September 26, 2008
If LB wasn’t wearing “Cleveland” and “Cavaliers” on the front of his jersey, would you be a LeBron James fan?
One thing’s for sure: Bernard Watkins, the creator of “ihatelebronjames.com,” is neither. He doesn’t care for the Cavs. And as you may have probably figured it out by now, he’s not a LeBron fan.
You may have visited ihatelebronjames.com before. It might have enraged you. It might have bothered you. It might have made you laugh. It might have even had no effect on you at all.
But what drove him to the point of dedicating a site designed specifically to serve as a temple of hatred for the Chosen One?
I couldn’t help but ask Bernard about his intentions. He was gracious enough to join me for a one-on-one interview where I fired away some pretty interesting questions, but he had an answer for it all.
Buckle up. You may or may not (probably the latter) agree with what you’re about to read, but there’s no denying that you’ll definitely find it entertaining and enjoyable.
Cavalier Attitude: Well, first thing’s first: Are you a Cavs fan? A Cleveland fan? If not, where do your allegiances lie?
ihatelebronjames.com: I’m definitely not a Cavs fan, although I could definitely see a Cavs fan being just at anti-LeBron James as I am. Prior to LeBron’s arrival/ascension from hell/descent from heaven/whatever, I could give a flying you-know-what about the Cavs. All I really knew about the Cavs was that Craig Ehlo almost got punched in the face after that one Jordan jumper and that they traditionally had some of the most cartoonishly ridiculous jerseys in sports. Also, I knew that they played in the NBA. Also not a Cleveland fan. Sometimes I feel sorry for the Browns, but usually not. I also know you guys have a river that caught on fire not once, but two or three times. That totally blows my mind.
Where do my allegiances lie? Whoa, brother – I can’t really say. That would taint the ironclad objectivity ihatelebronjames.com has worked so hard to maintain. A few people out there on the internet have guessed correctly. I think you can read my site and use process of elimination to figure it out. Maybe not. It’s not the Celtics. It’s definitely not the Lakers.
Michael Jordan had gambling. Kobe had his rape case. Barry Bonds and a plethora of baseball stars are tainted by steroids, and yet a slew of other athletes are constantly in and out of legal problems. Yet, you decided to dedicate a hate site for LeBron James, someone who suffers from none of these downfalls. You must have a good reason, right?
For some reason, people assume that if I hate LeBron James, it must be because I am in love with one of the other jerk megastars running around. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I hate all those guys, especially the scumbags referenced in this question. Jordan is probably the most arrogant person ever to walk the face of planet earth. He is a degenerate gambler, an adulterer, and a loathsome corporate shill. Kobe is an absolute scumbag who should be sitting in a jail cell right now. He is basically the spoiled brat edition of Jordan – take Jordan, subtract clutchness and then add raping, a rich kid-esque sense of entitlement, and out-of-control jealousy. Barry Bonds is the unapologetic king of all cheaters and I won’t shed a tear when his enlarged heart fails him within the next ten years.
So why did I pick LeBron?
The most obvious difference between LeBron and these other jerks is that LeBron is young, current, and the most popular player in the league, if not all of sports. Right now, LeBron is all you hear about. Sportscenter, network TV announcers, Nike commercials, vitamin water commercials, even lawnmower commercials cram Lebron down all of our throats on a daily basis. You can go months without noticing Jordan, save for some retarded underwear commercial. Kobe is current but is too boring to dedicate an entire site to and frankly, the rape stuff is just plain terrible and depressing – it’s certainly not something to regularly make light of in a goofy web site. Plus, Shaq does enough Kobe-bashing for everybody, so whatever. Barry Bonds – waaay too easy and again, too boring.
The most important difference between LeBron and these punks is that these guys are already widely hated. They’ve been exposed for the creeps and jerks that they are and the people have responded with near-appropriate levels of hatred for them. But for some reason, people still drool all over LeBron despite his constantly televised antics. That upsets me. These people need to be educated. That’s what my site is for. On-court hissyfits, shameless cheating like the “Ow ow ow ow OWWWW! REF!!! My eye was TOTALLY POKED by that MEAN BULLY!” bullshit (when nothing at all actually happened), Duke/Coach K-worthy dives, bulldozing charges that are never called, that fact that he successfully greases the refs with non-stop whining, his Alex P. Keaton money-grubbing entrepreneur bullshit, his lobbying the Cavs management to dismantle the team every five minutes – the list goes on and on. He is the only player in the league who is regularly allowed to yell and whine at refs and interrupt play while he takes an entire lap around the court crying about some (legitimate) non-call.
These guys weren’t created in a Nike brand test tube inside of David Stern’s basement like LeBron was either. It makes me mad that the league is clearly propping him up. They were before he played a single game. And it makes me mad that Nike’s money has a lot to do with it. He is clearly receiving preferential treatment a cut above that afforded to the other NBA stars. Think about it – somehow, a shoe company is changing the way that basketball is played in the NBA. There is a not a single honest fan of the game that can watch a nationally broadcast Cavs game and not be sickened by the outrageous LeBron asskissing by the announcers. LeBron is 0 for 9 from the field and continues to steal open shots from his teammates, but HE COULD EXPOLODE FOR 50 AT ANY MOMENT! LeBron just threw the ball into the crowd in transition for his tenth turnover of the game, but HE COULD EXPLODE FOR 50 AT ANY MOMENT! LeBron’s chump teammates are shooting 65% and bailing the Cavs out with career-best performances in the playoffs, but NOBODY DOES MORE WITH LESS THAN LEBRON … HE’S CARRYING THIS TEAM OF LOSERS ON HIS BACK! And – well, HE COULD EXPLODE FOR 50 AT ANY MOMENT! I really feel that LeBron is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the NBA these days. Yeah, he didn’t rape anybody, but he’s still a pompous jerk.
Luckily, ihatelebronjames.com was not taken. I’ll say one thing, in the context of my website, “hate” is meant tongue-in-cheek, obviously. I don’t actually hate LeBron in the traditional sense of the word. I don’t actually want anything bad to happen to LeBron. Well, outside of a horrible, Lawrence Taylor-on-Joe Theismann-type career-ending injury, of course. Uh, okay, maybe I actually do hate LeBron James.
Look – I hate the Lakers, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Patriots, and the Cowboys. I am a hater, people – if you are a jerk or a cheater or if your team is a collective bunch of jerks or cheaters, there is a 100% chance that I hate your guts. And I hate fair-weather fans. Sadly, it has become impossible for true Cavs fans to escape the throngs of fair-weather Cavs fans, so I kinda have to hate the Cavs in general..
A lot of LeBron’s critics question the insufferable amounts of hype that followed him into the NBA and the fact that he has no rings to warrant any of that hoopla. But Jordan came in with a lot of media noise, yet he didn’t win a title until his seventh season. And MJ’s arguably the most popular athlete on the planet. Are there any parallels here? Do you think haters like yourself may look at LB differently if he wins a championship?
Some haters will, of course. I hate Jordan but I have to respect his game. If LeBron does eventually win a championship, and he shoots 18% in the finals with 34 points per game coming from free throws generated by shady foul calls, a cloud of suspicion will loom over his title. I’m willing to bet that’s the way it will happen, if it ever does. There are tons of players who could win a ring but haven’t yet or won’t ever. Have they been prematurely christened King Jordan II? No they haven’t. LeBron has. That’s the difference. If LeBron puts together an entire playoff run consisting of games that halfway resemble the one where he beat the Pistons a few years back, I’d have to respect him. If he then wins three or four more titles after that, I might have to accept the Jordan comparisons. As of right now, he’s an overrated diva who can’t make jump shots in the playoffs. He’s the most hyped sports figure of all time. I’m willing to bet Jordan’s hype level didn’t approach LeBron’s current hype level until after he won a title. Things have changed.
How do you see LeBron’s career playing out?
I see him riding his invincible bull-charge and a massive wave of free throws to a title eventually. Sooner or later, somebody is going to put a team around him that is a bona fide contender and he’ll win it all. But I bet it will be ugly, basically what I described in my answer to your last question, or due mainly to the fact that his team is stacked. If you put LeBron on a team like the recent Spurs teams or even a team like the – gasp – Lakers, of course he could win a title. It’s not going to make him Jordan. I say he wins one or two titles at the most. I don’t see him winning one with the Cavs because his bloated salary makes putting together a team with any kind of real depth nearly impossible for a small market team (sorry, Amar!). One in NY, maybe one on his final team if he takes a pay cut in a last gasp effort to win one before he retires (think Karl Malone on the Lakers).
I see LeBron’s career playing out as an exercise in stat-whoring.
Hate mail comes with your territory. What are some of the more interesting ones you’ve received?
There are a few common threads in almost all of the hate mail that I receive:
- they are laced with nonsensical profanity and shit grammar
- they refuse to acknowledge valid points I make (sometimes I reply)
- they are predictable and boring to read (you’re just jealous, LeBron’s a nice guy, why are you such a racist?, LeBron will own your team/has owned your team in the past, you are a loser with too much time on your hands, you must not have a girlfriend, fuck you)
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I received interesting hate mail. It’s like there is a hatemail auto-generator that all of these guys are using. Most of the hate mail I get is not clever, funny, or insightful. It appears to be written by children, retards, or retarded children. Sadly, hate mail has long since ceased to have any entertainment value to me. All of the interesting mail I receive is in support of the site, or mail that isn’t quite up to the level of hate mail from pissed off Cavs fans that are reasonable people (and often find themselves agreeing with some of things I say but are pissed that I’m ragging on Clevelanders or the Cavs).
The most recent news that even irked LeBron James fans like myself was the story of him considering playing in Greece if he got an offer “around $50 million per year.” How is this situation going to play itself out?
Nike would never let LeBron leave the NBA for any reason. ESPNBAvid $tern would certainly never let it happen, either. I know that the Olympics were going on at the time, European basketball league salaries are rising, and several NBA players are jumping ship to Europe so I’m guessing that’s the context of this quote. I’m sure LeBron was at least half-serious, maybe totally serious. This quote shows what LeBron and his handlers are all about – money. That should piss off Cavs fans. What a ridiculous thing to say. Is it too difficult to see why I hate LeBron James? He was either saying, “Greece, your league sucks so bad it would take the amazing sum of $50 million to get me over there,” or “I’m a greedy bastard. I’ll do it for the right price.” Both are bad.
Will it even matter if Nike and David Stern don’t allow LeBron to go to Europe? Stern can control the league, but he can’t control someone’s life – especially somebody whose contract with his league is expired. And his Nike contract is up by 2010 – don’t you think that Euro-based Adidas will be all over him in the rare instance that Nike decides to dump LeBron?
If a league in Europe and/or Adidas puts up more money than Nike and the NBA can promise – that’s the only way LeBron will ever make it to Europe. When LeBron’s Nike contract expires, I’m not so sure Adidas would be able to legitimately challenge Nike for a new contract. Nike is heavily invested in the NBA and LeBron is a critical part of their gameplan. Adidas will probably throw a massive pile of cash at LeBron and give it a shot, but they have the entire European soccer world to fall back on and probably won’t go as high as Nike. Also, I’m guessing that Nike is on a whole different plane of wealth than Adidas – that’s why they got LeBron in the first place – and they’re not going to let someone else outbid them unless LeBron gets into some PR nightmare fiasco. It’s definitely safe to assume that no European league will be able to match an NBA max contract in the foreseeable future.
I partially disagree with the premise of your question – that Stern/Nike can’t control LeBron’s life. I think LeBron’s life can be controlled. With money. As long as Nike keeps the money flowing, they can ensure that they control LeBron’s decisions to some extent. Maybe nudge him 45% of the way in any particular direction (like towards a major market NBA team). Nike and the NBA are definitely going to nudge LeBron away from leaving their market.
Other than take issue with LeBron James, your site also seems to take subtle shots at Cavs fans and even the entire NBA. Who do you think are more delusional: Cavs fans, or NBA fans in general? Or both?
When I take swipes at Cavs fans, it’s because they are the ones most enthusiastically cheering on LeBron’s antics and giving him massive piles of cash. I have no choice. Many Cavs fans have either bought into the LeBron’s BS or decided that it’s okay to cheer for him because the BS benefits their team. Either way, it’s annoying, and these Cavs fans deserve to be called out.
First, I think Clevelanders are delusional if they think LeBron really cares about them. He disrespects the city of Cleveland every time he attends an Indians game and openly roots for the Yankees wearing a Yankees hat, roots for the Dallas Cowboys, or praises NYC to the high heavens while being photographed in front of the Statue of Liberty. He even has a Yankees-themed LeBron James shoe the he designed himself!
Second, Cavs fans are delusional if they think that it’s okay for their player to cheat and benefit from special treatment. This delusion is heavily tinged with irony when you consider all the times (I’m assuming) the Cavs were screwed by the special treatment Jordan received in his heyday. It wasn’t so cool back then, was it? Considering that it’s very likely to come back and bite the Cavs in the ass if LeBron goes to the Knicks, rabidly pro-LeBron Cavs fans have some nerve.
I think there are two types of NBA fans (and Cavs fans): those that realize that the league is becoming a mess because of star treatment and those that don’t realize it or like it because it benefits their team. All fans in the second group are delusional. Most Cavs fans all into this second group. But so do most Lakers fans.
So is the league ever going to get back to the level that it was at back in the early- to mid-90′s? You know, LeBron James has been the one appointed to take it there.
Every time LeBron shoots terribly, completely abandons his jump shot, and goes to his bull charge for an entire half of a playoff game precisely because he knows the refs won’t call a charge on him, he takes the league further away from the Jordan/Bird days. If the league thinks that kind of nonsense is going to bring the league back to its former popularity, they’re wrong. Nobody wants to watch LeBron use a cheesy videogame-style cheat move over and over again.
What do you think Nike is thinking about the $100 million investment they made in James back in May of 2003?
Well, they’re getting their money’s worth. Most importantly, Nike has proven that they can engineer a sports superstar in the post-Jordan era.. Nike is making out like a bandit and loving it. It’s sad that business (and Nike in particular), which is necessarily the biggest part of any professional sport, has overplayed its hand with LeBron (and other players as well) to the detriment of the quality and popularity of the sport.
Bernard, you’ve been a class act here. But you know what they say about opinions: Opinions are like assholes – everybody has one. You certainly have yours. All the best to you, and hopefully we can catch up again down the road in the future.
Are you calling me an asshole? Kidding of course – even though you kind of are calling me an asshole! Thanks for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun. Take it easy, Amar. And remember – as soon as LeBron screws over the Cavs, your site will essentially become ihatelebronjames.com and I’ll change my website to have Knicks colors.
You can contact ihatelebronjames.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.