The Problem with NBA Fans


Around the time I first became an NBA fan, the Los Angeles Lakers were at the zenith of the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal era, as they were fresh off of their third straight NBA Championship over the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals. I remember watching Shaq in amazement(like everybody else) at how easily he dominated other players at the highest possible level of competition. I had no favorite team, I just enjoyed watching the NBA whenever it was on, until 2003 when a player named LeBron James came along.

I instantly fell in love with LeBron’s game: his athleticism, scoring ability, and most of all his incredible passing ability for a man his size. Even at 9 years old I could tell that LeBron was going to be something special, not that I was some genius, after all LeBron had been hyped as a mix of Magic Johnson & Michael Jordan since his junior year of High School. I still loved watching the NBA whenever it was on, but for the first time I made SURE ahead of time to sit down and watch a team(the Cleveland Cavaliers) whenever they were on national TV to see LeBron play. As I grew older and as LeBron’s first tenure in Cleveland advanced, I started to become annoyed at how more and more pundits were putting pressure on him to win a title, as if it was LeBron’s fault the Cavaliers hadn’t won. When LeBron eventually left Cleveland for Miami to team up with Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh, the pundits got much louder and LeBron was criticized at every step for not being able to win a ring. While LeBron put some of the criticism on himself by declaring the Heat would win 8 titles at an ill-advised introductory pep rally, the overall criticism was total overkill.

I sat around thinking to myself, do fans not realize that LeBron had little to no supporting cast(at least offensively) while he was in Cleveland?, how can so many fans be this narrow-minded? Of course we then saw NBA legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson & Larry Bird all come out and basically say they never would’ve left their teams to play with other great players, completely ignoring the fact that none of them had to go to another team to play with great players. Unfortunately, a vast majority of NBA fans ate it up, and LeBron became the NBA’s villain. I began to seriously research NBA history for the first time ever after LeBron’s incredibly underwhelming 2011 NBA Finals and the subsequent NBA lockout. I was amazed at how many fans held certain players in higher regard all-time, despite said players’ inferior individual production, just because they had won more rings. I realized that LeBron would never get his total due respect as an individual player until his team was the best, which is completely factious from a logical standpoint. When LeBron was FINALLY able to win his first NBA title in 2012, I remember being relieved but also somewhat angry that it took people this long to truly appreciate him as a player.

LeBron’s story is all just a lead-up to my bigger point: NBA fans have a gigantic problem when it comes to judging players. There have been many great players before and after LeBron who have not gotten their due share of credit because they either never won a title or didn’t win as many titles as other players. You could go back to the early days of the NBA and look at Wilt Chamberlain & Bill Russell. Chamberlain put up vastly superior numbers to Russell, yet Russell is held in higher regard by some because his teams won more. You could also fast forward to the current day NBA, where Chris Paul, a legitimately all-time great player, gets endless amounts of flak for his teams never making the Conference Finals despite his career playoff averages being better than his career regular season averages.

Even though as the years have gone on, my knowledge of NBA history and understanding of how the NBA works has broadened, it has always bothered me that so many NBA fans resort back to the flawed “rings” logic to judge players. As a fan, this type of logic takes away from the joy of actually watching the players perform. That is not to say that winning doesn’t matter, because it does, just not to the extent that so many fans have made it out to be. I don’t expect the way a majority of NBA fans think to change overnight or be persuaded by this article, but I do hope that as time goes on more people are able to move away from this type of thinking. I’ve always said that championship rings for a player are like a diamond necklace for a woman, both are nice to have but neither make a player great or a woman attractive just because they have them. To get metaphorical, it’s time for NBA fans to stop obsessing over diamond necklaces’ and start looking at the actual person wearing them.





About Emanuel Godina

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