LeBron James has made a number of controversial decisions over his 17-year career, but perhaps none more memorable than joining the Miami Heat in 2010.
That summer was one of great strife for the young "King" James who, at the time, had yet to prove he could win a championship on his own.
Looking back, you'll find a number of angry rants from people all over the globe, and one from ESPN's Bill Simmons was so intense, it is still being talked about today.
"I blame the people around him. I blame the lack of a father figure in his life,’ Bill Simmons, then a leading columnist at ESPN, wrote. ‘I blame us for feeding his narcissism to the point that he referred to himself in the third person five times in forty-five minutes. I blame local and national writers (including myself) for apparently not doing a good enough job explaining to athletes like LeBron what sports mean to us, and how it IS a marriage, for better and worse, and that we’re much more attached to these players and teams than they realize."
Looking back on that particular rant by Simmons, LeBron's agent, Rich Paul, called it condescension, suggesting the problem is about race at its heart.
“That’s why I don’t speak to Bill Simmons,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with race, too. He wouldn’t have said that about Larry Bird. He wouldn’t have said that about J. J. Redick. You get what I am saying? ‘The Decision’ ten years ago is the norm today. It’s what everyone wants to do. Kids won’t even decide where they go to college without it being a big production, and Bill Simmons says some shit like that.”
At the time, teaming up with stars was highly taboo for a player as elite as LeBron James. He also didn't do himself any favors by televising the event.
But nowadays, that's only really the tip of the iceberg as far as player empowerment goes, and everybody knows it.
“You are always going to have people that are not going to agree with something that you do, but at the end of the day they can’t stop you, and can’t stop your path, and can’t stop your journey,” LeBron told Chotiner. “I am happy that I was able to fall on the sword for the rest of these athletes, men and women, to be able to feel empowered.”
That event was really like the ushering in of a brand new era for the NBA. And, love it or hate it, it's just the reality of what's going on today.
Whether or not the backlash has anything to do with race, though, is still up for debate.