From a Former Clevelander: LeBron James Was an A-hole Long Before the World Realized It

Categories: Sports
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Tonight, if our swamis are correct, LeBron James will announce he is joining the Miami Heat. On national TV. Which, from the perspective of Northeast Ohioans, is the equivalent of dumping your high school sweetheart via a banner flown from a plane.

And if he ends up staying in Cleveland, that will mean he manufactured this entire free-agency drama for no reason.

So he's like this two-headed sheep: an asshole either way.

Yahoo! scribe Adrian Wojnarowski has eloquently skewered LeBron's free-agency pageant as "the Rushmore of basketball hubris and narcissism." And the laureate poop-hurlers at Deadspin have said basically the same thing, but with more bad words.

The world seems to be realizing that this LeBron fellow might have some character issues. As somebody who previously wrote for the Cleveland Scene, New Times' former sister paper, I gotta say: That's not exactly a plot twist of M. Night Shyamalan caliber. A few of the warning signs of LeBron's epic assholedom:

He's a crappy tipper. You'd think when you care so little for chump change that you eschew single dollar bills, you might be willing to throw that insignificant money at common paupers who work for tips. But LeBron is a skinflint notorious to the waitstaffs of Cleveland's posh steak houses. After Scene exposed him for leaving a $10 tip on an $800 bill for him and his friends, LeBron's handlers blamed it on a misreading of a receipt, which makes no sense.

He's sort of into himself. Apparently being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 17 can inflate one's ego to Hindenberg proportions. Clevelanders always know when LeBron James is downtown because his white Maybach, with a license plate reading "KNG OF OH," or his white Mercedes, with a plate reading "KNG OF AK" (for Akron), will be prominently valeted. He has a huge back tattoo reading "The Chosen 1." His new Twitter handle is KingJames. Sure, almost every NBA superstar has some weird alter-ago conceit going on, but Shaq's Superman fetish is nowhere as deluded and arrogant as LeBron's Monarch Jesus complex.    

He insulted my friend. My managing editor at Scene, Joe Tone, was in the Cleveland Cavaliers' locker room a couple of years ago when he was listening in -- OK, eavesdropping -- on LeBron having a harmless conversation with teammates about an upcoming All-Star Game. The ensuing verbal smackdown scarred Joe for years, as he would later recount:

I wasn't taking notes. Just listening. But suddenly, James stopped mid-conversation. His body was still facing his teammates, but his head was now turned toward me. I was clear across the locker room.

"You need something?" he bellowed, his voice booming with sarcasm. "You cool? You got everything you need?"

In fact, I didn't. But it was clear by the look on his face that he wasn't really interested in what I needed. He was interested solely in my departure from his locker room.

"No, I'm just listening," I said, probably meekly. "It's an interesting conversation."

"Well, we're done," James responded, and then silence. They weren't done at all; the conversation had just started. But James just stared at me, and it became utterly clear that he wasn't going to stop staring at me, or start talking again, until I left. So I did. Shamed out of doing my own job by a 23-year-old kid who never even learned how to leave a tip.

Naturally, I went drinking.

Joe spiraled into a years-long catatonic binge and can now be found dozing in the gutters of the Flats' East Bank. No, he actually became editor of our sister paper in Kansas City, but if he had descended into alcoholism, his liver blood would be on LeBron's hands. 

He's disloyal. Uh, ya think? In his five years as Cavs coach, Mike Brown was always careful not to step on LeBron's size 18 LeBrons. But the biggest bully in the locker room never missed an opportunity to criticize his coach in the press, and when Brown was fired after the team's failed playoff run this season, the move was widely interpreted as an appeasement of James. Which makes us think that if Erik Spoelstra isn't canned the moment LeBron is signed, he can look forward to spending his winters as a piñata.

And he doesn't shake hands when he loses.  

But this list doesn't mean I'm not sacrificing goats to get him here. Assholes win championships, and they also make very good blog fodder. Besides, South Florida should fit LeBron -- the Scott Rothstein of the sports world -- like a snug jersey.
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