of the reason people hate him today?

        My point is that the “hate” for LeBron is within the context of sports and that he probably shouldn’t be on any sort of list alongside O.J. Simpson.

      • Really

        I’m with you Mr. Holloway. LeBron’s really done nothing wrong but have a TV show that wasn’t his idea in the first place.

        But worst athlete ever? Really?

      • jeffgo5

        Considering she’s been canoodling with another NBA guy, I don’t think they’ll be marrying anytime.

      • Sam J

        I hate him b/c he even calls himself “king James”. He went on national TV to stab his lifetime state in the back with a “I’m Taking my talents to South Beach” announcement. What a d!c. My guy Kobe, is full of himself and taunts the other team but he actually WINS!!! I wouldn’t like him if I wasn’t a Laker fan though. I would respect Kobes game. Lebron was gaurded by 5’9″ J.J. Barera. Lequeen is a joke!!!

      • Mr. Holloway

        @ Sam J
        “He went on national TV to stab his lifetime state in the back with a “I’m Taking my talents to South Beach” announcement. What a d!c.”

        Now THAT’S a reason to sports hate LeBron…that was inexcusable.

      • 3reddogs

        @jeffgo6
        “Considering she’s been canoodling with another NBA guy, I don’t think they’ll be marrying anytime.”

        It was his MOTHER that was doing the canoodling, not his almost-wife.

    • Sara

      I agree. People don’t dislike him for choosing to go with a different team – its the manner in which he left that people hate. And the he does ads or interviews where he’s as arrogant as possible. Ugh. Shut up LeBron. Just because you’re good at a sport does not mean you are the center of our universe.

      But I don’t think he needs to win a title to get back on people’s good side. He just needs to start showing up in the post season games. He’s got terrible stats for the post season. People will forgive him for losing if it seemed like he tried a little. And he needs to hire a new publicist. The one he has is clearly isn’t doing his job.

      • Mr. Holloway

        I definitely agree that he needs a new publicist, and I agree that the most important thing is for him to play well in the Finals. (Don’t forget, he was actually outstanding in the previous two rounds.) Even if Miami had won the championship this year, he still would’ve taken his fair share of (no pun intended) heat for being so lousy.

        I still say a player as obscenely talented as him needs to win a title if he wants to avoid being seen as a failure. We like winners.

  • Brandi

    Yeah I’ve not seen an athlete so hated by everyone in the country. After his stunt last year, among other things, he deserves it.

  • Brock

    I just bought the new Lebron James cell phone. It’s pretty great, except that it only vibrates…it has no rings

    • KC

      *cymbal crash*

  • Really

    Are you a Cavs fan too, Jeff?

    • Maulida

      Thanks for posting, Jake. I was wacihtng the game at the end, and also took particular notice to LBJ getting both teams together at mid-court to say a prayer for Stuck. It was definitely a scary moment that kind of muted the team’s 6th win in a row, but through it all, LeBron has absolutely been nothing but a class act.

  • Dustin McCullough

    What’s the difference between lebron james and a porn star? A porn star doesn’t choke on a big one.

    • Ethan

      Hah! Amazing. What’s the difference between Lebron James and Saturn? They’re both big and full of gas, but Saturn has a ring.

  • Ethan

    I do have to say though, most hated athlete ever? This isn’t the forum for this, but this year was a big changing of the guard year for the NBA, and Lebron’s just taking his place as the next generation version of Kobe, who I still hate more than anyone (admittedly though, thus far, Lebron’s no Kobe).

    • Really

      You are the perfect example of what’s wrong with the media. Worst athlete ever for LeBron or Kobe? You can’t possibly be serious.

  • Brock

    Kobe is a rapist and I still like him better than Lebron.

    • And

      It’s almost summer, get outside and enjoy the weather. Please stop with your madness

  • Clete

    What? Only second on most hated athletic. He needs to try harder, Barry Bonds is old news. Crank it up, LeBron. Take it to the next level.

    • The Other Anne

      Poor LeBron. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

  • gypzyjedi

    I am a bitter Spurs fan. The only silver lining in this years NBA play ffs is that Lebron and the other prima donnas still don’t have a ring, despite all the egos. That nasty troll Mark Cuban does now, and I guess I’ll have to learn to stomache that. If the MAVS do it anout three more times, they might reach Spurs status.

  • Delonte West

    Hey Bron Bron, your mom says hi. Who’s your daddy?

  • Here & There

    I’ve disliked LeBron for some time now…long before the way he left Cleveland. I remember a few years back he rushed off the court at the end of the game and refused to shake any of the winning team player’s hands. He didn’t agree with his coach at Cleveland and they got rid of the coach. He cried that he needed another big player for Cleveland to win it all. Cleveland got Shaq. He showed no class in the way he left Cleveland. His 4th quarter disappearance was shameful. He again only shook a few of the Dallas players’ hands and rushed off the court to the locker room. All of this he brought on himself. He deserves all the hate he gets.

  • jane

    Can everyone just move on? He left a team for better one. Move on. It’s done. Wait until he wins then everyone will be on his side again.

    • sam

      na.. if and when he does win, people will start saying that despite this one win, he is no Jordan. When the villain wins, people who were rooting for the good guy don’t switch sides, they sulk in the disapointment.

    • Alex Bosoy

      How is his current team any different? He got to the finals with Cleveland too. In fact, this is the funniest aspect of this entire thing for me. That he made a spectacle of leaving the city that supported him for 7 years to win some easy championships and it totally backfired.

  • sam

    I was actually more happy to hear that he lost than to hear that the Mavericks (who have heart from the players to the owner) won…. And I don’t even really follow Basketball all that much.

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