Why Do White People Still Dislike LeBron James? Probably Because He Plays in Miami
Even as LeBron James stands just four wins away from his third NBA championship, his popularity among the American sports populace has still not returned to what it was when he was a ringless superstar toiling away in Cleveland.
ESPN tracks scientific poll numbers each year for which NBA players fans consider their singular favorite. LeBron's popularity plummeted after "the Decision." It wasn't until after last season when once again became the favorite of the plurality of NBA fans, overtaking Kobe Bryant. His popularity still isn't quite what it was during his 2009-10 season with Cleveland, though. Here's the odd thing: James is more popular among black and Hispanic fans than he ever was in Cleveland. It's only white fans who still haven't fully re-embraced him.
"The reluctance of white fans to embrace LeBron again is the principle reason his overall popularity lags behind what it was with the Cavs," writes ESPN. "It's easy to come up with theories on why this is so, and harder to prove those theories. Other demographics have been far more forgiving, though."
Well, we have one theory we'll try to make a case for and it has less to do with LeBron's race as it does the racial makeup of the city he chose to play for it. We'll go ahead and say it: White people don't like Miami... or at least our sports teams.
Think about it. If LeBron had left Cleveland for any other city, could you imagine the backlash being quite as strong? Admit it, if he was now in a Bulls, Knicks or Celtics jersey he'd be back to full-on national hero status. It wasn't just that LeBron left Cleveland, it was that he left for this weird city most Americans only know from the most stereotypical depictions in movies and on TV.
LeBron set the stage himself by declaring that he was taking his talents to South Beach. Nevermind that the Heat don't play on South Beach. Nevermind that it's just a tiny neighborhood in a giant metropolitan area. Nevermind that equating all of Miami to South Beach is like equating all of New York City to Times Square.
In most Americans' minds Miami is full of neon lights, fancy Art Deco hotels and women with fake butts. They can't comprehend how it's actually a city full of mainly working class people, more than a few of whom came here after escaping oppressive governments to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Think back to that original backlash. People said Miami didn't deserve this team. Never mind the fact that the Miami Heat's attendance records have generally been better and more stable than the Cleveland Cavaliers. People said Miami was a "football town," as if we only deserved good football teams. Remember how many of them loved the 1980s Miami Hurricanes teams. Hmm? People still attack the fans here to this day (something we've tried to reason with them on).
Discussing race on the Internet is a tricky thing. So before we get into it, let's make a few things clear: 1) In this article "white" means non-Hispanic white, which is an icky thing we try to avoid because it infers that Hispanic people can't be white, but those are the standards used in ESPN's poll 2) If you couldn't tell by the byline, I am white. Very white. 3) The first part of this is going to read like I'm making excuses for white people. The later parts are going to read like I'm a race traitor. Prepare for that. Alright, now that that's out of the way ...