OK, so I drank a fair bit of Hatorade with the five things I hate about LeBron, but I’ve cooled down somewhat after getting over what is now only whispered as ‘The J-Rich Foul’. In the interest of balance I’m going to outline some reasons why LeBron deserves some respect.

5. He plays in Cleveland. Let’s all play a game called ‘What do you know about Cleveland?’ Ummm… Drew Carey and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s bound to be close to Akron, Ohio where LeBron is from. Aaaaaah… that pretty much sums up my knowledge of Cleveland; I’m guessing most people don’t even get Drew Carey.

This guy is still Cleveland’s favourite son until LeBron has a ring

So you have to respect LeBron for playing in a comparatively small market and showing signs that he’ll hang around. Aussies love the underdog, so seeing LeBron take the money and flee to New York would grate the collective Australian basketball public. So far, we like the whole ‘home-town’ feel LeBron has going…

4. As a teammate, he’s good and improving all the time. Someone in LeBron’s situation could easily slide into the ‘Mamba-mentality’ of disrespecting teammates simply for not playing at your standard. For all the love the Lakers are getting at the moment, let’s not forget that two years ago Kobe Bryant was a worse teammate than Ron Artest ever was. LeBron helps up teammates and high-fives during time-outs. Big deal. I could do that in the NBA. LeBron actually backs that up by supporting and trusting (most) of his teammates. He knows he’s the alpha of the pack, but he’s still got his teammates collective backs. Some Superstars have that ability and some don’t. You had to earn MJ’s trust. You had to respect, obey and defer to Shaq. If you’re a good character guy Timmy D will respect you. You have to be Kobe to garner Kobe’s trust. LeBron has trusted his teammates as long as they work towards the championship. That’s a good thing.

3. He’s managed to avoid being a gangsta. While Melo was starring in videos alongside criminals threatening to kill snitches, and being caught with guns/drugs, and slapping some role-playing Knickerbocker… LeBron was smiling and improving as a player. This point has more to do with the game itself than the players involved. It is notoriously impossible to convince any Australian that basketball is not a bunch of gangsta-rappin’ gun-tottin’ overpaid drug addicts who just throw a ball in a hoop. It was made all the tougher after someone threw a cup at Artest.

Thanks a bunch, Ron. Love, Australia

LeBron, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant. Players like this are going to make it slightly easier on us while we try and sell basketball again. Since the mid 90s, it has been a rough road. Jordan was marketable and charismatic. Shaq was (and is) funny, but he’s a bit brash and in-your-face for Down Under. LeBron toes the line between confident and arrogant without truly crossing it. He doesn’t have Jordan’s charisma (Let’s face it, Obama would struggle to out-charisma MJ), but he can avoid a controversy and sell the game. Which brings me to…

2. Darfur. Remember this? To recap, a teammate at the Cavs (Ira Newble) presented LeBron with a petition condemning the Chinese government for their implicit guilt concerning the genocide in Sudan. LeBron refused to sign. He told Newble he hadn’t done the research. All hell broke loose and LeBron was criticised from all angles for not using his fame to institute change. Firstly, let me say that what’s (still) happening in Darfur goes beyond appalling. Go to this site if you need a bit of an education. Secondly, it should never ever ever fall to a pro-athlete to make a difference. LeBron handled the situation correctly. If he hadn’t done the research, then he did the right thing to not sign. Otherwise you get situations like this. Conspiracy theorists suggested LeBron didn’t sign due to his contract with Nike, and their ties to China. But let’s be serious. If we boycott everything coming out of China the NBA would be the Nude Ballers Association. LeBron is an athlete. The responsibility to make a difference falls to elected officials. LeBron being criticised for not signing (even though he has since been relatively vocal on human rights) is more about the failure of government than it is about his failures as a spokesman.

1. His game. You knew it was coming. Man, how I wish LeBron played for my beloved C’s. It’s a game of teams and championships, not players and stats. LeBron realises this even if some of his fans don’t. He doesn’t play defense the way he should, and he can still be a little reliant on the ‘bail-out’ call from the referees, and he may never think like Tim Duncan. But he has the talent and the drive. And you just gotta respect that.

He’s no Paul Pierce, but he’ll do

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